Consumer satisfaction with contact centers is down, says a report from CFI Group.
In its Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI) 2019, market research firm CFI Group states that contact center satisfaction has seen a decline across multiple industries for the past few years.
Property and casualty insurance providers have experienced a full eight percent drop, for example, while retail saw a six percent drop.
Some industries did hold steady: cell phone service and cable TV providers are two the report cites specifically. Its overall judgment, however, is that customer satisfaction with contact centers “remains modest.”
6 Drivers of Effective Contact Center Experience
The report lists six drivers of an effective contact center experience, five that have to do with agents — demeanor, communication, knowledge, effectiveness, and empowerment — all of which scored lower this year compared to 2018.
The problem with that decrease is that contact center agents are now more important than ever, says the report, citing the fact that customers who speak directly with an agent are 27 percent more satisfied than customers who first reach an IVR system.
And while technological innovations help customers answer simple questions and lower operational costs, the skill of human agents who are empowered to solve customer problems is the number one driver of satisfaction with contact centers.
3 Areas for Improving the Customer Service Journey
The CCSI 2019 report lists three areas that contact centers should focus on to improve the customer service journey and, by extension, customer satisfaction:
- Empower agents to solve customer problems;
- Design better IVR flow to reach agents;
- Make chat available for mobile devices.
Let’s look at each in greater detail.
Empower Agents to Solve Customer Problems
Voice phone calls still dominate as the customer’s channel of choice, says the report. A full 76 percent of customers who contact customer service do so over the phone.
That puts the onus on contact centers to ensure agents are well-equipped and empowered to manage any issue presented to them.
“The key to a successful customer service call is having agents who are empowered by the organization to make decisions when trying to solve customers’ issues. Empowered agents have the authority to deliver on key metrics: first agent resolution, first call resolution, and low call handle time are critical for ensuring a great contact center experience.”
Design Better IVR Flow to Reach Agents
The report states emphatically that customers do not want to self-serve when calling.
By the time customers call customer service, most have already tried to self-serve using a digital property; they want to speak with a live agent who can help them quickly.
That means that contact centers must adjust IVR flow to reach agents faster — and many are.
This year, 56 percent of callers reach an agent right away, compared to 45 percent last year, the report says. That metric has a direct bearing on customer satisfaction: CCSI is 75 for callers who get connected directly compared to 59 for those who reach an IVR.
Make Chat Available for Mobile Devices
The last area for improving the customer service journey is to make chat available for mobile devices.
The report says that in 2019, 48 percent of customers who try the company website before calling customer service do so using a mobile device. That’s a higher percentage than visited the site on a laptop (40 percent), desktop (39 percent), or tablet (12 percent.)
It also says that online chat users are more satisfied than average and give agents higher scores, show greater loyalty, and are more likely to recommend the company.
“Chat is an effective tool for engaging customers early when they experience a problem,” says the report. “Making chat available on the website or through the mobile app provides the customer with assistance precisely at the time when they are trying to work out a solution on a digital property.”
While the use of digital, self-serve options for customer service and support management is growing steadily, most customers still want to speak with a live agent who has the skill, knowledge, and, most of all, empowerment to take care of the problem quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction.
Yes, digital tools can handle more straightforward tasks, but it is the live agent who makes the critical difference in contact center customer service success.