A recent survey found that 80% of CEOs believe they offer excellent customer service. Meanwhile, only 8% of customers agreed that this was actually the case. So, what is driving such a major disconnect?

We tell consumers to expect more

Service expectations have been exponentially heightened by both digital connectivity and an increasing 24-7 culture. Mobile browsing has now outpaced desktop web browsing. A massive proportion of all online interactions occur through social media platforms. And, as businesses, we are constantly increasing consumer expectations by catering to demands.

Just look at Amazon’s Prime Now (within the hour) delivery service or UberRush. TripAdvisor, AirBnB, and Amazon are all examples of businesses who have made leaving reviews and immediate customer feedback commonplace.

What’s more, many major brands provide around the clock customer service through social channels, on a global scale. With digital removing traditional boundaries of opening hours, we live in a constant stream of 24-7 communication.

We discourage human interaction

Whilst, we like to self-serve as consumers, i.e. accessing accounts, updating details and shopping online, when it comes to customer service nothing quite replaces the human touch. In fact, a major study (24,000 consumers over 12 countries) found that two-thirds of customers prefer direct human interaction during customer service experiences. Yet, we keep making it more and more difficult for them to actually interact with a human.

Consider how hard it is to find a customer service phone number on many major brands’ websites. Many companies push customers to find the answer through Help and FAQ sections on their websites, before providing even a contact form, nevermind an email address or direct phone number. Is it any wonder customers revert to ranting on social media? At least there they know they’ll get some attention (normally from a human, although there have been several hilarious examples of bots gone wrong, i.e. ASOS’ tragic Facebook fail - won’t stop our torrent of orders though I’m sure).

Our business leaders are out of touch

The C-Suite is invariably populated by 50+ middle-aged men with a wide gap between their experience and that of their customers. In fact, the Financial Times reported in 2016 that only 1% of Europe’s top 100 companies non-executive directors (NXDs) have proven digital experience. Add to this that only four of the FTSE 100 are reported to have “highly digital” boards, then it’s not surprising that boards struggle to respond to cohesive digital challenges with confidence and pace.

This population is not representative of the online consumer. Baby boomers only represent 10% of all online spend, meanwhile, millennials account for a far more significant 53%.

“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species

We bury our heads in the sand

A study recently uncovered that larger businesses anticipate less change in their own companies than within their industry, whilst smaller companies are far more agile and responsive to change. As a result, those who are first or early to market (largely small, start-ups) gain disproportionate benefit over others. Just look at the rapid achievements of businesses born from digitisation, for example, Spotify, Uber, Deliveroo, Zalando and Tesla to name but a few.

These businesses are reactive to technological advances, ensuring they bring in people with the right skills and continue to develop their knowledge in order to best service their customers.

“A massive proportion of businesses see digital transformation as something imposed upon them. Something external rather than owned. Herein lies a major issue. If your business undertakes any form of 'digital transformation' but fails to embrace this as their own, nobody will be committed to seeing it through. Those who welcome change are traditionally far more innovative and resilient to market shifts and competition. They see risk as an opportunity to evolve and competition as a positive driver of market growth.”

Cat Leaver, Head of Strategy, After Digital

With 55% of leading decision makers suggesting that they have less than 12 months to affect change before suffering financially, businesses need to consider how they close the gap, and quick. This solution needs to be collaborative and company-wide, not just siloing digital into its traditional business discipline areas of marketing and IT, but using enabling technology throughout.

Digitally mature businesses are proven to not only drive greater revenues but also to generate significantly higher levels of customer satisfaction. As your business strives to deliver the best possible customer care, you need to be considering how you can create greater digital intelligence in your organisation to drive the change that's needed.

Interested in starting your digital evolution? Assess your digital maturity as a business (more on this here) or get in touch. We’d be happy to help.