Customers won’t ask twice…they will go elsewhere

13th Dec 2021

As the saying goes: ”it can take months to find a customer, and seconds to lose one”, a sentiment that feels more relevant than ever. For many, the pandemic threw the customer service rule book to the wall. Customer needs changed seemingly overnight and those tasked with providing a great customer experience were suddenly asked to do so under new, trying circumstances.

Organisations are trying to use customer service as their competitive edge, however according to a recent Pega survey 72% think they are doing it better than their competitors – not statistically impossible for them to believe, but certainly impossible for them all to be right! In reality, the truth is very different. Fact: poor customer service is hurting businesses, and when customer expectations are higher than ever it’s never been more important to meet them. In the same survey 25% of customers said they’ve had service so poor that it has ruined their day – and to make matters worse, 1 in 10 admitted to being brought to tears. The majority (77%) said they would take their business elsewhere if they received poor customer service. So, in this competitive world, if a customer thinks they have to ask twice, they will most certainly decide to ask someone else instead.

The pandemic shifted people’s attitudes towards several aspects of customer service. A good example of this is self-service; due to their experiences in the past 18 months, 45% of customers are now more likely to use it than before the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, it is most popular with the “tech-savvy” younger generations, with Gen Z and Millennials more likely to opt for the self-service route on digital channels than Gen X or Baby Boomers.

The problem? Trust, or a lack of it, with 46% of respondents not actually expecting it to work! Truth be told, these customers have reason to be sceptical – the former generation of self-service and chatbots have often been very rudimentary in their abilities.

Because of this, there are still hundreds of businesses with customers trying to engage with them for a final resolution, and 78% see this as the most important aspect of service. These customers aren’t just looking for speed, they want their issue resolved. This results in 50% of customers selecting the most traditional (and costly) channel, the phone, because they think it’s the only way. Even then, over half (55%) are left frustrated that they must contact more than once to resolve an issue. Hardly a frictionless customer experience!

Service doesn’t always offer a satisfactory resolution

Customer frustration is largely caused by the inconvenience of having to deal with inconsistency, such as the ability to address their service issue in the channel that they choose, that suits their journey (rather than one the business chooses). As customers ourselves we’ve all been there, trying to sort an issue during our busy schedule, being bounced around the channels hearing unsatisfactory answers seemingly on repeat. As the channels of service interactions expand, the challenge (and opportunity) for businesses becomes one of much more than just consistency alone – it now bleeds into the aspect of continuity across channels as well.

With the number of channels on the rise, this isn’t likely to change. 70% of business leaders surveyed said they are now supporting more than four channels, compared to 60% in 2019. Businesses raced to add apps and web chat bots to their traditional channels of email and phone to retain customers and deliver around the clock support on a channel of choice.  

The key for these businesses to succeed will not be in merely supporting these channels but in their ability to provide the same ability to resolve each customers’ service journey – regardless of the channel.

It’s a situation that isn’t going to improve any time soon, as channels are evolving at pace. Within two years, over half (57%) of business respondents believe they will be providing service on a channel that does not yet exist. This could be a big challenge given that 80% of businesses admitted that the quality of service provided across all channels already falls short.

Businesses also need to consider a ”take it on the road” approach, where customers might start out on one channel, and need to switch halfway to accommodate their journey- jumping from a desktop into a car for the school run for example. In this digital-first era it’s not surprising that 51% of customers want to resume conversations right where they left off, even if they switch channels.

What’s next?

Despite vast technological changes over the past decade, an alarming number of businesses are not at the point of proactive and pre-emptive service. The capability to resolve issues entirely and automatically, often before the customer even realises there is an issue, should be a” gold standard”. Customers are crying out for this, with 64% of those surveyed advocating that companies should provide a more proactive service.

This friction runs both ways; contact centre agents without the right tools to do their job efficiently will become disengaged. Our study found that agents and customers shared the same frustrations and asking/being asked for information already supplied on another channel ranked highest for both.

The silver lining is that by using the latest advancements in AI and automation these friction points could be eliminated, and 85% of businesses surveyed said they would employ intelligence in their service offerings within the next few years.

AI-powered “co-pilot” technology can behave as an agent’s wingman, taking out the manual work by analysing customer and business data in real-time, and surfacing relevant insight at speed. Legacy systems of information will soon be replaced by systems of insight.

To retain customers and employees every second matters, regardless of channel. By having effective channels, businesses can offer simplified, personalised service experiences for customers and employees alike. The customer service movement for years to come will be around consistency, continuity, and faster channel resolutions, to keep the customers the organisation has worked so hard to attract.

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