Time is of the essence for businesses, but even more so for consumers. Consumers don’t like waiting, especially not in customer service. Our previous research revealed they are hesitant to contact customer service and try to solve issues themselves first. So when they do reach out, they expect fast, effective solutions.
But how long are consumers willing to wait for a response? And what’s more important, a fast response or a human helping them? Our research report delves into the role of speed in customer service, exploring trends and expectations in the UK and globally across different generations and channels.
No surprises here: consumers value quick solutions. UK and global respondents unanimously agreed (92%) that customer service should respond quickly to questions and problems. Older generations in the UK are the most impatient: 98% of the respondents 65 and over agreed, while 25 and under, 85% agreed.
Adding to that high percentage, the number one annoyance for consumers in UK customer service is long waiting times. No matter the age.
Top three annoyances in customer service:
1. Long waiting times
2. Having to repeat yourself
3. Difficulty to reach customer service
So, what do consumers perceive as quick? And when is waiting too long? UK consumers demand fast responses on any channel, but their expectations differ.
We asked them within how many minutes they expect a response for every channel:
The more personal a communication channel is, the faster the response should be. But people don't mind waiting even on instant messaging channels like WhatsApp. They will send the message and continue what they’re doing. If it takes too long, people will become impatient. They might even try it via another channel, or their question might become a complaint.
Expected response times will influence how customers contact you. If it’s urgent, they want an instant response, where face-to-face or phone support is the most suitable. More than three in five believe they receive help faster when calling over all other means of communication.
Customer service would always be on if it was up to our respondents.
67% of UK respondents expect 24/7 availability.
For younger generations, this is even more important. Almost three in four consumers under 35 highly appreciate 24/7 reachability.
Today’s consumer wants to be able to reach you anytime, anywhere. They don’t stop what they’re doing; they contact you while doing everyday tasks. Did you know customers contact you while on a call at work? Or while cooking? Some even take their moment to reach out while brushing their teeth or in the car.
A chatbot can help your customer anytime, anywhere.
What matters most is an efficient resolution. People don’t mind waiting for a good answer. Seven in ten consumers prefer a good solution over a direct response. They only want to get the support they’re longing for. They tend to forget the rest if they easily get their issue resolved or their answers to their question. When it was an effortless experience, they won’t start complaining about the channel used or the time they had to wait.
But it has to be easy and within their line of expectations.
Some say empathy differentiates a good service experience from a bad one. Is quality then defined by empathy?
No, not per se.
If you ask consumers whether they want quick or empathic support, they choose speed over empathy. On average, 54% of global respondents wish to be helped quickly but curtly, rather than empathically with a longer waiting time. Fast support is most important in Germany, China, and the Netherlands. Whereas in France and Belgium, they prefer empathic support. The UK and USA are undecided 50/50.
Empathy is not the holy grail. Everyone prefers a service experience that has it all: a good solution in a fast, personal, and empathic way. But when consumers have to choose, empathy is the least important. Speed and quality matter most.
But don't be fooled: 86% expect empathy in customer service.
If speed and quality are more important than empathy, are consumers embracing automation? Well, the data tells us UK respondents are expecting it.
64% look for a customer service set-up that allows them to solve it themselves.
Only 1 in 4 consumers are annoyed if only automated customer service is available.
67% expect to be able to reach customer service at any time of the day.
On the other hand, if you let them choose between personal support within office hours or 24/7 help from a chatbot, they prefer personal. They are even willing to wait a day to talk to a human. For younger generations, chatbot acceptance is higher. Under the age of 35, it’s almost 50/50. We didn’t say anything about the solution's effectiveness from the bot or the human agent. If the solution is the same, we expect the percentages to change.
Consumers don’t like to wait, but expectations differ per person and channel. They will reach out via multiple channels simultaneously to get a faster solution.
🔑 Transparency is key.
Consumers want to reach you anytime, anywhere, preferably with no effort. They contact you while continuing their business as usual.
🤖 Automate where possible.
Consumers expect qualitative solutions. An effective solution is more important than a fast response. Focus on resolution times instead of response times.
🚀 Focus on the right KPIs.
Fast solutions are more important than empathy. People are willing to wait for personal support rather than more compassion. All they want is a solution.
🌳 Don't beat around the bush.
Consumers choose personal support over instant responses. They'd rather wait a day for personal support than 24/7 automated replies.
✨ Add a personal touch to all conversations
Adding this up, we can conclude the order of importance:
If you think about it, all of the above items are related to valuing your customer. Ensure they get the solution they’re looking for, they feel you understand them, and you are not wasting their time.
Start focusing on your customers. Get to know them. What are their wants and needs? Why and how are they trying to reach you? And what are their expectations?
Start focusing on the right goals. Don’t focus on the response time first, but on the resolution time. Don’t focus on satisfaction, but on effort. We like Gartner’s interpretation of “effortless experiences”.
There’s no need to ‘wow’ your customers, just make life as easy as possible.
The key to delivering effortless experiences is managing expectations. Tell your audience how they can best reach you, where they can expect the fastest response and the waiting times. Help them find answers themselves. Find the right balance between human support and automation. Automate where possible and offer human contact where needed.
This research was conducted by CM.com in cooperation with the independent research agency CANDID. The online survey was carried out in October 2022, where 7078 respondents answered questions about their service interactions with businesses. All respondents were aged 18 years or older.
To represent different regions of the world, we surveyed 1000 respondents in each of seven countries, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, the United States of America, France, The Netherlands, Germany, and China.