Customer satisfaction with contact centers is down, according to the Contact Center Satisfaction Index 2019 from CFI Group, a market research firm.
Customers are tired of long wait times, being passed from channel to channel or agent to agent, constantly repeating themselves, and, worse, not getting their problems resolved. Many reach a breaking point where they bid a not-so-fond farewell to the offending company.
How can contact centers turn that around so that customers are left feeling positive about the interaction?
1. Make It Easier to Do Business
Reversing the trend in customer dissatisfaction demands that we make it easier for customers to do business with us. That starts by understanding customer pain points, such as being required to repeat information multiple times and letting IVRs get in the way.
Mapping the customer experience journey, brainstorming ways to address such frustrating touchpoints, and then partnering with the customer to provide the necessary information to fix the problem is another way, Serenova says.
2. Don’t Force Self-service on Customers
Self-serve options can be great for customers who are in a hurry, but not when they need to speak with an agent. Instead, allow customers to interact using the channel of their choice.
Seamlessly pivoting to a live agent (especially one who is aware of the customer’s service journey) can surprise and delight customers and soothe whatever frustration that led them to you in the first place.
3. Accept That Technology Is Not a Silver Bullet
Gartner predicts that this year, 85 percent of customer interactions with a company will take place using technology. And technology such as AI and automation can be an asset when it doesn’t exceed its bounds.
Simple tasks, like updating personal details, checking account balances, or making a reservation are where technology in its current iteration performs well. For more complex issues, however, people still prefer to speak with a human.
Eighty-three percent of consumers say that they prefer human interaction over digital channels when trying to solve customer service issues, according to the Global Consumer Pulse Research study from Accenture Strategy.
Striking the right balance between hi-tech and hi-touch will pave the way for better customer experiences in the long-term.
4. Appreciate the Value Agents Offer
“Agents are the face and voice of most companies, interacting with more customers in a day than any other area of the business,” Serenova says.
As a result, the experience a customer has with an agent can either positively impact the bottom line and engender long-term loyalty or send the customer fleeing into the open arms of the competition.
What contributes to customer experiences positively or negatively? Attrition, for one.
When experienced agents quit because they are unhappy, it leaves a gaping hole that’s hard to fill. Programs are left to fend for themselves with new hires who lack the necessary expertise to achieve customer satisfaction and meet KPIs.
Agent attrition is also expensive for the contact center. It costs thousands to recruit, hire, and train new agents and takes weeks to bring them up to speed on the necessary aspects of their job: procedures, policies, soft skills, the client’s products and services, and the like.
Engaged agents, on the other hand, help drive up customer satisfaction and positively impact ROI. And when you equip agents with the training and tools needed to do their job well, they will reward you with service level metrics met and exceeded.
5. Tap Into Generational Shifts
As Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z (anyone born after 1997) become customers and agents, it pays contact centers to adapt their methodologies to improve performance.
Both generations are tech-savvy and can often be found tethered to their smartphones. Talking to a person is not their first choice when seeking service; they prefer digital channels instead.
Citing statistics from a report called Crossing the Generational Divide: Providing Customer Service for Today’s Consumers (PDF), Serenova found that Millennials would rather be stuck in traffic, go to the DMV to get a new ID, give a speech in front of 100 people, or have their teeth cleaned than speak to a customer service agent on the phone!
Serenova recommends that contact centers offer a range of self-service options as part of an omnichannel experience, including SMS, online chat, bots, FAQs, and forums. And when these groups need a human touch, they expect interactions to be fast, personalized, and secure with little or no hold times.
New Generation of Agents
Gen Y and Z agents are used to multi-tasking and toggling between browser windows and applications. Training new agents also requires some “toggling” through the use of multimedia, role-playing, and gamification. A collaborative learning environment where they can get immediate feedback is also helpful.
Trends come and go, says Serenova. While that’s true, contact center executives would be wise to pay attention.
Technology, a trend, isn’t going away but will increasingly become engrained into the customer service operational milieu. Also, understanding that customers expect frictionless interactions (e.g., not being trapped inside an IVR or waiting on hold for ten minutes) and agents aware of their journey who can resolve their issues quickly is commonplace.
Taking steps, like those outlined here, to improve the customer experience can be the difference between profitable forecasts and a bright future or fading prospects with glory days in the past.
It requires that contact centers have a proactive, customer-centric mindset and genuine desire (you might even say “passion”) to put the customer first.