Email, Chat Still Preferred Forms of Customer Support

More than 70 percent of sales people say their companies have lost a customer or sale due to a poor performance or reputation related to customer support. 

IT management and freshdesk

Poor customer support isn’t just bad for a company’s image, it can actually kill sales deals, according to findings released from customer support software specialist Freshdesk.

The insights were culled from interviews with more than 350 sales, marketing, IT and customer support professionals attending the just-completed Dreamforce 2014 Conference in San Francisco.

The survey’s findings found more than 75 percent of business professionals have personally cut ties with a company over a bad customer support experience in the past year.

Likewise, more than 70 percent of sales people say their company has lost a customer or sale due to a poor performance or reputation related to customer support.

"While long response times, rude staff and hold times are obvious indicators of poor service, there are a couple of other key ones that need to be watched before they get under customers' skin. One is taking too many interactions to arrive at a convenient workaround or solution can really irk customers," Dilawar Syed, president of Freshdesk, told eWEEK. "After a couple of email back and forths, support needs to pick up the phone and resolve the issue real-time or the customer is likely to lose their patience. Another issue is failing to set and meet expectations is also a critical indicator."

Syed said too often the vendor doesn't clearly set support expectations with their customers, and as a result, the customer defines their own high expectations and it’s impossible for companies to match them.

However, the report also indicated customer support heroes can strengthen customer relationships—nearly nine out of 10 respondents (87 percent) said that a good interaction with a customer support professional positively changed their impression of a company’s brand.

In addition, more than half (57 percent) of respondents said they feel responsible for customer success within their own organizations despite it not being in their primary job description.

Despite the growing popularity of such social platforms as Twitter and Facebook for customer engagement-- support by email, phone and chat dominate, with email (52 percent), phone (47 percent) and chat (22 percent) remaining the most popular communications channels for concerns or complaints.

"Social media isn't widely adopted as a customer service platform today because customers still generally prefer email and phone and because companies are fearful of having their dirty laundry hanging out in public," Syed said. "However, precisely because of the public nature of social media, the numbers don't matter. Companies have to support social media as a platform because one bad unresolved incident on social media can turn into a PR nightmare."

He explained customers like getting in touch directly with someone when they have major issues.

"They like the real-time response and are often comforted by the sound of a human voice. They are also just used to using phone and email and the best tool is often the one you know," he said. "Today phone, chat and sometimes email are often the quickest ways to get resolution of an issue. The value today of using social media is its ability to make businesses publicly accountable."