Customers are changing the game when it comes to customer service, by changing the channels they use most. For the first time in the history of Forrester Research’s North American Consumer Technographics Customer Life Cycle Survey, respondents now say they are using self-service FAQ pages on a company’s website more often than speaking with a live agent on the phone. According to the survey, self-service channel usage has increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014, while phone usage remains the same at 73%.
While the voice of the customer may be heard less often over the phone, it is clearly stating a growing preference for digital engagement. According to the same Forrester survey referenced above, online community, virtual agent, mobile customer service, social media and live chat have also increased in usage.
Contact centers are working to address this growing and changing channel use. According to Dimension Data’s 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report which surveyed 901 contact centers across 72 countries, more than half are now multichannel ones managing at least eight different forms of contact methods. But adapting to this change continues to prove challenging. Notes the 2015 report:
• While 75% of contact centers surveyed recognize service as a competitive differentiator (up 18% over the past two years), and 57% say they can relate improving customer experience levels to revenue and profit growth, customer satisfaction levels have decreased for the fourth year in a row.
• Six in 10 contact centers say they have no social customer service capabilities.
• Four in 10 say they have no data analysis tools, even though they see analytics as the top factor changing the shape of their industry within the next five years.
• Less than 40% review self and assisted service channel performance on a regular basis.
• 43% don’t ever review assisted service processes.
• More than half (52%) do not share customer intelligence outside of the contact center.
• Nearly 80% say their current systems won’t meet their future needs.
Contact centers are asking agents to deliver service across more channels and contribute more to the overall customer experience, yet the benchmarking report notes on average only 10% of contact center operating budgets are being reserved for technology, the lowest level in three years.
The metrics above show change agents are needed to lead the way in evolving the contact center, empowering employees and enabling collaboration to increase customer satisfaction. Customer preferences are changing. Agent responsibilities are changing. Now it’s time for contact center technologies to step up, catch up, and change their historical view from a cost center to a profit center driving the customer experience.
Who’s your brand or organization’s change agent for customer service?