Customers demand accurate, relevant, and complete answers to their questions upon first contact – served up as painlessly as possible –  so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose.

Forrester data backs this up: In our December 2015 “Customer Lifecycle Survey,” we found that 53% of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can’t find quick answers to their questions. 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service. We also found that older customers are just as, if not more, intolerant to friction in their customer service interactions as younger consumers.

Customer service organizations have to deliver easy and effective service. If they don’t, customers will leave the brand. They will also complain to their networks about their experience. These emotions can get rapidly amplified in the world of social media and ultimately lead to brand erosion.

However, if customer service organizations deliver service in line with expectations, customer satisfaction is boosted, which increases loyalty, customer lifetime value, and advocacy. Moreover, companies that deliver this type of service also realize lower operational costs as answers are efficiently delivered which keeps the cost per contact low, and customers dont have to move to another (possibly more expensive) channel to get their issue resoved.

Customers increasingly leverage self- service and digital channels for customer service because these channels offer the least amount of interaction friction. Here are some of our key findings from our recent survey:

  • Web and mobile self-service interactions overtake all other channels. For the second year running, survey respondents reported using Web or mobile self-service more than speaking with agents over the phone. Web self-service use increased from 67 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2014.
  • Other self-service channels are also on the rise. We see a rise in adoption across all self-service communication channels, not just Web or mobile self-service. Online forums/communities use jumped from 31% in 2012 to 56%  in 2015; virtual agent use jumped from 28% in 2012 to 58% in 2015; and this year, respondents report using speech self-service 55% of the time.
  • Web chat grows as it provides customers a low-friction channel to interact with agents. Online chat adoption among customers has significantly risen in the past few years, from 38% in 2009 to 43% in 2012 to 65% in 2015. Chat offers many benefits to the customer. Organizations can quickly connect customers to the agents with the right skills to answer their questions without having to navigate arduous IVRs; questions can be succinctly resolved in near real time; and agents can leverage customer behavior on the Web site to move conversations forward instead of rediscovering information that has already been communicated to the customer.
  • Voice increasingly evolves as an escalation – not a primary – service channel. Phone use for customer service has steadily decreased and we predict it will dip even further as customers increasingly adopt digital channels. Today, customers resolve straight-forward customer service interactions via self- service, leaving complex issues like account closure, booking a complex multi-city set of flights, or an explanation of smart metering billing policies for phone conversations. These questions often take longer to resolve and are opportunities to build positive customer relationships with an end-goal of increased customer loyalty. They also demand a higher caliber of agent for effective issue resolution.