The preferences and demands of the modern consumer can be hard to predict. One thing that most seem to agree on, however, is that calling into a customer service contact centre is extremely painful. A recent study found that over 40% of UK consumers said they would rather wait for water to boil than sit on hold with customer service or support, 20% would even go as far as to give up sex for a week to avoid being left listening to lift music.
Whilst this may sound extreme it highlights that we have a nation of unsatisfied consumers, which is no surprise when customers spend on average 25 minutes waiting on hold each time they call into a contact centre. It’s in every business’ best interest to take a look at the good, bad and ugly customer service experiences and how these interactions are potentially impacting the way consumers are engaging with their brands.
However, it is not all bad news. When it comes to what makes customers happy, having an empathetic agent rose to the top of the list. Consumers who felt that their customer service agents really understood and cared about their situations were more likely to give word-of-mouth referrals and show brand loyalty.
Convenience is replacing the ‘c’ in customer service
An overarching theme from the survey findings was the perceived lack of convenience in today’s customer service experiences. Today’s consumers are eternally short for time and the last thing they want is to sit on hold in a customer service queue. In fact, one-third of respondents said they would opt to pay to be moved up in the queue, which suggests that customers are ultimately looking for convenience when it comes to good customer service.
Regardless of whether a “customer service as a premium” model takes off, it’s evident that customers want a better way to engage on customer services issues. In the era of artificial intelligence, the chatbot market is seeing extraordinary growth, particularly in the customer service sector. Most customers (60%) agreed that if a company gave them the option to self-serve (i.e. FAQ, chatbot, etc.) they would select it as a first option to resolve an issue. In fact, 47% of consumers have reported using a chatbot to troubleshoot problems in the past. If convenience is key, then chatbots can provide a quick and easy fix to satisfy frustrated customers, with the added bonus of cutting business costs as agents have more time to deal with the more complex customer complaints.
Finding the perfect balance between fake and friendly
When it comes to dealing with customer service representatives, compassion and understanding are critical factors in delivering a positive experience. More than one-third of respondents noted that having a customer service agent that was seemingly too nice or ‘faking it’ was frustrating to deal with and resulted in a negative customer experience.
Likewise having a customer agent perceived as genuine can be the difference between word-of-mouth referrals, brand loyalty or a scathing online review. Forty-nine percent of consumers ranked “encountering an employee that listened and responded with empathy and kindness” as one of their top five positive customer experiences. These results underscore the importance of providing customer service that’s both honest and clear.
Frustration is felt on both sides
Consumers often equate waiting on hold for customer service to sitting in traffic – and even the super clichéd “watching paint dry”. If customers are “watching paint dry” in a customer service queue, the last thing they want when they finally get through is to be met with a tired, grumpy agent. In reality this is a common occurrence, with 37% of customers having the misfortune of dealing with a disgruntled employee, while another 28% have gone to the extreme of getting into a heated argument with a customer service representative. These insights may be indicators of underlying frustrations, as agents are under immense pressure to meet customer expectations, realistic or not.
To root out these negative experiences, it’s critical that businesses empower their customer-facing employees with the adequate tools, training and resources to handle customer requests and provide a more satisfying service experience. Additionally, businesses should find ways to help customers self-service through support pages or by using new technology such as chatbots. This can reduce the burden and stress on agents by cutting back on volume of customers and eliminate the same repetitive questions all day long.
Good customer service leads to good business
At the end of the day, not all customer service experiences are bad. The survey found that the majority of consumers have had positive customer experiences in the past, – and when those happened, consumers paid it forward through brand loyalty, referrals or sharing positive reviews online. Demonstrating that when a business provides an authentically good customer experience – and empowers their employees to create those experiences — they are likely to see a positive impact on their bottom line. And more importantly less customers are left weighing up the decision between calling customer service…and giving up sex!