Customer Service research shows you where service is failing

Customer Service Research Reveals Trends that will Shift your Contact Center Priorities

Companies in the U.S. lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service. And, more than half of your customers say see ya never after one poor customer experience.

Whew! Both of those stats are hard to swallow and can be a bit scary. The recent report dubbed America a nation of “serial switchers.” Contact centers are under a lot of pressure to create positive relationships with customers if they want them to stick with their brand.

Customer expectations are shifting. Your contact center must align with (and exceed) those expectations to avoid losing customers and revenue. To keep up with expectation management, establish priorities for delivering the best service.

Here’s a look at some trends to focus on for the rest of the year to help you hone in on what customers actually care about.

Trend One: Focus on Omni-channel Communications

Last summer, I reached out to Bed Bath & Beyond on Twitter when a brand new appliance was discovered broken in the box. They responded, and we moved the convo to a live chat and eventually an email so I could send in a picture. All the while, I’m talking to the same (insanely patient) person who guided me through the process to get a replacement sent.

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Customers expect to reach out to companies through any channel, and get a response. Today’s strongest contact centers meet that expectation. They offer a unified service through a number of channels, tailored to customers’ needs and preferences. Personalization and customization are everywhere –– from your shoe design to how you organize your phone, and even to the financial apps you use. Customers today want control over their experience.

In Microsoft’s 2018 Global Customer Service Report, 59 percent of respondents used three or more channels to get answers to their questions. Unfortunately, customer service teams struggle to maintain a seamless experience across channels for every customer. But, consistently-great experiences should be the goal.

While phone is still the most popular channel, it’s no longer customers’ go-to as a first point-of-contact. Self-service is now a cornerstone to any multichannel strategy. And your channels should evolve with how your customers use them. In the 2018 Contact Center Satisfaction Index, the CFI Group found that 72 percent of customers visit your website or knowledge base to resolve their issues before they contact customer service. And, social media outlets are growing as a way to interact with customer service.

Know your customer preferences and channels of choice to deliver a seamless experience.

Trend Two: Automated Interactions in Contact Centers are Improving

More smart speakers and voice assistants live in consumers’ homes and offices. With all this new technology, companies need to think about how to connect with their customers in an authentic way. Sensors, camera, and algorithms alter how customers interact with your team of agents.

Technology in the service experience is more than just the IVR you punch through in your phone calls. Now, some chatbots can carry an entire conversation and solve basic customer service issues, in real time.

Companies (like us) are re-imagining automation and IVR to reduce contact center costs and provide better self-service tools. But don’t rely on these tools alone. The truth remains that customers rarely want self-service options when they pick up the phone. If a customer calls your contact center, their hope is to talk to a real person. CFI Group found that 50 percent of all callers who reach an IVR skip right past it. By the time your customers decide to call your contact center, they’re ready to talk to an agent ASAP.

And, some 79 percent of customers still prefer to call their contact center for more complex problems. The human touch over the phone is highly valued. But, consider how automation can support your contact center and facilitate better human interactions. It’s worth your time.

Learn how our omni-channel IVR automates pieces of the customer journey and routes customers to the right agent, at the right time. Check out Sharpen Logic.

Trend Three: Solving Issues Faster Matters Now More than Ever

Traditional metrics like First Contact Resolution and Average Speed of Answer are still critical to a successful contact center. Convenience and promptness are only on the rise in the modern service culture.

Accenture dubbed the modern customer as the “Nonstop Customer.” In their Customer 2020 Strategy, they found 80 percent of consumers who switched to another provider due to poor service could have been swayed to stay if their issue was resolved the first time they reached out. Yet, FCR consistently remains a top frustration for consumers and a missed metric for contact centers

Customers are fed up with having to reach out more than once because of the same issue. Almost as fed up as they are with having to sit on hold forever (and ever and ever.)  Data out of the U.K. found that only one in five customers get through to a business the first time they call. How can customers fix an issue if they can’t even get through to tell you about it?

Jumping back to the research from CFI Group, only about half of customers say they get a resolution from a single agent or on their first contact. These traditional metrics point to an empowerment issue with your agents. Your agents don’t feel prepared to answer customer concerns on their own without handing off a call to someone else, or without first hanging up to find the information they need.

Improve your traditional metrics with better coaching and empowerment for your agents as customer expectations continue to shift. More autonomy is critical to handle an issue effectively and quickly for less-frustrated customers.

Want to increase your agents’ efficiency, effectiveness, and empowerment? Get actionable data to improve your contact center with the Agent Experience Score. Learn about it.

Be Human

In spite of the rising popularity of automation and digital channels in customer service, human interaction is still critical. Companies that care deeply about authenticity and empathy excel in delivering better customer service. Customers should be invited into the process of product development. This rising trend of “customer success” is transforming all kinds of industries.

Your agents are on the front lines of human interaction. Automation can’t replace the human connection many customers want when they call, email, or chat with your contact center. Continue to value the power of communication, humility, and empathy when you interact with customers. Use technology as a tool, but don’t neglect building a strong, empowered workforce in your contact center.

Check out these other trends we’re seeing in 2019 to upgrade your contact center and keep up with the times.

We originally published this article on November 3, 2016 and updated it for tone and accuracy on May 2, 2019.