Taking stock of attitudes about customer support as holidays approach

by | Sep 3, 2019 | Marketing, Public Relations

New research from digital-first platform customer service firm Helpshift explores consumers’ opinions about the state of customer service ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but despite customer support teams being much busier than usual during the holidays, customers themselves are not seeing negative effects,” said Helpshift CEO Linda Crawford, in a news release. “This is because retailers are learning how to scale their support operations during the busy holiday shopping season. Offering more robust self-service options, in addition to using automated technologies and modern channels like messaging, enables them to scale and maintain steady customer satisfaction scores without increasing costs.”

Key research findings include:

Customer support queries increase significantly during the holidays

New proprietary data from Helpshift’s retail customers showed that customer support tickets increased 47 percent during the 2018 holiday season. Cyber Monday saw an even higher 167 percent increase in ticket volume compared to non-holiday periods.

Customer satisfaction is unaffected by the higher volume of queries during this period

Customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores during the holidays generally increased by 0.43 percent. During Cyber Monday, CSAT actually increased even more, by 6 percent. New Helpshift data from a survey of over 2,300 consumers also found 30 percent of consumers believe customer service actually improves during the holidays, while 29 percent believe it declines.

New tools are helping retailers scale during busy periods

Helpshift retail customers saw the average time to first response to a customer support query improved by 13 percent during the 2018 holiday period compared to the rest of the year, while time to resolve a query improved by 9 percent. Time to first response improved by an additional 10 percent during Cyber Monday.

Opinions on customer support are generally positive year-round

A solid majority (55 percent) of Americans surveyed report that they feel customer service has generally improved in the last two years, similar to the 54 percent of consumers surveyed across all countries.

“While it’s encouraging to see that most consumers surveyed feel that service and support operations are improving, there’s still a long way to go,” continued Crawford. “As this data reflects, digital customer service is moving the needle and helping brands scale, especially during busy times like the holidays. Yet brands need to make the move to digital-first and start automating in order to deliver on consumers’ expectations of on-demand support.”

Other key findings include:

Telecoms and airlines are viewed as providing poor support

Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents report that the telecommunications industry is the worst for customer service, followed by airlines at 20 percent. In Helpshift’s 2018 survey, 51 percent of respondents stated telecommunications was the worst industry for customer service, implying some improvement despite the industry retaining its reputation for the worst service.

Baby Boomers appear more willing to give customer support some slack

Twenty percent report they do not feel any industry has terrible service, compared to only 16 percent of Gen X, 10 percent of Millennials, and 8 percent of Gen Z. While being the generation most likely to believe no industry offers terrible service, Boomers are also the generation least likely to report service is improving, with only 28 percent believing this to be the case.

UK consumers are the most pessimistic about customer service improvements

Looking geographically, the 55 percent of Americans reporting improved customer service generally is in line with the 54 percent average of those surveyed across both the U.S. and Europe. The United Kingdom was the only nation surveyed to not report service improvements, with only 41 percent saying service has improved since 2017.

Helpshift is launching an “MBA in Customer Service Automation” webinar series to help customer service professionals integrate automation into their support stack. Register for free here.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter