New customer service study 2021: Service quality is decisive

Published on 2021-10-05

  • Telephone replaced by e-mail as most-used contact channel for the first time.
  • Accepted waiting time: demands are high, with a third of consumers expecting a call to be answered on the phone within one minute and a reply to an e-mail within 24 hours.
  • More than half say that good customer service is more important to them than low prices.

Use of contact channels - telephone no longer strongest channel

Since the first publication of the study in 2019, the email channel overtakes the telephone as the most used contact medium for the first time. At 51%, the email channel has not changed in contrast to the previous year, but is now in first place due to the decline in telephone contact from 56% (2020) to 50% (2021). No big changes for the chat, social media or website channels. Chat was used as a contact option in 25% of cases this year (2020: 28%), consumers contact the company via Facebook in 7% (the same as last year), and a response is initially sought on the website in 34% (2020: 35%). The use of the channels is also reflected in the trust in each channel: 85% of respondents say they have great to very great trust in the telephone channel. Trust is even greater for the e-mail channel, at 86%. Direct chat via the company website is trusted by 75%, while trust in the Facebook channel is only 52%.

Furthermore, telecommunications companies, insurance companies and financial institutions are among the most contacted industries, each with 39%.

Technological progress: usage increases - trust decreases

Looking at the development since 2019, the use of channels such as the chatbot is continuously increasing. While in 2019 only 12% reported using a chatbot as a contact channel, this year it is already 21%. It is noteworthy that the development of trust in a chatbot is opposite: while two years ago 53% of respondents said they trusted a chatbot, this year it is only 43%. Satisfaction with the chatbot has also decreased: in the current study, 55% say they are satisfied with the service provided by the chatbot. In 2019, it was still 73%. This could be explained by an increasing demand on the artificial intelligence or also the type of request. Complex requests such as complaints, which are among the most frequently asked at 39%, often require individual solutions.

"Sorry for the inconvenience ..."

In the ranking of the biggest "annoyances" in contact with a customer service, 63% of consumers in the study say that long waiting times until the first contact with the customer service representative annoy them the most. Just under half accept a waiting time of 4 minutes or less, and one in three expect to speak with a contact person after one minute or less. New digital contact options become particularly important when a request needs to be handled as quickly as possible. While 32% of Germans expect a response within 24 hours for an inquiry via e-mail, only 7% consider it reasonable for companies to take more than 12 hours to respond via social media channels. A full 21% even expect a response here between 30 minutes and one hour. The demands are also high in chat: 20% expect an answer immediately, while 36% find a waiting time of 2-4 minutes acceptable.

At 49 %, repeating the request is in second place among the "inconveniences". 32% say they are annoyed when expertise on products or certain services cannot be answered.

Buying argument: customer service quality

For 87% of consumers, the quality of customer service is a decisive factor in their purchasing decision. Money does not play the main role here: a favorable price moves into second place as a reason for choosing a brand. But even without a purchase intention, the quality of customer service influences the image. A full 93% state that the quality of service influences the general image of the company.

Click here to download the study.