It’s become a stereotype that we Brits enjoy two things: queuing and complaining. As a joke, this stereotype is humorous but harmless. Except UK businesses seem to be taking the stereotype as fact – forcing their customers into queues just to complain, or to reach out at all.
Customers aren’t getting the communication options they prefer, and their expectations for service speed and accessibility are not being met. This creates an ongoing queue-complaint loop that, contrary to cast, customers don’t typically enjoy.
Worse still, like a modern-day Fawlty Towers, UK businesses almost farcically overrate their own communication. 80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service… only 8% of their customers agree. Let’s investigate the communication canyon between companies and customers.
The Problem: Failing To Meet Customer Expectations
With e-commerce continuing to grow in popularity, customer service is increasingly moving out of physical stores and into the online world. Unfortunately, UK businesses aren’t capitalising on the technology available to them. In fact, only a fifth of European brands use live messaging options – meaning that millions of businesses are still relying on frustrating automated phone trees and emails with overflowing inboxes. Be it for question, complaint, or completing a transaction, customers are being forced into queues for answers that they had expected to be readily available to them.
The stats indicate that we’re getting sick of the slow customer service we’re stuck with. Over three quarters of customers are frustrated with long wait times, too many steps to get to answers, and slow responses. And while we may politely stifle those tuts, our patience is wearing thin.
Quick To Complain
The stereotype that Brits like to complain, while exaggerated, isn’t false. As you’ll probably notice with every visit to your Twitter feed, British customers complain about negative experiences. The numbers are even higher than you’d think: 79% of Generation Z consumers, 68% of millennials, 67% of Gen X, and 61% of baby boomers will tell a friend or family member after a negative communication experience. The fact that we’re not afraid to moan is dangerous for businesses who can’t meet expectations. Without an effective omnichannel service strategy, UK companies run the risk of negative publicity and an army of online naysayers.
Channels To Meet Customer Expectations
According to a Harris Poll, the top factor in customer loyalty is reduction of effort. A further 79% of consumers say that a fast response time makes for a positive customer experience. This highlights the importance of getting the basics right: quick, easy access to information is a quintessential customer expectation. And when communicating with your brand, useful, timely responses are a must.
One channel particularly suited to meeting these customer expectations is live chat software. Live chat offers real-time communication for customers, and allows them to ask quick questions while they’re live onsite – without having to search for email addresses or launch new windows. This, perhaps, is why live chat software has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73% of customers satisfied after using it. In 2018, you should also be seriously considering chatbots. A chatbot can answer FAQ and support customers outside of office hours, meaning that you can offer a simple level of assistance no matter what day or time.
Customers want options. They want to choose how, where and when they contact you, and 75% now expect the experience to be consistent no matter which channel they plump for – whether online, offline, voice or text. Despite this, many UK brands are still struggling to get their omnichannel efforts right. It’s not enough to offer multiple separate channels and hope they all magically gel. Nor is it enough to put out fires as they happen: online support needs to be capable of consistent engagement from the very start of the customer’s experience.
For example, a customer lands on your page, and a chatbot greets them and offers help navigating the site. Later, the customer has a sales question and is given the option to chat with a representative immediately. This question is answered, and the customer proceeds to purchase. Shortly after the customer has completed their transaction, they get an automated yet personalised follow-up email, checking in with them and reminding them that they can contact the business at any point should they have another query. All of this recognisably uses your brand’s voice and visuals – for a streamlined experience.
It sounds simple, but an effective omnichannel approach sees businesses average a 9.5% year-over-year increase in annual revenue. That’s not to be sniffed at – even for us hard to please Brits.
Close The Communication Canyon
Yes, we’re good at queuing and yes, we’re not strangers to a good moan. But that doesn’t mean we want you to force us into either. UK customers expect quick, convenient communication on the channel of their choice. If you can’t deliver, you’re creating an ever-widening canyon between your company and its customers.
Howard Williams is marketing director at Parker Software, a UK software house specialising in business process automation and live chat software. Howard leads Parker Software’s global customer team, with a firm focus on the consumer, their experience, and how it can be continually improved.