Top Customer Service Challenges of 2011


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Contact centers and support organizations are struggling to keep pace with rapidly increasing consumer expectations. High agent turnover, new communication channels, and budget cuts make it increasingly difficult to satisfy the customer. Here are the leading customer service challenges in the contact center today.

1. Agent Turnover

Contact centers have always struggled with high agent turnover rates, with many in North America reaching over 30% annually. The cost of frequently hiring and training new agents strains budgets that are already tight. It also limits the amount of highly experienced agents in the contact center which can impact service levels.

Research by customer service agent recruiting expert Hays Contact Centres reveals 67% of contact center managers say retention will be more difficult in the coming years.

According to another report by Sodexo Motivation Solutions, there is a negative perception of contact centers with only 5% of Generation Y considering it as an exciting place to work and 55% viewing it negatively overall. A third of those surveyed currently seeking work would rather claim unemployment than work in a contact center. The appeal of working in a contact center is on the decline for younger demographics, making it harder to find great support staff in the years to come.

2. Budget Cuts

Not being viewed as a cost center has always been a challenge for customer service organizations and contact centers. When companies are looking to cut costs, customer support and contact centers are usually one of the first areas on the chopping block.

A survey by analyst firm Ovum shows that only 20% of North American, Western European, Australian, and New Zealand contact center managers say their budget has grown in the last year. As a result contact centers must be more efficient and productive just to maintain current customer service levels, let alone improve them.

3. Rising Customer Expectations

According to results released by Accenture, companies are not keeping pace with rising consumer expectations for service. The major driver of this change is the increased competition between organizations on the quality of service provided. Another factor is the increased online connectivity of consumers, according to a study published by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by DHL.

Customer expectations will continue to rise, and only the most customer-centric organizations will be able to keep pace with the growth.

4. Multichannel Communications

New communication channels for customer service are constantly appearing and evolving. According to an Ovum survey of consumers in 16 countries, consumers are adopting these channels faster than companies can react. “Less than 10 percent of companies are prepared today for cross channel conversations,” stated Daniel Hong, lead analyst of customer interaction at Ovum.

A seamless customer experience across multiple communication channels is a standard customer expectation that few companies get right. One of the biggest challenges is bridging and aligning silos within an organization to produce one view of the customer across all channels. Getting corporate buy in and implementing such an initiative can be a time consuming and difficult process.

5. Finding Quality Customer Service Representatives

Customer service agents are the most critical asset to a support organization. Despite whatever technology and processes are put in place, they ultimately have the biggest impact on the customer experience.

Hiring qualified support representatives has become more difficult. Combining this with budget cuts for employee salaries and a high agent attrition rate makes filling a contact center with highly skilled agents a significant hurdle.

6. Shared Services – Distributed and Virtual Environments

Globalization and changing dynamics in the market are changing corporate structures. The expansion of shared service centers means more customer support operations and processes are distributed across multiple locations and environments.

Although shared service centers can increase productivity and reduce operating costs, several challenges are apparent. With the advent of virtual environments, it is harder to manage staff that cannot be physically seen. Establishing consistent processes and rolling up reports across all various contact center locations and cultures is another challenge facing the support organization.

Strong change management, key performance indicator selection, and a culture of iterative measurement and optimization can help alleviate these issues.

In the meantime, feel free to read the Top Customer Service Trends in 2011 report below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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