You are ready to embark on a journey, but there are many roads you could take. Before you take your first step, you must choose a road that will lead you to your destination. If you believed one road would offer the most pleasant journey to the best destination, is that the road you would choose?
DUH! Of course you’d choose that road. Unless you’re into self-deprivation, right?
Well, maybe not. If you’re on a customer journey seeking assistance from a retailer, there’s a good chance you won’t take the obvious road. Surprisingly, the most pleasant journey to the best destination often isn’t enough to attract your first step.
The Road Mis-Traveled
Most retailers today offer their customers many communication paths, such as the phone, email, web, web chat, mobile texting, mobile apps, mobile web, video, and social. How are all those choices working out for the customer? We like data, so we conducted some customer engagement research to help us understand how customer experience influences the consumer’s choice of engagement channel.
We asked over 1000 consumers in which channel they receive the best experience when they need assistance from a retailer, and in which channel they receive the worst experience. To help us compare channels, we calculated a Channel Experience Score. This score is the number of “best experience” responses divided by the number of “worst experience” responses. For simplicity, just think best/worst.
This is what Channel Experience Score means:
- A Channel Experience Score of EXACTLY 1.00 is a neutral score. Consumers report their best experience in the channel as often as they report their worst experience in that channel. Extreme cases have a lot of influence over expectations, so a balance of “best” and “worst” can be considered neutral.
- A Channel Experience Score BELOW 1.00 is bad. “Worst experience” reports outnumber “Best experience” reports, so more consumers will expect a bad experience in that channel. Because of this bias, we consider the channel to be underperforming relative to customer experience expectations.
- A Channel Experience Score ABOVE 1.00 is good. “Best experience” reports outnumber “Worst experience” reports, so more consumers will expect a good experience in that channel. Because of this bias, we consider the channel to be positive compared to overall expectations.
Our survey results reveal that channel experience is uneven relative to consumer expectations:
- Web chat (1.49) and especially phone (1.93) score far better than other channels. It’s not surprising that web chat and the phone have similar scores, because in most cases the two actually create a very similar experience. Web chat is basically a phone experience in text instead of voice.
- Mobile (0.15), video (0.03), and social (0.08) experience scores lag by a wide margin, suggesting that enterprises may be neglecting these channels or struggling to provide good experiences in them. For most companies, mobile is simply the same old telephone experience on a mobile phone, and social media has become a vehicle for stock answers from reps who eventually ask consumers to call the contact center.
Let’s get back to the road mis-traveled. Do consumers start their journey in the channel they expect to provide the best experience? Nope. At least, not as often as you might think. For example, consider these findings from our digital consumer research:
- Consumers start engagements on the phone only 62% as often as they report having the best experience in the phone channel. Likewise, consumers start engagements in web chat only 62% as often as they report having the best experience using web chat.
- The fact that both the phone and web chat come in at exactly 62% lines up well with our observation that the phone and web chat offer a similar experience (web chat is a phone-like experience using text instead of voice.) It also suggests that experience has the same weaker-than-expected influence on the consumer’s choice of starting channel.
- On the flipside, consumers start engagements in email nearly twice as often as they report having the worst customer experience in the email channel. Say what? Do they just want to torture themselves? Not really. We think other factors are exerting a stronger influence on digital consumer behavior.
Consumer Behavior Diverges from Enterprise
Channel Experience Scores likely reflect where enterprises have invested their resources and time to optimize the channel experience. More mature channels scored higher, while emerging channels have scored universally lower. This is not that surprising.
What’s striking is the disconnect between the experience consumers expect and the way consumers actually behave (i.e. the channels they choose to start their engagements.) Consumer behaviors seem to be diverging from where enterprises are focusing and investing. This divergence is making it harder for enterprises to get closer to their customers at a time when failure to engage customers can literally be an existential threat to the enterprise.
Find a way to help your enterprise re-converge with consumer interests, and you’ll be a hero. Here’s a hint from our research: Digital is changing consumer behaviors and expectations. Align customer experience with the digital lifestyle, and you’ll get closer to your customers.