New service study: The Customer Service Barometer 2023 is available.

Published on 2023-10-10

Utilization of German customer service reaches record high in 2023

  • Customer service of high relevance: 79% of respondents had contact with a customer service department in the last 12 months.
  • Customers value good service over low prices despite inflation
  • Broad majority of Germans satisfied with customer service in Germany.

Mainz 10.10.2023 - The use of customer service is on the rise: 79% of respondents have had contact with a customer service department in the past 12 months. This represents a significant increase compared to the previous year (71%). In addition, the vast majority of Germans are satisfied with customer service in Germany. The study shows that the use of service is above average among men and people under 35. It also shows that people with higher incomes make above-average use of customer service. When it comes to the choice of contact channel, telephony is just ahead of the e-mail channel, as it was last year. In terms of satisfaction and trust in channels, the greatest trust is still in personal contact. Chatbots and digital assistants, while popular for their "round-the-clock" availability, are also among the channels customers trust least. The relevance and impact of customer service remains undisputed among consumers: An absolute majority stated that customer service shapes the overall image of a company and that good service significantly influences their decision to make repeat purchases. On the subject of self-service, 84% of customers said they prefer to seek direct personal contact. At the same time, however, the study also shows that more and more consumers are trying to resolve their concerns themselves, for example through FAQs.

DOWNLOAD WHOLE STUDY FOR FREE: Der Kundenservice Barometer (kundenservicedesjahres.de)

Choice of channel and occasions

The two dominant contact channels, telephone and e-mail, are still of crucial importance for customer service communication. Here, telephony (57%) is just ahead of email (56%) by one percent. Interestingly, the survey shows that in general all contact channels were used significantly more than in previous years. However, the greatest growth was in personal contact (+12% to a total of 36%).

The survey also shows that complaints continue to be the main reason for contacting customer service in 39% of cases. They are followed by other post-purchase concerns such as order changes and shipment tracking (33%). Customer service continues to be contacted less frequently regarding personal details or subscriptions and purchases (21%). This can presumably be attributed to the fact that these issues are easy to deal with oneself in the self-service areas of the companies.

Trust and satisfaction

Overall, two-thirds of respondents said they were satisfied with the service experience over the past year. However, only 8% were "very satisfied" with the service. The level of trust among respondents in relation to different contact channels is worth highlighting. Face-to-face contact enjoys the highest level of trust at 95%, followed by phone calls (88%), emails (86%) and mail (84%). In contrast, contact via chatbots and social media is at the lower end of the trust scale at 48% - 60%.
Face-to-face contact also measures the highest satisfaction (87%), followed by phone calls (77%) and WhatsApp (80%). Although trust and satisfaction are mirrored here in many ways, there are differences in terms of WhatsApp and mail. While mail offers high trust, satisfaction (attributed to the lack of convenience) is rather low. WhatsApp is further down the trust scale at #6, while also being the third most satisfying contact medium. This is a contradiction in and of itself, but could be due to its convenient accessibility.
Chatbots are contacted primarily for two reasons: the expectation of a quick response and 24/7 availability. However, there are also concerns, including poor understanding of concerns, unreliable responses, and a general distrust of the technology. 32% of respondents say they would rather wait longer to text with a real person.

Consumers have high expectations at various levels

Consumers' expectations of customer service efficiency are extremely multifaceted and reflect the increasingly diverse communication channels. 86% of respondents say they insist on being connected to a customer service representative within 4 minutes or less when they call. For 37% of them, an even speedier connection of less than one minute is the measure. In contrast, click-to-call requests show a surprising variance in customer demands, ranging from a few minutes to an hour of waiting time.

With regard to written email inquiries, about two-thirds of respondents expect a response within 24 hours. In social media, there is a widespread expectation of a response within just one hour, while in chat services, just 4 minutes is considered a reasonable response time.

Quality of service ahead of low prices despite inflation

91% of respondents agree that customer service influences their general image of a company. A full 86% agree that customer service influences a repeat purchase. Changes in consumer behavior reflect how consumers' priorities are increasingly shifting toward quality customer service, and how people are becoming accustomed to inflation-increasing prices. Within this framework, 53% of respondents emphasize the importance of service quality in terms of customer loyalty in general, both in-store and in online or phone interactions. In contrast, 42% of respondents value attractive prices in their purchasing decisions. It is noteworthy that a clear trend can be identified here: in the previous year, 4% more emphasized the priority of favorable prices, while 5% less focused on service quality. Only 5% said they were significantly influenced by advertising.
Service versus self-service
84% of respondents prefer to contact the provider's customer service directly in most cases. However, solving the problem themselves also plays an important role, except when it comes to using the chatbot (only 35% would solve their concern using a chatbot). After all, 68% occasionally try to help themselves with the help of other websites or solve their concern on the company's website using FAQs, customer area, etc. Companies therefore have a great opportunity to offer a platform here that can efficiently supplement personal contact. It turns out that the older age groups are less inclined to resort to self-help compared to the younger ones. Among 25-34 year-olds, self-help through websites even plays a similarly important role as customer service contact. Self-service functions such as FAQs or the company's own customer area are also frequently a point of contact for this age group. Only when it comes to the chatbot can a certain rejection be seen here as well.

What makes good customer service? - Do's and don'ts

The skills and competencies of service staff and rapid problem resolution were identified by consumers as the primary criteria for excellent customer service. Similarly, the survey shows significant shifts in consumer preferences from the previous year. The formerly high priority of being available quickly has become less important, while the friendliness of customer service representatives has increased in importance.
A look at the biggest annoyances when contacting customer service shows that long waiting times nevertheless top the list, followed by the need to repeat the request several times. The cluelessness of advisors, referrals to other contact media and impersonal, pre-written answers in the form of templates complete the top 5 most frustrating experiences. Respondents seem to be most able to cope with a lack of pronunciation or eloquence from customer service representatives, indicating a high level of tolerance in this area.

 Der Kundenservice Barometer (kundenservicedesjahres.de)