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Survey: Online customer service misses the mark

Retailers are frustrating online shoppers with their customer service efforts, at their own risk.

According to the “State of Customer Service Experience 2020” survey from business management consulting firm The Northridge Group, 68% of consumer respondents have increased their online shopping and plan to continue at this increased rate post-pandemic. However, they are increasingly dissatisfied with the level of effort required to reach retailers to get the help they need.

Only about four in 10 (42%) consumer respondents report receiving first online customer service contact resolution. Meanwhile, 73% experience long wait times to reach a live agent, 69% report difficulty finding answers on the retailer’s website, and 60% have to repeat information over and over again. 

Only 29% of business leader respondents currently measure customer effort, even though almost three-quarters (73%) of consumers say they are likely to switch to a competitive brand after just one negative customer service experience.

The survey also indicates the phone remains consumers’ preferred contact channel, because it is currently the most effective and fastest channel for issue resolution. However, over the past five years, consumers’ preference for phone and email has declined while their preference for digital channels has increased. 

“As businesses invest in creating a seamless and integrated experience across channels, consumers’ preference for and use of digital channels is expected to accelerate given the impacts of COVID-19,” said Bryan Gillis, executive practice lead, quality solutions & customer analytics at The Northridge Group. “The speed and accessibility of online chat, for example, offers the ability to shift more transactional inquiries to channels that provide businesses with higher productivity and a lower cost to serve.”

The Northridge Group conducted a combined 2020 study of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers and more than 250 business leaders.

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