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Matching the Survey Channel Makes for Better Customer Service

As the number of customer service channels continues to expand surveying consumers about their customer experience becomes more complex. Which channel is best for customer outreach and follow-up? What’s the best means for consumer outreach to elicit a complete response? The best answer is to give consumers a feedback channel that matches their individual needs.

We have observed that most consumers prefer to respond to IVR surveys using the same channel as they do for company contact. Being sensitive to customers’ channel preferences tells you a lot about how consumers like to communicate, and the best ways to reach them.

The Telephone Still Rules

The reason for customer contact is what dictates the contact channel. As a 2017 report from The Northridge Group shows, the telephone is still the dominant service channel, especially for time-sensitive issues such as billing, but phone use continues to decline. Fifty percent of those surveyed in 2015 said they prefer they prefer using the phone, but that number dropped to 43 percent in 2017.

The big challenge with telephone support is wait times, which is a universal complaint for consumers, followed by the challenge of navigating the automated customer service system. As a result, we are seeing a growing preference for online chat (23 percent), web self-service (5 percent), text messaging (4 percent), and mobile self-help (3 percent). At the same time, 55 percent of customers find web self-service portals hard to use.

Part of the reason phone service remains the most popular is people prefer human interaction. To shorten time-to-response for incoming phone calls, more companies are adopting call-back functions to eliminate long wait times. Automated call-back and improved scripting tools for agents are making call center response more efficient, shortening response time and reducing call center staffing requirements.

For less urgent issues, most consumers prefer to do their own research and find the answers to their own questions. Seventy five percent of consumers surveyed said they prefer self-service as a fast and painless approach to address service issues, and 67 percent said they prefer self-service over talking to a company representative. Ninety-one percent said they prefer to use the customer knowledge base, and 40 percent call the service center only after they have searched for their answers online. Not surprisingly, Millennials are less patient than Baby Boomers are more likely to call if they can’t answer their own questions.

Match the Survey to the Channel

When consumers do have to contact a company, their preferred method of contact according to research by DMG Consulting is, in order of preference, via email, phone, text, online chat, and social media. However, when receiving correspondence from companies, email is preferred over telephone 60 percent to 21.4 percent. For sales transactions, web self-service and email are preferred over calls and text.

When surveying customer satisfaction, acknowledging the customer’s preferred channel is important. For web queries and email queries, using web and email surveys will typically yield a higher response. For call center queries that clearly have a higher priority for the consumer, responding with telephone IVR surveys is the preferred strategy, demonstrating that their opinion also has a higher priority for the company. It’s all a matter of reaching the consumer in the right context.

When you survey is as important as how you survey. To maintain continuity you should contact customers as soon as possible, showing the same degree of urgency as the inbound query. For telephone queries telephone IVRs sent shortly after the call center contact yields the best results. Not only does a return call with an IVR survey demonstrate the same degree of urgency to provide customer satisfaction, it also can provide more immediate feedback to escalate problem calls. If the customer satisfaction is low, a response can be immediately flagged for follow-up using real-time transcription technology and keyword analytics.

To match survey channels effectively requires a unified view of the customer and customer interaction. This includes the nature of the customer contact, the channels used, and the successful (or unsuccessful) result of the interaction. If the customer prefers email or chat, for example, following up with a phone survey is more likely to discourage response. Online channels offer more convenience where phone survey in response to email queries can be viewed as disruptive.

The best way to capitalize on the right customer service channel is to follow a few simple guidelines:

  1. Always use a survey method that matches with the communication medium chosen by the customer.
  2. When possible provide consumers with a choice as to their survey channel using a mixed mode strategy.  
  3. Use survey methodologies that deliver real-time survey data. This will provide richer and immediate insight into the quality of service and customer experience.
  4. Process both closed-end and open-end data in near real-time. It’s the best strategy to leverage data for closed loop recovery.

Consumer channel preferences will vary based on the issue at hand and customer demographics. Customer service questions, for example, are often best handled by phone for urgent matters while sales and product queries are usually handled via email or online. Interacting with customers and consumers on their own terms is the best means to improve survey response rates and promote customer loyalty.

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