Digital customer service takes hold, but phone support still rules

Customers are increasingly mixing in digital channels such as live chat for customer support, but a good phone call is still the road to satisfaction for consumers.

Digital customer service channels are increasingly taking hold at enterprises and live chat could ultimately replace phone calls for many, according to a PwC survey customer care.

The report, which surveyed more than 1,000 customers, looked at the usage of digital customer support programs and found telecom companies were the most contacted followed by retailers. On the digital front, 34 percent of consumers said that telecom companies had the best digital customer care followed by banking, retail and technology. It's worth noting that the industry that sells the backbone technology for digital customer service didn't rate No. 1 when it came to eating its own dog food.

Here's a look at the breakdown:


While the majority of customers (84 percent) still prefer a live phone call, 47 percent have used a combination of digital and traditional service channels. Fifty-five percent of customers preferred email and 41 percent wanted digital chat first.

The big question is when the digital inflection point will hit.


Use cases matter and that's why phone will still win out over digital for the foreseeable future. Digital channels are better for things like account status and mobile app problems. Billing issues and support are better for the phone.

PwC said:

Consumers are most satisfied with a phone call with a live agent (81%), online chat (77%), and on-site retail stores (73%). garners the lowest level of satisfaction (54%).

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that the best return on customer service is preventing gripes. Customers will hammer a company over poor service, but won't reward an enterprise for good dealings. PwC floated a question about whether customers would pay for preferred service and 86 percent said no.