Sixty percent of consumers reported an improvement in customer service since 2013, yet they identified critical areas of concern and frustration such as unknowledgeable and inarticulate agents, according to a CorvisaCloud a survey of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers.
The report analyzed trends such as key service issues, industries with excellent and poor customer service, and top approaches for keeping customers happy.
Compared with the 2013 report, consumers reported a 10 percent increase in the frequency they are contacting customer service on a monthly basis.
Survey respondents indicated that they still prefer to pick up the phone (55 percent) rather than use other mediums such as email and Web forms (22 percent) and chat (12 percent).
"Technology has made it possible for businesses to provide support to more customers, at all times of the day and week, and through a variety of channels. In today's 'go go go' world, that makes a big difference and can be especially valuable for smaller businesses with fewer staff resources," Matt Lautz, president and chief information officer for CorvisaCloud, told eWEEK. "It's a challenge to provide the same level of personalization on a chat or phone call hundreds of miles away versus in-person, but there are also numerous technologies like co-browsing, screen sharing, video and even the phone itself that are helping to bridge that gap."
When it comes to time of day, those surveyed overwhelmingly indicated they pick up the phone to call customer service in the afternoon (43 percent) or morning (40 percent).
Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) claim that call center agents are uninformed and difficult to understand.
And when agents can be understood, survey participants reported that they sound robotic, as if reading from a script (80 percent) and not really listening.
In addition, hold times continue to vex customers, as 32 percent of customers will hang up after waiting five minutes.
Lastly, 18 percent report one of the biggest areas where businesses' customer service could improve is in making sure information the customer has already shared is passed along when the call is transferred.
Beyond how and when consumers prefer to contact customer service, survey results showed that service quality is critical as well.
Almost 50 percent of consumers said they have experienced challenges trying to get an issue with a service or product resolved, underscoring the need for more informed and helpful agents.
Of course, all industries are not created equal when it comes to customer service, with cable companies seen as still the worst customer service offenders, according to 47 percent of consumers surveyed, up 16 percent from last year.
Conversely, almost one-third (30 percent) identified the hospitality industry as the best provider of customer service.
Also of note, small businesses seem to have an edge with 49 percent of respondents ranking them as providing the best customer service, with only 11 percent believing large companies do it best.
"We recently conducted a study and found that 55 percent of consumers still prefer to contact customer service via phone so it's clear that the phone is not going away any time soon," Lautz said. "In comparison, only 12 percent will use live chat to handle a customer service request. What's important for businesses is to understand what service outlets their customers want and put a clear strategy around delivering great service using those technologies."