Patience, Zero. The State of Customer Service in 2022

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In the post-pandemic world, it seems to be even more common that, when situations don’t go a person’s way, they act out. While there have been countless reports of outbursts on airplanes and in grocery store lines, among many other cringe-worthy public settings, it’s important to also consider the outbursts that occur behind closed doors in a customer service environment.

Netomi’s The State of Customer Service in 2022 report polled more than 1,200 consumers across the United States to see how customers are acting when they reach out to a company with an issue, and how they react when things don’t go as planned. While support agents have been on the front lines for years when orders go missing, passwords get forgotten or planes get delayed, the treatment they are enduring only seems to be getting worse, as customer patience wanes, supply chain issues lead to unforeseen issues and a labor shortage causes even more disruption.

So, what is the true reality of customer support and what are agents facing every day? This study is a critical reality-check for support leaders who need to prioritize the agent experience as much as the customer experience.

A lack of patience is leading to emotional outbursts.

According to the report, 39% of customers have less patience today than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 14% saying that their patience for hold times has dropped to zero. In fact, 30% of customers will wait a maximum of 2 minutes for an agent on chat.

In what becomes a vicious cycle, many customers, fed up with long wait times, have resorted to taking their frustration out on agents (1 in 3 admitted to having screamed or sworn at a customer service agent), and 3 in 5 people have hung up on an agent at least once out of frustration.

Inefficiencies are only making matters worse.

Upon contacting customer support teams, 65% of customers have to reach out multiple times to get a single issue resolved. Even worse, 1 in 4 have to reach out 3 or more times to get a single issue resolved. This certainly only leads to an uptick in customer frustration and is a driver of poor behavior.

Agents, too, are losing their cool.

n some situations, agents are finding it harder to maintain their composure. The study revealed that agents themselves are showing signs of agitation and distress – 73% of customers have experienced an agent being rude to them, 44% have experienced an agent grow agitated, 38% have had an agent become upset, and 26% have had an agent become hostile. While these figures are certainly shocking, it’s important to realize that agents are humans, and if they are feeling attacked, it’s human nature to feel different emotions.

A change is needed

It’s clear that the status quo of customer service today is not working. The challenges are only exacerbated by the fact that there’s a labor shortage of customer service agents, so even companies trying to hire more agents to ease the burden on staff and decrease resolution time, are finding it difficult to fill the seats.

In this tense environment, support leaders need to focus on improving the agent experience to keep them engaged and satisfied in the job. After all, when agents are happy, there is a direct correlation with customer satisfaction. In an effort to do this, support teams are increasingly turning to new tools like AI to do things like meet that expectation for a two minute chat hold time, or provide instantaneous resolutions to many issues decreasing the workload put on agents. As this technology becomes more widespread, we’re sure to see changes for both customers and agents.

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