A broadly accepted notion is that a customer service interaction is an isolated, one-time experience for the individual. The most common methods used to measure that experience have been to send surveys asking customers to rate how likely they are to recommend the brand after a particular experience, or to rate their singular experience from 1 to 10. However, each interaction with a brand–particularly over the phone–is more complex. The entire affair, from the moment we hear the automated messages and hold music until the call has ended, is more like a series of micro-experiences, and each micro experience could have varying influence on our overall impression.
Measuring customer satisfaction without accounting for a customer’s micro experiences runs the risk of overlooking, or even missing entirely, nuanced factors that contribute to a more successful customer experience and areas that need improvement. It’s time to shift our way of thinking, and adjust how we measure customer satisfaction.
Deconstructing Customer Service Interactions
Customer service interactions happen across a multitude of channels today, but the phone is the most used channel for customer service when customers need something resolved (Zendesk). When thinking about the anatomy of a customer service interaction, it’s easy to distill them into three categories: the Set Up, The Action, and The Resolution. Each of these phases consists of at least one micro-experience.
The Set Up
The Set Up is the phase of an interaction that is completed before the caller can address their issue. During the Set Up, the first micro-experience is the time a customer spends waiting to be serviced. This is the “on hold” phase of a phone call, or the queue message that generally occurs within chat features online.
The second micro-experience in the Set Up is arguably the most frustrating micro-experience for customers: the authentication process. During this time, the company attempts to verify the identity of the caller. The friction caused during the authentication process can very negatively impact the caller’s perception of the overall interaction, regardless of the channel (phone, chat, etc.) used. More on that later.
The Action is the phase of an interaction where a customer can begin actually addressing their issue. The Action also consists of two micro-experiences. First are the self-service options, where customers do not yet necessarily need to interact with a representative. This occurs in the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) for phone calls, and with Chatbots for messaging based inquiries. The second micro-experience in this phase is the customer’s interaction with the agent.
The Resolution is the phase when the business is able to resolve the customer’s issue and/or achieve an outcome to the customer’s satisfaction.
When Micro-Experiences Become the Breaking Point
By taking a closer look at each of the five micro-experiences (on-hold, authentication, self-service, agent, and resolution), we can gain a better understanding of the weight that each micro-experience carries on the customer’s overall satisfaction. For example, if a customer does not have to wait on hold, is authenticated with minimal friction, and then speaks to a pleasant agent but is ultimately not satisfied with the resolution, will the customer report a positive or negative experience overall? Will their subsequent rating accurately represent their satisfaction with each micro-experience apart from the Resolution? Similarly, if a customer has a poor authentication experience, is unable to self-service, and waits on hold for an extended period of time before having an issue resolved, will their rating accurately represent their satisfaction with the resolution? In both scenarios, a single rating likely will not depict the entire interaction.
During the pandemic, some organizations have been forced to adapt to increased inquiry levels and rising consumer expectations, especially in financial services and healthcare industries. A study by Next Caller found that 80% of consumers surveyed say that the way a brand responds to their needs specific to the pandemic will impact their likelihood of doing business with them in the future. Another recent report found that 32% of banking customers surveyed said that they would switch banks after only 1-2 poor customer service experiences. This puts new pressure on service teams across industries to meet rising expectations amidst challenging circumstances.
The good news is that every customer service interaction is an opportunity to make a new first impression — and improvement in each micro-experience can help positively impact each customer’s opinion.
Let’s consider the Authentication micro-experience.
Authentication’s Major Role in Creating Consistent, Omni-Channel Experiences
As businesses increasingly use technology to drive ease of use, customers’ expectations continue to rise. This can place increased pressure on organizations to treat every service interaction the same, with equal levels of convenience, speed, and efficiency — regardless of channel. Unfortunately for most businesses, authentication is not the same process across all channels, and as a result, those channels can quickly fall short of customer expectations.
For example, digital channels have the ability to store passwords or use other native methods of authentication – like fingerprint ID and single sign-ons – to achieve frictionless authentication with minimal effort from the customers. Unfortunately, it is difficult to replicate that seamless experience over the phone, where callers are required to participate more actively by answering security questions that can be hard to remember, or providing information they may not have readily available. In short, the contrast in experience across channels has grown, and a clunky phone call process is becoming harder to hide.
Luckily, there are methods of authenticating calls with less friction that can help to mitigate the issue. Passive ANI validation, paired with traditional ANI matching, can help reduce active steps for callers — like needing to remember a Member ID or what your “favorite food” might have been 5 years ago. Fewer security questions could encourage the caller to listen to the self-service options rather than instinctively pressing ‘0’ or asking for an agent. Not requiring a passcode can help free up time that can shorten how long others have to wait on hold. A shift to passive call authentication can bring the experience one important step closer to that of other channels, and help improve a customer’s one key micro-experience.
Organizations should always be looking to improve their overall service experience, and each micro-experience is an area of focus that can help businesses identify and improve upon key points of failure. Even asking customers to rate each micro-experience can elicit insightful feedback to guide resource investment. With so much at stake, now is the time to get in the weeds of the micro-experience details.