New research from customer experiences firm Zendesk reveals generational differences in customer support channel preferences, with lots of channels other than email and phone continuing to gain popularity—especially among Millennials and Gen Z, who have distinct preferences and expectations compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers.
According to this study, 67 percent of U.S. respondents have used live chat, social media, or texting for customer service. Among Gen Z and Millennials, 46 percent and 47 percent respectively have used social media to communicate with customer service in the past year—compared to only 7 percent of Baby Boomers and 26 percent of Gen X. More than a third (36 percent) of Gen Z consumers prefer social media for simple inquiries, compared to only 5 percent of Baby Boomers.
The U.S. report also offers new insights into how consumer expectations have changed over the last five years
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed say they expect customer service to be faster than it was five years ago, and 89 percent say a quick response to an initial inquiry is important when deciding which company to buy from. More than half (51 percent) will wait less than an hour before trying a second contact method if they haven’t heard back and 10 percent will try another contact method after less than five minutes.
“While customer service issues are common, it is how and when a company resolves problems that will profoundly impact future purchases,” said Diane Hagglund, founder and principal of Dimensional Research, the market research company Zendesk commissioned for the study, in a news release.
Additional key findings include:
The good, the bad, the ugly
Nearly all consumers (97 percent in the U.S., 96 percent in France and Germany, and 94 percent in the UK) say bad customer service changes their buying habits. At the same time, people overwhelmingly said good customer service can positively impact their decision to do business with a company. This is true for 87 percent of survey respondents in the U.S., 89 percent in Germany, 79 percent in the UK, and 81 percent in France.
Customers prefer to help themselves
Ninety-eight percent of those surveyed have used a self-service solution, including searching a company’s FAQs, help center or other online resources. More than a third (37 percent) of consumers say they do it always. For Millennials, that number jumps to 48 percent.
Bad customer experiences last
When asked to recall a customer experience from two or more years ago, 46 percent of respondents were able to recall a negative experience while only 21 percent could remember a positive one. And negative experiences are more likely to be shared on social media than positive ones (49 percent for bad, 38 percent for good), meaning these experiences can have a long-lasting effect on companies.
“The definition of good customer service has changed. People hold all companies to a higher standard and expect them to match the best experience they have ever had, every time,” said Astha Malik, vice president of product and platform marketing at Zendesk, in the release. “With intense competition, changing customer preferences, and diminishing loyalty to brands, it’s the companies that invest in understanding their customers and adapt to ever-evolving needs that will be able to stay ahead and win the customer’s trust.”
In October 2018, Dimensional Research conducted an online survey 2,571 independent consumers, including 1,044 respondents in the U.S., 507 respondents in the UK, 512 respondents in France, and 508 respondents in Germany.