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Voice of the Customer

A new survey conducted by Pitney Bowes has revealed that as far as customer satisfaction is concerned, social media has a long way to go before it catches up with the more traditional forms of communicating.

Since customer queries often involve resolving a difficulty, it is vital that businesses handle these queries swiftly and intelligently so that they don’t exacerbate the problem and antagonise the customer further, driving them to a competitor.

With this in mind, Pitney Bowes asked 4,000 consumers in the UK, Germany, France and the United States of America to list in order of importance the channels they found most effective in resolving their customer service queries. 

Perhaps surprisingly, in these days of social media and instant messaging, over a third of consumers said a letter was most effective, whilst the social media channels of Facebook and Twitter barely registered.

 

RESULTS

 

MOST EFFECTIVE METHOD OF RESOLVING CUSTOMER SERVICE QUERY

%

%

%

%

%

Country

UK

Germany

France

US

Average

Phone

78

52

75

87

73

In person, face to face

56

51

57

59

57

Email

53

68

50

46

50

Letter

39

24

37

23

30

Form on website

20

42

26

25

26

Live web chat

14

14

8

22

15

Text message on mobile phone

5

6

4

6

5

Instant messaging

3

2

6

3

3

Facebook

3

3

1

4

3

Twitter

2

2

1

2

2

The telephone remains the preferred mode of communication, followed by face-to-face contact and email, and these results were broadly consistent across all four countries with the exception of Germany where respondents favoured email over all others.  They also expressed more confidence in website forms than respondents in other countries, although this may be because few businesses in Germany have toll-free numbers, meaning telephone contact may be more expensive than in the other countries surveyed.

 

Ian Davidson, President of Pitney Bowes Global Mailing Solutions, said: “This survey disproves the widely-held belief that social media has overtaken the more traditional forms of communication in all areas of our lives.  Of course, we accept that email was third overall in customer preference, but the fact remains that if a business wants to resolve a customer query, a successful outcome is much more likely if they write a letter, pick up the phone or speak face-to-face.

“However, there is no getting away from the fact that a multi-channel communications programme is the way to reach customers.  Each will have a preferred method of interaction and this is why multi-channel is so important.”

When it comes to letters, it seems it’s the French and the British who love them, with nearly 40% of UK respondents and 37% of their French counterparts saying they were the best way of resolving a customer query.  In contrast, only 24% of Germans and 23% of US respondents favoured this method.

Knowing how customers prefer to interact when attempting to resolve queries is vital to providing an all-round improved customer service.  If a shopper regularly buys clothes online from a certain brand, she’s unlikely to appreciate a query being resolved by sending her a complimentary voucher for use in her local store.  Equally, a consumer buying a financial product may have taken a circuitous route encompassing direct mail, visits to the branch, comparison sites, telephone calls and online transactions.  But he may well prefer a letter setting out precisely what product he’s bought and what commitments are being made by the financial services provider.

“Customer service plays a major role in both customer retention and brand protection,” added Davidson. “Where social media plays its part is that it can be, and often is, used to amplify customer dissatisfaction.  Brands therefore need to ensure they use the method of communication that individual customers most desire and for the foreseeable future, that’s not Facebook or Twitter, it’s face-to-face, phone, or writing a good old-fashioned letter.”

 

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