Closing the Perception Gap Between Consumers and Customer Support

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It's not a secret that the overall experience a consumer has with a brand directly correlates to his willingness to interact with the brand in the future and with his loyalty over time. But it might be surprising to find out that a large component of what consumers define as "experience" is directly related to how a brand looks and acts across customer service channels. When the experience is inconsistent, the consumer's perception of the brand declines, willingness to interact decreases, and loyalty plummets.

So, why aren't brands taking this seriously and creating a strategy for managing service quality across channels?

If anything, managing perception actually appears to be declining. The 2013 Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI) revealed an eight-point drop in satisfaction rates from 2012 to 2013, sliding from a 77 point satisfaction rate to a mere 69, the lowest since the study began in 2007.

Keeping Pace with Change

Despite this clear slide, brands are taking the perception gap seriously. The challenge is that consumer expectations are changing at a rapid pace, and most brands simply don't have the capacity to keep up. Many are still learning how to deploy and manage service across multiple channels, a learning curve that comes with its own set of challenges.

According to CCSI, the disconnect between how consumers want to communicate with brands and how brands actually communicate back—while not the sole reason for the drop—is a significant factor contributing to dissatisfaction.

To start to fix the perception gap, brands need to evaluate each component of the customer service function to identify the weak points. Questions to ask include:

  • Are we offering service across the core channels our customers use and demand?
  • How consistent is the experience across all channels?
  • Are there tools we could be using that would provide a more consistent experience?
  • Are our agents fully capable of providing an experience that reflects our brand promise across all channels?
  • Are there channels that are a poor representation of the experience we want customers to have? Can they be rebooted?

Once these questions have been answered, brands can start to address their customer support strategy as a whole, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of each independent channel.

The Phone Is Still a Key Channel

According to CCSI, 54 percent of customers prefer to do business over the phone, but interest in noncall channels is expanding. Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research shows consumers typically turn to voice channels after they have been unable to resolve their issue online or though other channels.

Think about this for a moment. Customers are failing to solve their issues through their first choice of service channel, so they turn to the phone. But the phone channel has the most negative perceptions. Customers are being forced to resort to the one channel they perceive will give them the least positive experience. No 

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