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.

Whether it's a marriage or a business, good communication is necessary to maintain good relations with the people we care about. For more information on providing a better customer experience, read this article on what business need to do to keep their customers happy.