Whether it’s over the phone or over the inter­net, con­sumers have high expec­ta­tions for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice.

Pro­vid­ing excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice is a neces­si­ty for a busi­ness that wants to keep its doors open for many years to come. Good cus­tomer ser­vice can take many forms, but there is one thing these forms have in com­mon: good com­mu­ni­ca­tion. A recent study shows that cus­tomers care about being able to com­mu­ni­cate with a brand and that many brands are miss­ing the mark when it comes to meet­ing the expec­ta­tions of these cus­tomers.

The North­ridge Group, a com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in cus­tomer expe­ri­ence solu­tions, sur­veyed more than 1,000 U.S con­sumers to cre­ate the State of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Expe­ri­ence 2017. The report high­lights cus­tomers’ expec­ta­tions for good com­mu­ni­ca­tion and what hap­pens when a brand fails to meet those stan­dards.

The North­ridge Group report is impor­tant to busi­ness own­ers, because near­ly half of con­sumers don’t believe com­pa­nies are doing very well at keep­ing lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open. Accord­ing to the report, at least 50 per­cent of con­sumers said “they do not feel com­pa­nies make it easy to con­tact them.”

It can seem a lit­tle strange to hear com­plaints about com­mu­ni­ca­tion when mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy has made it pos­si­ble for peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate with one anoth­er in so many ways. How­ev­er, not all forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are cre­at­ed equal, and many con­sumers will be upset if their pref­ered means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t includ­ed.

Regard­less of the means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, fast response times and the qual­i­ty of infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed will deter­mine how peo­ple judge their expe­ri­ence. Accord­ing to The North­ridge Group report, while most con­sumers still pre­fer the phone for mis­sion-crit­i­cal issues, more than 70 per­cent expe­ri­ence long wait times and have trou­ble nav­i­gat­ing the auto­mat­ed sys­tem to reach a live agent. Clear­ly, this is an area where busi­ness­es should be con­stant­ly work­ing to stream­line the response process so calls are quick­ly answered and prob­lems quick­ly resolved.

The issue of good cus­tomer ser­vice isn’t imme­di­ate­ly solved by the intro­duc­tion of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels. In some ways, it com­pounds the prob­lem because it cre­ates new ways for cus­tomers to talk to brands, and these meth­ods have to match cus­tomer expec­ta­tions as well. Accord­ing to the sur­vey results, 57 per­cent of con­sumers fre­quent­ly have trou­ble find­ing answers on a com­pa­ny’s web­site.

Sim­i­lar­ly, expec­ta­tions for social media have increased as more cus­tomers turn to social plat­forms as a way to reach out to busi­ness­es and brands. Despite the grow­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of social media for cus­tomer ser­vices, one in four (25 per­cent) cus­tomers in the sur­vey indi­cat­ed they nev­er even receive a response when they con­tact a com­pa­ny through social media. This is a 20 per­cent increase from the per­cent­age who said that in 2016 (21 per­cent)

Com­pa­nies have a vest­ed inter­est in stay­ing in sync with evolv­ing cus­tomer ser­vice tech­nol­o­gy and get­ting the design and deliv­ery of dig­i­tal chan­nels right,” said Daren Moore, Pres­i­dent of The North­ridge Group, in a writ­ten state­ment about the release of the 2017 report. “As con­sumers move from tra­di­tion­al phone to dig­i­tal chan­nels and oth­er emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies to get the help they need, com­pa­nies that focus on chan­nel usabil­i­ty and ease of res­o­lu­tion will have a dis­tinct com­pet­i­tive advan­tage.”

Busi­ness own­ers would be wise not to ignore these issues relat­ed to com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s things like these that lead cus­tomers to switch brands. The val­ue of good cus­tomer ser­vice to the over­all prof­itabil­i­ty of a com­pa­ny was also high­light­ed in the study.

The major­i­ty (51 per­cent) of con­sumers sur­veyed by The North­ridge Group said they are usu­al­ly will­ing to spend more with a com­pa­ny that pro­vides an excel­lent cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. How­ev­er, near­ly two in three (64 per­cent) of those same con­sumers report frus­tra­tion about being asked to repeat their infor­ma­tion to cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives mul­ti­ple times.

Four out of five (81 per­cent) con­sumers report­ed they’d like­ly stop doing busi­ness with a com­pa­ny after a poor ser­vice expe­ri­ence, and of those unhap­py con­sumers, and only a lit­tle more than half (53 per­cent) may return. A neg­a­tive cus­tomer expe­ri­ence caused by bad com­mu­ni­ca­tion can eas­i­ly spread beyond the one cus­tomer who had the expe­ri­ence. Three out of five peo­ple sur­veyed (60 per­cent) report­ed shar­ing their unpleas­ant cus­tomer ser­vice inter­ac­tion with fam­i­ly and friends.