Contact centres missing the point

contact centres

Have you ever wondered why calls to contact centres often leave you perplexed, dejected, annoyed, dissatisfied or even angry? If, like me, a failure to have a call answered in less than ten rings, getting stuck in a queue of more than ten minutes or a failure to get an issue sorted after speaking to someone turns you into Mr Hyde then I may have the answer for you.

According to a report and whitepaper published by ICMI, the problems lie with how customers think and what they expect vs. what contact centres think they want and expect.

The report starts by stating that contact centre agents are typically the first to know what customers are asking for or complaining about. Nevertheless, the survey showed that they lack critical knowledge of what those customers expect. So, why the disconnect?

One reason might be the difference in perceptions between frontline agents and their supervisors. Of the over 2,600 respondents surveyed, the majority were managers, directors, and other executives who oversee customer service operations, rather than providing it directly. Those at the frontline are hearing the customer concerns and insights first-hand but that doesn’t always translate to the top.

You probably won’t be surprised that 80 percent of customers thought that companies put more effort into selling them stuff than providing excellent customer service. Yet, only 12 percent of contact center professionals believed this statement was true.

Ninety percent of customers said they were likely to change companies after having a bad customer service experience but, amazingly, only 20 percent of contact center respondents believed customers would actually jump ship. This begs the question if any of them are customers themselves! Or is it because they know just how hard it is sometimes to swap suppliers?

Customers, it seems, want to have the choice of text, phone, email, chat, mobile apps and social media as communication channels. It must be a sign of the times that 87 percent of them want more contact choices, but only 37 of contact centres think this is true!

A good two-thirds of customers expect to be able to speak to the same person they were communicating with through online chat and the same percentage expect to speak to the same CSR as their previous call. Presumably because they don’t want to go through the whole story a second or third time with someone new. Makes sense, right? Well, those contact centre folk don’t agree, in fact, 80 percent disagreed!

When asked if they were willing to pay more for a product or service with a good customer service reputation, 70 percent of customers said yes but only 35 percent of contact center respondents agreed.

If there is such a mismatch between what customers expect and what customer service people think they want then it may explain why so many of us blow a fuse when trying to get proper customer service.

Surely, companies in the finance, health, telecoms, retail and educational sectors know better. After all, they are spending billions on big data and AI initiatives teamed with omnichannel approaches to customer service. Or maybe they haven’t thought to ask the customers what they want and expect, like ICMI did in this survey.

Seems to me the best way any company can improve the customer experience is to give the customers the service they want. That couldn’t too difficult – or could it?

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