Customer service has changed significantly over the last three decades. First, we started with waiting on the phone for support, then we moved to email conversations, and now we can use live chat the instant we need help.
Once upon a time, customers would be impressed when companies would provide customer service on all three of these channels. These days, it's now an expected feature for customer service teams. Today, we've reached the point where all these channels are combined and work together seamlessly to create an omni-channel experience.
For example, let's say a customer reports an issue to your company over the phone, but they want to have their case explained via email. At the same time, they keep checking in and asking about the progress of their support case on your live chat service.
Even though they're reaching out to your team across different channels, they still expect your agents to keep up and provide fast and high-quality customer service. The bar is set high and based on our latest customer report, most companies don't reach it.
In this post, we'll break down the state of customer service in 2019 and what your business will need to do to meet customer expectations this year.
The State of Customer Service
My company, LiveChat, recently released its 2019 yearly Customer Service Report, which is based on data from 25K companies across 19 industries that use live chat. We analyzed 427 million chats and 47.4 billion website visits and measured customer satisfaction, first response time, handle time and more.
We found out that customer satisfaction is dropping every year. In 2016 it was 86.35%, in 2017 83.54%, and now it's at 82.26%.
Now, that doesn't immediately mean that customer service is getting worse. What it does mean, though, is that customer expectations are changing — customers expect more.
How does your business meet these rising customer expectations? In the next section, we'll answer these questions based on the findings in the LiveChat report.
Customer Expectation Metrics
At this point, it should be pretty clear that meeting customer expectations is a critical component of your business's success. But, it's hard to confirm if your company is achieving those standards if you don't have a way to quantifiably measure it. So, let's break down the two most important customer expectation metrics for 2019 to monitor as well as their industry standard.
First Response Time
Looking at our data, we haven't noticed a direct correlation between first response time and customer satisfaction. That indicates that short first response time alone doesn't guarantee you a happy customer. There are other factors that companies need to take care of.
Turns out that as long as the case gets solved and the service is satisfying, customers don't mind waiting a little bit. In the age of automatization, bots and voice assistants, short first response time alone no longer impresses users. Customers have more clearly defined goals so they're going to be more discerning about the quality and efficiency of each support experience.
That being said, if your agents are taking some time to answer a customer, the best response is to find out what the issue is and let the customer know: "I'm handling your case. It may take some time." Then, whenever possible, let them know of your progress. People are less anxious when they know what to expect, especially if you're solving their case.
According to our data, the two industries with the shortest first response time were Entertainment (34s) and Games & Gambling (37s), yet they scored 82.73% and 77.88% customer satisfaction which were the worst customer satisfaction scores among all industries. The global average was 48s for first response time and 82.26% customer satisfaction.
Handling time is the amount of time it takes to complete a customer's case. The assumption that handling time has to be as short as possible is a relic of the past. Now, companies should look at handling time as a positive side effect of an efficiently solved case. This puts the focus on solving the customer's problem within one touchpoint... without the feeling of being rushed.
For example, when your team is providing a customer with a solution, instead of immediately finishing the conversation, encourage them to check if everything works correctly. They can say: "Here's the solution. Let me know if it works; take your time." After the customer confirms the fix, ask them: "Is there anything else I can help you with?" as a sign of care and attention.
According to our 2019 Customer Service Report, industries like Software, Web Hosting (tech companies) and Manufacturing scored the best in customer satisfaction and had the longest handle time. It means that customers don't mind that a chat is taking longer, as long as the case is solved. Each company has a different way of providing effective customer service. In the tech industry, it takes longer to solve a case and customers require constant help along the way. In travel, customers ask one question and they expect an offer to be sent to their inbox. When assessing your business it's important to remember there isn't one right path to achieving a great customer satisfaction score.
Speaking of customer satisfaction scores, let's take a look at the companies with the best customer satisfaction this year and what they did to achieve that status.
The Best Customer Satisfaction Secrets
Tech companies (Software, Web Hosting and IT) managed to achieve the highest customer satisfaction for the third year in a row. They all had 87.3% in customer satisfaction on average (89% in 2017). The global average of customer satisfaction in 2018 was 82.26%.
Let me share with you a few secrets that explain their success.
First of all, tech companies mastered the art of keeping customer information in one place.
They integrate their support tools, like live chat with CRM solutions and have access to the customer's historical data — previous cases, demographics, purchased products — during a live conversation. It's a life saver for both sides!
These customer service teams also tag their cases making it easier to access archived conversations regarding a particular topic. Not only does this help during live conversations, but it also helps these teams identify and correct the common roadblocks that their customers are experiencing.
Besides that, tech companies integrate their support tools with other providers to optimize their performance. In fact, in the last year, 25% of LiveChat customers installed one or more apps from the LiveChat Marketplace. Additionally, besides the retail industry, the companies that installed the most integrations were tech companies.
If you're looking to revamp your customer service team, a good place to start is by analyzing leading tech companies. Don't worry if you don't have any technical people on board like some of these companies do. Integrations with other providers are adjusted for people who don't possess specialized IT knowledge.
The last piece of our 2019 report break analyzes the influence that artificial intelligence has on customer satisfaction. Take a look at the next section to see how tools like chatbots and virtual assistants are changing the customer service industry.
Customer Satisfaction and Artificial Intelligence
To keep up with customer expectations, many companies have experimented with AI in the form of chatbots. This is because they take the burden off customer service agents, help with repeating questions, and manage multiple cases at once. Additionally, chatbots are easy to maintain and creating your first chatbot isn't very hard. In fact, it's amazing how quickly you can set it up and start chatting within a few minutes.
What often happens though is that customer service managers get too excited about AI and end up introducing poorly implemented bots. You can't expect good ratings from customers when that happens, can you? Of course not. Your bot is there to simulate a human experience, not further complicate the support experience.
For a better idea of how to implement your chatbot, here's an observation from Grzegorz Wozniczko, LiveChat Head of Support, who has more than eight years of experience in customer service:
"Dropping customer satisfaction results from a combination of higher expectations and the initial boom connected to AI. While customers were expecting better support, companies were replacing real support managers with bots, having little knowledge of proper implementation, as it's still uncharted territory. Even though automation tools are being developed, the support businesses can't neglect the focus on personal approach."
The challenge here is to make a bot that knows the answers to most questions and can provide that information in the most personalized way possible. Or, you can make your bot specialize in one area, like collecting data from surveys so that it only handles simple, repeatable questions for you after-hours. Whichever route you choose, bot-building is about making the conversation flow better and happen more quickly.
And let's not forget about the personal approach — there should always be a human on the other side to whom a customer can be transferred should AI fail.