Inside the 2018 Gladly Customer Service Expectations Report

The formula for good customer service is pretty simple.

Customer service quality is the extent to which the experience meets the customer's expectations. So consistently meet expectations without falling short and you're doing well. Exceed expectations occasionally and you can elevate the perception to "outstanding."

Of course, you have to know what customers expect.

The customer service platform Gladly shares a range of customer expectations in its 2018 Customer Service Expectations Survey. The report surveyed a group of 935 adults whose demographics roughly mirrored the U.S. population.

Here are a few insights that really stood out for me.

Graphic with the words “Do you know your customers?”

The Impact of Service Failures

You've probably seen research that poor customer service is bad for business, such as this report from NewVoiceMedia that pegs the cost at $75 billion per year.

Gladly's report adds some new, deeper insight.

It found that 76 percent of customers are willing to give a company another chance after a service failure. That number drops to just 8 percent after three service failures.

Chronic issues can really impact a company's bottom line. There's the obvious impact of lost business, but companies can suffer other damages as well.

The Gladly report found that 67 percent of angry customers will actively try to dissuade family and friends from doing business with a company. This jibes with research from Dr. Venessa Funches who found that 70 percent of angry customers will spread negative word-of-mouth.

Customer impact aside, repeatedly addressing the same issue is expensive. If a company's cost per contact is $5 and an issue is solved on the first try, that issue costs $5. But if it takes three tries, that costs jumps to $15 while the likelihood of lost business, goodwill discounts, and other expenses also increases.

This makes it critical for companies to capture customer feedback and use it to root out chronic problems.

Customers Rely on Reviews

The report found that 55 percent of customers rely on customer reviews to make purchasing decisions, compared to 36 percent who rely on family and friends.

This is a lost opportunity for many companies. Many organizations, particularly large ones, routinely ignore online reviews.

There are three big reasons why you shouldn't!

First, most online review platforms are a form of social media. So your conversations with customers aren’t just between your company and that customer—anyone listening in can see your response. Replying to an angry customer may or may not win back that individual, but it will send a signal to other potential customers.

The second big reason is these reviews provide tremendous insight. If customers are repeatedly calling out the same problem in your business, it's probably time to address it!

The third reason is you can use reviews to drive traffic to your business. For example, an active Google My Business profile can help boost your company's search results.

Step Up Your Contact Center Game

Contact centers clearly have a lot of room for improvement.

  • 98% of customers try to bypass IVR to get straight to a human.

  • 87% of customers are frustrated by having to repeat themselves.

  • 76% receive conflicting answers from different agents.

Let's take a look at each of these.

While IVR was once a useful tool, today it is mostly annoying to customers. A separate study by Mattersight found that 66 percent of customers who called a contact center were already frustrated by the time they got a live agent on the phone. It's important realize customers are likely calling because they've either tried self-service and failed or they believe a live agent is the best way to handle their issue.

Another big issue for customers is having to tell their story over and over again. If a customer emails about an issue, tweets about it, and then calls, many companies lack the omnichannel technology to give the customer service rep insight into those previous interactions. To the customer, telling their story yet again feels like salt on the wound and only amplifies their frustration.

Finally, agents need better information. 

Conflicting information can have disastrous consequences, such as when a Spirit airlines customer service rep mistakenly told a passenger she could bring her pet hamster aboard a flight. Once the passenger arrived at the airport, she was told by the gate agent she could not in fact bring her hamster on the plane.

The story ended tragically with the passenger flushing her pet down the airport toilet.

Take Action!

A good place to start is to identify your company's most chronic customer complaints. What causes the most dissatisfaction? What issues are more likely to trigger repeat contacts?

Get a handle on those and you'll likely improve service, reduce costs, and add more positive word-of-mouth.