Customer Experience: A Surprising Look At What Customers Really Value

As a customer experience professional, you’ve probably spent many hours poring over customer satisfaction data, trying to understand if customers were happy with their last interaction or if they’d recommend your company to a friend or professional peer. These things matter, especially to your bottom line, because they can reflect trends in customer retention, referrals, and up-selling.

You might know quite a bit about what makes your customers satisfied or dissatisfied but, if you’re like many customer experience professionals, you might not know what consumers really value when they think about customer experience in a general sense. The recent ContactBabel report, “The US Customer Experience Decision-Makers’ Guide 2018,” contained a few surprises for customer experience professionals.

The leading analyst firm for the contact center market surveyed 234 senior customer experience leaders at companies from a variety of industries, including finance, manufacturing, insurance and IT. Topics covered anticipated future investments, strengths, and weaknesses, technology trends, as well as what’s important to customers. In addition, ContactBabel also commissioned research firm ORC International to conduct a briefer survey of 1,000 US consumers. The consumer survey focused on factors that respondents found most important for having a positive customer experience. That survey uncovered some interesting disconnects between customer experience leaders and consumers.

What Customer Experience Leaders Think Customers Want

Customer experience leaders were asked to rank eight factors, in order of importance, of why customers contact their organizations. Customer experience leaders agreed that the first-time resolution was the top priority for customers. Just over 70% of respondents ranked it first, second or third, with 46% ranking it as number one.

They ranked short wait times, and polite and friendly employees as the next most valuable factors. However, the factors that ranked poorly provided some of the most interesting results. Long opening hours was ranked among the three least-important factors by 83% of respondents; US-based employees ranked that in the bottom three factors for 72% of the respondents.

What Customers Really Want

To understand the differences between what customer experience professionals believe consumers want—and what they actually want—ORC International asked 1,000 US adults to choose the three most important factors when contacting an organization. Respondents chose from eight options that matched the factors customer experience leaders ranked, with one wording difference between the surveys. “Long opening hours” changed to “available 24/7” for clarity, based on the recommendation of ORC International. In presenting the results, ContactBabel broke the numbers down by age range.


First, let’s look at the top areas where customer experience leaders and consumers agree. Across all age groups, more than half of respondents ranked the first-time resolution as a priority. Polite and friendly employees also ranked highly for several respondents. Consumers also appreciate shorter wait times and a choice of ways to communicate. The short call and chat times were less important to respondents across all age ranges, indicating that many consumers don’t perceive interaction speed as essential to the quality customer experience.

While customer experience leaders ranked available 24/7 ranked as the least important factor, more than 50% of respondents under the age of 45 ranked it as a top factor. The report doesn’t identify a cause for this disconnect around opening hours, but companies with narrow contact hours might want to explore this further. Having US-based employees also ranked much higher among consumers than among customer experience professionals; older respondents ranked US-based employees as a factor of greater importance.

Digging Into the Data

The report offers more details on responses by company type—B2B versus B2C—and by consumer income levels. Download the report to review results in greater depth. You’ll learn more about consumer and customer experience leader views on several other topics, including omnichannel, automation and interaction complexity. And you’ll gain a window into what peers are doing and what customers value in their experiences with companies like yours.

Check out the full customer experience results from the ContactBabel report, “The US Customer Experience Decision-Makers’ Guide 2018.”