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The Good Old-Fashioned Telephone
Thursday, August 18, 2016 6:35 AM

Doug Foister, Vice President of Research, Cornerstone Credit Union League

Without a doubt, the proliferation of digital and social media has drastically expanded the ways by which a customer can contact a company. Perhaps it's surprising to note, however, that the good old-fashioned telephone often wins out over the Web and social media as the most satisfying way to talk to firms.

A national study of more than 3,000 respondents (the Touchpoint Study, from CX Act, Inc.) sought to understand the impact of customer contact on loyalty and word-of-mouth. In a nutshell, the study concluded that brands, including financial institutions, must understand how their customers prefer to contact them and then work to constantly improve these contact channels.

The following takeaways from the research provide valuable insights for credit unions:

Despite digital growth, customers still prefer the personal touch. Contacting via phone is considered the most effective channel for resolving issues, with little difference by industry: 52 percent reach out by phone, versus 23 percent by email, 17 percent via in-person contact, and only 1 percent via social media or mobile app.

Asking questions dominates the customer reach-out. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents contacted a brand simply to ask a question, more than any other reason. And there is still a strong disposition to use customer contacts to complain rather than compliment, by a ratio of 2:1.

Customers are contacting about bills and financial issues. Five of the top-six most contacted industries are either in the financial industry or have a large percentage of their contacts related to billing.

Only half are satisfied; personal touch prevails. Only half of surveyed customers are very satisfied with how their complaint/question was handled in their first interaction; satisfaction is highest for those who contact in-person and lowest if done via social media.

Harsh penalties for brands who fail “first-contact” test. Customer satisfaction scores drop by more than 50 percentage points among those who have to make contact multiple times to address or resolve an issue or question.

Of course, social media is essential in today’s environment, and it will become increasingly influential. At the same time, credit unions must make sure their personnel fully understand members’ needs and can respond appropriately, especially over the telephone. Getting this right can create huge advantages in terms of brand loyalty and bottom-line results.