Achieving high levels of customer satisfaction is crucial to success in sales organisations, which is why they invest so heavily in customer service coaching and training services. After all, statistics compiled by HelpScout show that 78 percent of customers have bailed on an intended transaction due to a poor experience, while news of a bad customer experience reaches twice as many people as news of a good experience does.

In the modern sales environment, however, customer experiences are divided across digital channels, such as email, search engines and social media, and traditional channels, like telephone and mail. Here, we examine the key differences between the two channels when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Overall Satisfaction Levels

According to a recent UK Customer Satisfaction Index report published by the Institute of Customer Service, average customer satisfaction levels are not drastically different when you compare digital and traditional channels, suggesting neither has an inherent advantage over the other.

Indeed, that report found that across UK companies, the average satisfaction level for traditional customer experiences was 78.5 percent, compared to 77.8 percent across digital channels. Nevertheless, this does represent a small victory for traditional channels, suggesting digital customer service skills could be improved.

Types of Organisation

When looking at customer satisfaction across digital and traditional channels, it is interesting to note that certain types of organisations tend to perform better through digital channels, while other types of organisations achieve better satisfaction levels through traditional customer experiences.

The aforementioned UK Customer Satisfaction Index report found that HMRC, Jobcentre Plus and the DVLA – all national public services companies – achieved levels of customer satisfaction through digital channels that were at least five points higher than the levels they achieved through traditional channels.

On the other hand, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – all retail food companies – achieved the exact reverse, with satisfaction levels five points higher across traditional channels than digital.

This may be because of the types of interactions that occur across those channels. For example, a traditional experience with HMRC or the DVLA could be a telephone call with long waiting times, while a traditional experience with Tesco or Sainsbury’s is more likely to be an in-person shopping experience.

With that being said, it may also be an indicator that retail companies need to place a greater focus on digital customer service skills, while public service companies could benefit more from customer service coaching centred around their more traditional platforms, like telephone and written communication.

Popularity vs. Satisfaction

It is also important to note that many customers do not have a straight forward preference for using either digital or traditional channels. According to the findings of the Institute of Customer Service, there are clear differences in what digital and traditional channels tend to be used for.

Activities like making enquires, checking account information, asking for a quote or simply looking at the products on offer make up a higher proportion of digital experiences than they do traditional experiences. For instance, enquiries make up 21.6 percent of digital experiences, compared to just 12.9 percent of traditional experiences.

On the other hand, activities related to actually making a purchase make up a higher proportion of traditional channel experiences than they do digital experiences. In fact, making purchases accounts for 46.8 percent of traditional experiences, compared to 39.4 percent of digital experiences.

Yet, satisfaction levels with the way enquiries were handled was higher across traditional platforms than digital, and satisfaction with purchases through digital channels was higher than through traditional. This may be because staff working on less popular channels will have more time to deliver a great experience.


While overall customer satisfaction levels are similar across digital and traditional channels, it is interesting to note that the traditional side still has a slight edge. Nevertheless, there are differences in satisfaction levels depending on the type of organisation and the popularity of channel usage.

Miller Heiman Group’s Service Ready Solutions package helps organisations to create positive experiences, which build loyalty and customer retention. More information can be found by clicking here.

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