Why Customers Use Certain Service Channels

To optimize the customer service experience, service leaders must optimize channels to help customers resolve issues with less effort.

Brandon just bought a new coffee maker, and can’t get the timer working. He searches the problem on Google, then asks a friend. He tries the company’s self-service web chat, only to be told he must call customer service. Not surprisingly, he’s frustrated at how hard he has to work to resolve a pretty simple issue.

It’s not just what channels customers use to resolve issues, but why they use them that leaders need to understand

Brandon wanted to quickly read a FAQ doc or access a quick-start manual on his phone. Instead, he wasted time and energy, had to navigate a call center voice menu and walk a service rep through his problem. He relays his frustration to the first three people he meets that day — and wishes he had purchased a different coffee maker.

Why did Brandon try Google first? Simply put, customers want to solve their problems in the easiest possible way.

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It’s not just what channels customers use to resolve issues, but why they use them that leaders need to understand,” says Devin Poole, Senior Director, Advisory, Gartner. By understanding what customers need to accomplish and how they expect to accomplish it, service leaders can:

  • Optimize each channel to the most appropriate resolution job
  • Guide customers to the correct channel or resolution job

Read more: Top Digital Challenges for Service Leaders in 2019

Know what your customer is trying to do

Service leaders must no longer think of customer resolution as one single task. Instead, they should understand the entire customer journey, including the series of tasks or jobs associated with solving a customer service issue.

Gartner has identified six jobs (based on Bob Moestra’s Jobs to be Done theory) that customers are trying to accomplish when resolving an issue. Each is based on the customer’s subconscious need that drives their behavior and channel selection. These jobs happen in no particular order, and customers may need to do more than one.

Gartner illustrates how leaders who understand the customer service issue experience can guide customers to the best customer service channel to resolve their issue.

After understanding the jobs customers are looking to complete, channels can be matched based on their utility. Some jobs are best suited for live channels, while some, such as those where customers want to express their feelings about a business or its products, will intentionally take place outside of company channels.

Account for generational preferences

Brandon’s story is typical of a millennial. Forty percent of this group is likely to gather their own information when trying to solve a problem. They are reluctant to start with a phone call. Gartner research found that millennials are 4 times less likely to pick up the phone to solve issues at the onset.

“Regardless of generation, the most common starting point is ‘workaround,’” says Poole. “But all customers will pick up the phone if that’s the easiest way to get to a resolution.”

The task for companies is to guide all customers from the workaround job, where they’re off doing their own research, toward a self-service resource appropriate for resolving the issue.

Guide customers to the optimal channel

If customers have to try multiple channels before reaching a resolution, they are likely to have had a longer interaction with a service rep, which ultimately is costly for the company. Customers frequently choose the wrong channel for their resolution job, leading to channel switching, higher effort and lower customer loyalty.

Service leaders must first understand the customer resolution jobs and then guide customers into the right channels

All channels should aim to make customer resolution easier, but ditch the one-size-fits-all approach. All channels are not equal in terms of utility, so customers need to understand the value each channel provides when trying to do their job.

Customers just want to solve problems easily

Customers value ease of use over any particular channel and will easily adopt new channels that help them solve their job. “Thinking about the problem the customer is trying to solve will help companies to optimize channel strategy, deliver low-effort interactions and, ultimately, impact loyalty,” says Poole.

Service leaders must first understand the customer resolution jobs and then guide customers into the right channels that require the lowest effort and provide the quickest outcome.

This article has been updated from the original, published on April 20, 2018, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders clients can read more about Customer Resolution Jobs.