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Consumers’ Low Customer Service Expectations Could Mean Retailers Will Be Decorated with Disappointment This Holiday Season

consumer-sqConsumers are expected to spend at a slower pace than last year this holiday season, according to NPD, but sluggish sales won’t be the only thing weighing down retailers’ hopes for a strong fourth quarter. Data from the latest Consumer Experience Index from consumer engagement strategy firm Aspect finds that over a third of all consumers enter the holiday season with lower customer service expectations—and when a consumer gets poor customer service, 52% of them move their business from retailers.

The survey found that 70% of consumers reach out for customer service at least once a month—and considering that over 50% of them also say poor customer service has added frustration to their holiday season, the retail industry could fall victim to the brunt of rising consumer dissatisfaction.

The reasons fueling the frustration? Consumers say customer service agents are grumpy (18%)—and so are consumers, as nearly 1 in 5 indicate they get bounced around from agent to agent far too often. The primary reason consumers have lower customer service expectations during the holidays is that a large percentage (40%) feel it’s much harder to simply reach customer service during the holiday season.

Earlier this year, the Aspect Consumer Experience Index found that if privacy and security were consistent across all communication options, consumers would increase the use of text and chat dramatically: 250% for chat, 367% for text which confirms that text is rapidly becoming the new talk. The research also found that more than 40% of consumers would opt to use text or messaging for customer service, but don’t because it’s either not available or lacks interaction quality.

“Too many brands force their customers to make traditional voice calls to customer service, and increasingly this is what consumers are trying to avoid. Holding onto the idea that the customer service agent is the primary, if not exclusive access point to customer service, is out of date and in drastic need of re-invention,” said Joe Gagnon, SVP and chief customer transformation officer at Aspect Software, in a news release. “People want to engage brands in the same way they engage their friends, and colleagues, which today means texting and messaging. Brands that continue to ignore consumers’ communication preferences, do so at their own peril. And, our data shows, that the Retail industry looks to be particularly at risk.”

Interactive and automated text-based interaction is a far more engaging and effective solution to address both consumer communication preferences as well as call center bottlenecks. Automated interactive messaging eases call load for the agent and gives the consumer a fast, simple and more effective customer service solution.

“There will be a tipping point where typical phone support becomes a backup rather than a primary customer service channel. Customers will eventually find that chat, text and other “non-voice” channels of customer support are quicker and more convenient,” says Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert, in the release. “To get there, retailers will have to prove it by enticing and training their customers to experience the benefit to using these channels.”

An illustration of consumer unhappiness can be summed up in the fruitcake index: Nearly 1/3 of consumers surveyed would rather eat a piece of last year’s fruitcake than contact customer service.

The Aspect Consumer Experience Index is a national online study conducted by Conversion Research on behalf of Aspect Software in October, 2015. There was a sample size of 1050 Americans, aged 18-65, regionally representative and divided by gender as per most recent census projection, with 25 percent oversampling of those aged 18-34.

Source: Business Wire; edited by Richard Carufel

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