Consumers Growing Comfortable With Contacting Customer Service Online (Study)

Maybe they’re frustrated with being put on hold and tortured with elevator music for long stretches of time, but customers are more willing than ever before to put down the phone and contact companies digitally.

That’s a key takeaway from PwC’s new customer care report. The business consulting firm found that 41% of consumers had a positive experience with online chats, though only 4% favored social media when it came to resolving problems. The study’s authors argue that an opportunity exists for companies to improve the experience for customers with issues or grievances by enhancing digital offerings so that they respond more quickly than an operator.

To get its findings, PwC surveyed roughly 1,000 U.S. respondents. Its study hits as entertainment and cable companies such as Comcast have announced plans to push their customer service teams to use social-media platforms as a way of reaching subscribers and dealing with issues they may have.

Despite a growing willingness to contact companies through email or their websites, 81% of consumers still prefer phone calls with live agents over any other means of connecting with customer service teams. Eighty four percent of respondents had a positive experience using the phone, compared with 55% who had a successful resolution to their issues after raising problems via email and 41% who were happy using online chat.

People have grown more comfortable using a combination of digital and traditional avenues to reach customer service teams, with 47% of those surveyed using a hodgepodge approach. Respondents said that traditional channels are better suited to billing issues and questions about various products and services, while digital channels were most often used to checking the status of an account or to handle website issues.

The telecom industry was the most frequently contacted (25%) for customer service inquiries, with technology companies reached out to by 7% of those polled and entertainment companies contacted by 6% of respondents. Telecommunications also had the best reputation for handing issues digitally (34%), PwC found, followed by banking/financial services (30%), retail (22%), technology (20%), broadband (11%), travel (11%) and entertainment (10%).

Overwhelmingly, consumers refuse to pay extra for customer service, with 86% reporting they would not shell out for more satisfactory care. Those customers who were willing to pay to have their problems dealt with were willing to pony up an average of $4.76 per encounter.

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