What the latest Apple launch tells us about customer service
This week’s launch of the Apple iPhone 6S, iPad Pro and new Apple TV has focused attention on the consumer electronics market, and shows the importance of technology and gadgets to all our lives. The upcoming Christmas season is bound to see billions spent on the latest products, including smartphones, tablets and Ultra HD TVs.
As technology gets more complex, and consumers look to connect it all together, the importance of the customer experience becomes ever more vital. Whether it is researching products online before purchase, asking advice about set-up or dealing with issues, consumers rely on electronics manufacturers’ digital channels for fast, accurate support. In an extremely competitive market, with complicated products, fail to deliver the right answers and customers will simply buy from a rival – probably after complaining about the experience on social media or to family and friends.
Apple has realized this, with a clear focus on service, particularly within Apple Stores, which provide a high quality experience, helpful staff and a focus on ensuring that customers get the best from their technology.
Looking online, how are consumer electronics companies faring when it comes to the digital customer experience? To find out, the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study evaluated their performance at answering routine questions over email, Twitter, chat, and on their websites. Designed to mirror consumer behavior, ten leading electronics brands were asked questions including If my product is out of guarantee, how do I get it repaired? and How do I get a replacement manual for my product?. As well as electronics manufacturers, nine other sectors were surveyed in the overall study, including banking, telecommunications and retail.
The findings showed that some companies are better at connecting with customers than others, but that overall it lags behind other sectors – including consumer electronics retailers. This means that manufacturers risk being marginalized by those selling their products, as consumers instead turn to retailers for advice and help moving forward.
Web customer service
Online, performance in the sector dropped, from answering 70% of questions in 2014 down to 67% in 2015. However this picture was affected by one company that failed to answer any questions at all, pushing down the sector average and masking overall improvements. In contrast another company scored 90%, showing the wide range of service levels provided by consumer electronics businesses. The sector ranked fourth overall in the study, way behind banking (91%) and fashion retail (78%).
Email customer service
Just half of companies allowed non-customers to contact them by email – the same number as in 2015. Accuracy increased, with 40% of companies now providing a successful answer, compared to 30% in 2014. However this does mean that over half of electronics manufacturers aren’t responding to routine questions that are emailed to them. In comparison, consumer electronics retailers answered 80% of queries. The time taken to reply varied wildly – one company answered in 1 hour 15 minutes, yet another took just under 50 hours.
As in 2014, Twitter performance was also disappointing – 70% were on the network, but only 30% responded and delivered a useful reply. Again, these figures are half those of electronics retailers. One company tweeted a response in 54 minutes, while the slowest took over 8 hours, leading to an average of just under 4 hours – hardly the speed which consumers expect on Twitter.
There is also a reality gap on chat – four companies advertised it, but none had it working when being tested, pointing to a lack of resources being invested in staffing the channel. Given chat’s proven ability to enable customers to hold a real-time conversation with agents, and to therefore get their problems solved quickly, this is a wasted opportunity for consumer electronics manufacturers.
Apple is now the biggest company in the world by market capitalization, showing that the rewards for providing well-designed, powerful, and easy to use technology are potentially enormous. However judging by the 2015 Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study results, the overall electronics sector needs to invest more if it is to win the loyalty (and custom) of consumers moving forward.