Majority of Consumers See Customer Service Improvements Since 2013 but Work is Still Needed

According to a new survey, 60 percent of respondents reported an improvement in customer service since 2013, and identified critical areas of concern and frustration that still exists, such as unknowledgeable and inarticulate agents. Compared to the 2013 report, consumers reported a 10 percent increase in the frequency they are contacting customer service on a monthly basis. The findings come from the second annual Customer Service Report from cloud contact center provider, CorvisaCloud, which surveyed over 1,200 U.S. consumers and analyzed trends such as key service issues and industries with excellent and poor customer service.

“This year’s survey proves that companies are recognizing the importance of listening to customers and implementing strategies that address customer needs, but it also uncovered that ‘good enough’ still isn’t cutting it,” said Matt Lautz, president and CIO, CorvisaCloud, in a statement. “In order to effectively compete, businesses of all sizes need to invest in the right people and technology to make sure they’re wowing customers instead of just covering the basics.”

The good news is that the quality of customer service is progressing, but there are ongoing issues and industries that still need improvement. Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) claim that call center agents are uninformed and difficult to understand. And when agents can be understood, survey participants report they sound robotic, as if reading from a script (80 percent) and not really listening.

In addition, hold times continue to vex customers, as 32 percent of customers will hang up after waiting five minutes. Lastly, 18 percent report one of the biggest areas where businesses customer service could improve is in making sure information the customer has already shared is passed along when the call is transferred.

All industries are not created equal when it comes to customer service. Cable companies are still the worst customer service offenders, according to 47 percent of consumers surveyed, up 16 percent from last year. Conversely, almost one-third (30 percent) identified the hospitality industry as the best provider of customer service. Also of note, small businesses seem to have an edge with 49 percent of respondents ranking them as providing the best at customer service, with only 11 percent believing large companies do it best.

While today’s customers can connect with companies in a variety of ways, phone calls still reign supreme. Survey respondents indicated that they still prefer to pick up the trusty phone (55 percent) rather than use other mediums such as email/Web forms (22 percent) and chat (12 percent). And when it comes to time of day, those surveyed overwhelmingly indicated they pick up the phone to call customer service in the afternoon (43 percent) or morning (40 percent).

The takeaways for contact center managers? While it’s important to manage all your channels, the phone isn’t going away any time soon so making sure phone lines are adequately staffed during peak hours will be key to lowering hold times and preventing customer frustration.

Beyond how and when consumers prefer to contact customer service, survey results showed that service quality is critical as well. Almost 50 percent of consumers said they have experienced challenges trying to get an issue with a service or product resolved, underscoring the need for more informed and helpful agents. The survey also identified Anderson Cooper as the celebrity persona best suited for customer service—30 percent agreed that Cooper’s straightforward and smart communication style is ideal for a call center agent—traits to keep in mind when hiring and training agents.