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Feb 17, 2020 3:16:52 PM

Customer service - why is it so hard to get it right?


“We’ll get back to you in 3-5 business days.”

“Your call is very important to us, please hold.”


Having to wait a couple of days for a reply to your customer service email, or listening to the ever repeating tune of hold music for hours... it’s the all too familiar “bad customer experience,” and we have all been there.

Customer service has changed dramatically in recent years, as “customer experience” - or CX in short - has shifted to the center of business strategy. And, at the intersection of the two worlds, a new focus on customer service experience could herald the end of long waiting times, dropped calls, and disengaged agents who don’t understand the customer’s problems; the end of disconnected databases, incomplete information, and customers having to repeat themselves.


As “customer service experience” is a big part of the overall customer experience, this new area of focus has been a long time coming. To that end, we have compiled statistics that demonstrate the need for a better customer service experience.




Customer service agents are the people who know your customers and your product like nobody else, and improving customer service experience begins by seeing your service team as a competitive advantage, not as a cost center. 


Generally, people know that good customer service is valuable - but few would be able to intuitively put a figure to this idea of value. But to make decisions, business leaders have to look at numbers. So, what is the cost of bad customer service? In short, “extremely costly.” There’s an ample body of research showing that as a result of poor customer service, companies are losing billions in revenue.


 Let's take a closer look at some of the statistics in our infographics.



1. The infamous delivery gap




Most companies think they are giving their customers exactly what they want. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. In the well-reputed research by Bain & Company, 80% of companies think that they are delivering a superior experience, but only 8% of the customers feel they are getting superior service.


The problem isn’t that companies aren’t trying to be customer centric - most companies are well-aware that it’s important to keep customers happy. Rather, the problem lies in a lack of adequate business and service strategies. 


The issue generally stems from two possible root causes, or their combination:


  • A classic business paradox: many growth initiatives tend to worsen the service quality, and as a result, the service experience can suffer. Changes to return policies, delivery times or Terms & Conditions might cause dissatisfaction amongst customers. On top of that, many growing companies struggle to keep up with the volume of requests as the customer base grows.


  • It's difficult and time consuming to build good relationships, especially given the increasing pressure and stress many customer service teams are under..   The increasing complexity in supply chains and products makes it hard for customer service agents to deliver and keep promises, or to spend enough time with each customer to come to an empathetic solution. And on top of it all, customers’ expectations for their service experience are increased year-over-year.



2. Email response times: expectations vs. reality




It takes a company on average 12 hours and 10 minutes to answer a customer service request. This is put to better context in the research conducted by Toister Solutions; a whopping 44% of customers expect to receive a reply within only 4 hours.


Super Office found out that 62% of companies don't answer customer requests at all. It's easy to see why consumers have no patience - being patient simply does not pay off.


Meeting the expectations of your customers is hard, but again it helps to look at it from an empathetic viewpoint. When customers have a problem without a solution, “not knowing” makes them impatient and anxious. In this light, it makes sense that a fast response time is the most important attribute of positive customer service experience. 



3. Hold time: How long are customers willing to wait?




Waiting on hold is a universally frustrating experience. Almost 2/3 of consumers will hang up after being on hold for less than 2 minutes and over 13% think that any hold time is unacceptable.


Phone service in general gets a pretty bad rap; in the 2015 Consumer Reports issue, the inability to reach a person was listed as the top complaint amongst consumers. TalkTo commissioned a study from ResearchNow which found that an average American consumer will spend 43 days of their life on hold to customer service.


Long phone queues test customer loyalty - a rather risky game to play.



4. Most customers don't give you a second chance



80% of consumers are likely to go to another company as a result of poor customer service. 


The statistics are quite heart-breaking; companies want to provide a good service experience, and their service agents are more than willing to help - but they cannot make ends meet.


So what makes for bad customer service? According to the Northridge Group, more than 2/3 of consumers often encounter longer than expected wait times, find it hard to navigate the automated help system, experience trouble reaching a human agent, and are asked to repeat their problem again and again. It’s unfortunate but understandable that “perceived indifference” is the most popular reason to leave a brand. 



5. Higher, faster, further




In 2019, 81% of consumers said that their expectations for digital customer service were higher than the year before.


One of the most important aspects of meeting these demands is increasing the speed of resolution; as consumers navigate in your omni-channel support universe, your customers are likely to get in touch with you via various touch points (email, social media, phone, etc.). In fact, 36% of consumers will try another contact channel if their problem is not dealt with within an hour. 


This increases the number of contacts, which in turn increases the costs related to a single issue. This trend is also going to continue as the younger demographics are even more prone to channel-hopping;  44% of Millennials will switch channels within an hour, and 21% within just a few minutes. 


It’s sad how many customers decide to leave brands they are otherwise perfectly happy with because of a poor service experience. A perfectly honed product is not enough if customer support doesn’t work when problems arise.



There’s an obvious contradiction between what is feasible for companies to offer from a cost perspective and what kind of a service experience customers expect to have. It's challenging for growing companies to hire and train new agents fast enough to keep up with the customer base. Usually, this results in sinking service quality and overall service experience. 


Luckily, it’s easier than ever to “get it right” when it comes to customer service: there are ways to improve the service experience without breaking the budget. Companies are increasingly offering cost-effective self-service channels instead of the traditional phone and email. And with new tools in the market applying AI and conversational interfaces, it’s possible to pick-and-choose the right solutions for their service strategies. 


Are you ready to take control of your service experience? Download our handbook. 





Sara is a former Solvemate. She’s really into chatbots, and improving customer experience. When she’s not writing about customer service automation, she’s an Italo-disco singer and a devoted housekeeping nerd. Hailing originally from snowy Finland, the Berlin winters leave her cold (pardon the pun).