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The customer journey myths undermining digital customer service investments

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New research from Gartner suggests that customer service leaders should rethink their channel strategy if they want to boost customer experience and loyalty. 

11th Oct 2021
Managing editor MyCustomer.com
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While there has been heavy investment in digital channels and capabilities from customer service leaders in recent years, a number of misconceptions about what customers want and how they behave have meant that this expenditure has been wasteful. 

That's the conclusion of a new report by Gartner - 5 Digital Customer Behavior Insights to Shape Your Channel Strategy - which warns service leaders that in order for them to start making smarter use of their money, they will have to first understand these misconceptions, their root cause and the corresponding realities. 

“In recent years, service leaders have accelerated investment in digital channels and capabilities to offer customers a better service experience at a lower cost to the organisation,” said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president advisor in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “However, as channel offerings evolve, so too do customers' use of those channels. As a result, service organisations must keep up with customer behavior trends to better inform their future channel strategy.”

So what are the myths that service leaders need to acknowledge?

Myth 1: Customers will readily adopt digital channels if provided and promoted           

Self-service frequently offers the quickest path to resolution for many customer issues, so leaders often assume that if self-service is available and promoted, customers will consistently choose to use it. However, customers often revert to assisted channels used in the past, leading to avoidance and abandonment of self-service.

Gartner research shows that many customers begin their service journey online, presenting an opportunity to redirect customers into digital channels like self-service. To reduce assisted service contact volume, service organisations should use SEO to redirect customers to organisation-owned service pages featuring self-service capabilities.

Myth 2: Channel switching leads to poor customer experience and customer disloyalty

The belief is that with every channel switch, customers must invest more time and effort, which will ultimately result in frustration, lower retention and negative word of mouth. However, customers don’t mind switching channels as long as their issue is resolved in one, continuous interaction.

Leading service organisations deliberately orchestrate customer journeys by guiding customers to the best-fit channel for their issues. When a channel switch or transfer is necessary, these organisations ensure that customers’ journey context is also transferred, accelerating resolution time and reducing the likelihood of a customer abandoning or requiring a separate interaction.

Myth 3: Great service experiences make customers want to do more business with the organisation in the future

Most service organisations assume that if a customer is highly satisfied by the service they receive and their journey was easy, they will want to remain a customer and choose to do more business with the organisation in the future. But this is not always the case.

While a good service interaction may prevent customers from leaving, it is not enough to retain them. Gartner research indicates customers ultimately display loyalty to the company’s product or service offering, not the service experience itself. As a result, organisations should focus more on how to help customers derive more value from the product or service offering.

Myth 4: Proactive service eliminates the need to contact customer service, reducing call volume

Many service organisations deploy proactive service to help anticipate and resolve a customer issue before the customer even knows they have a problem. Service organisations believe they can head off unnecessary contacts, eliminating hassle for customers. In theory, this strategy is sound, but in practice, proactive outreach has the exact opposite effect on customer behavior.

“While proactive service does not consistently reduce contact volume and cost, it does improve customer experience outcomes,” said Adamson. “Proactive service is an effective strategy for improving customer loyalty, but service organisations will need to better integrate proactive service in their broader service channel strategy to manage costs.

Myth 5: Customers seek out and trust customer service channels and information above all else

When problems arise, service leaders assume customers will instinctively reach out to customer service. However, a majority of customers view contacting customer service as the last resort. This is especially the case with millennials and Gen Z customers who increasingly turn to third-party sites to resolve their issues. Service leaders should account for the use of search and third-party channels when developing channel strategies.

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