We Have Smart Consumers and Smartphones; Why Not Smart Contact Centers?

Ken Landoline
Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • The vast majority of consumers calling into a contact center believe they know more about the products and services in question than the customer service agent answering their call.
  • More than three-quarters of consumers say they will only continue to buy from businesses that make interacting with their customer service organizations easy.

I recently read a report on a piece of research which revealed some interesting consumer perceptions about the state of the customer service industry.  According to the report, British Telecom and Avaya teamed up to do a market research study based on a survey of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. and the UK.  As we might expect, the study confirmed that the use of smartphone applications, video conferencing, and video and Web chat is rapidly on the rise with consumers interacting with companies to ask questions and resolve product and service issues.  However, of more interest to me is the fact that 80% of people think agents struggle to answer their questions and 85% believe they have been put on hold simply because the agents did not know what to say during their conversation due to a lack of information and/or proper training.  This leads me to believe that enterprise customer service executives and managers, as well as contact center providers, are not doing a good job of tapping into ‘big data’ in the customer’s enterprise or preparing their agents to do the job.  From experience, I know that the data exists in most enterprises, but apparently enterprises are not very successful in getting the data to the agents when they need it, or getting the customer to the proper agent on the first try.

Also surprising in this multichannel (voice, chat, fax, text, SMS, Web) customer support world, where 82% of people say they need a multitude of channels to meet their needs, is the fact that people find it very difficult to shift between channels for service.  This is confirmed by the fact that only 17% of consumers who attempt to jump between channels would describe the process as easy, and 69% say they are often asked to repeat their account information on the same interaction, which causes a great deal of customer annoyance and dissatisfaction.  The frustrating part of these findings is that we all know consumer expectations for receiving a high level of service when interacting with a company are loftier than ever before.  In addition, they expect a very homogeneous and transparent level of service across all the channels of company access available to them, including mobile access via their smartphones.  As the study confirmed, 78% of consumers say they will only buy from businesses that make dealing with them easy.

My greatest concern is that we all know technology exists today to correct these issues causing consumer frustration; however, those technologies are obviously not yet reaching the proper level in the customer service channel to affect a positive reaction from the customers.  This may be because they have not yet been properly productized or packaged for sale at a price that is accessible to the majority of centers.  It could also be because contact center operators do not really understand what customers require to maintain a level of loyalty.  It may be that companies do not fully appreciate the cost of poor service in terms of the bottom line.  Simply put, whether it is accomplished through technology or just by proper setting of priorities, customer service executives must ensure that a high and homogeneous level of service is provided across access channels before multiple channels are implemented.  Moreover, regardless of the channel used, every effort must be made to get the customer to the proper and best-trained agent to handle their call, with an emphasis on first-contact resolution of the customer’s problem; otherwise, the long-term effects will be significant and enduring to their business.

What do you think?

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