By Ted Bray
According to a 2013 Accenture survey of 13,000 people, more than half of U.S. consumers left a company due to poor customer service experiences – resulting in a $1.3 trillion revenue loss. A key customer frustration and reason for the departure was wait time. And it’s easy to see why.
People sitting on hold feel trapped. Background music and repeat announcements provide no indication of how much time has passed or how much longer the wait time will be. As time ticks away, customers develop a negative perception of the company, feeling their time isn’t valued or respected. Frustration increases and customers begin to switch providers, which is an expensive result of untimely service. And it’s an issue across all communication channels.
To retain customers and reduce frustration, it’s important for companies to take a strategic and multichannel look at increasing customer loyalty. In a 2014 study by Interactive Intelligence, 61 percent of consumers preferred getting answers via the phone, 15 percent preferred the web to chat with agents and 13 percent via email. The remaining 11 percent used self-service, social media, and a company’s website to get assistance. With each of these channels, the desired outcome is the same; a timely response and first contact resolution are the most valued items in a customer service interaction.
While the voice channel is the preferred method to resolving an issue, the customer is often still interacting with the company on other channels – social media, mobile applications, or the company’s website – so the customer experience needs to be consistent.
According to the Accenture survey, 72 percent of customers feel dissatisfied when they have an inconsistent experience across multiple channels of interaction with the same company. This surfaced as another key source for customers leaving companies. In fact, only 47 percent of customers feel satisfied with their ability to receive customer support when they wanted it and on the channel they preferred.
With dissatisfaction comes a decrease in loyalty, an increase of customers switching and a loss of revenue.
Solving Customer Frustration
One way to help customers feel valued is to give them their time back, and release them from feeling trapped and helpless. To accomplish this, many companies incorporate an omnichannel callback platform, which can be integrated into any call center; it provides dramatic results: decreasing frustration and improving customer loyalty.
Callback informs callers of their estimated wait time and provides options: wait on hold for the noted amount of time, schedule a callback with the next available agent, or schedule a callback when convenient for the caller. Typically, callers with a wait time longer than four minutes will schedule a callback, allowing them to shift the responsibility for the interaction to the company.
This makes the caller feel valued; they are not wasting time and are not trapped. Once their name reaches the top of the queue, they are called back and an agent is with them within twenty seconds.
But not all callback solutions are the same. As seen today, customer experience with agents can be vastly different depending on the channel they choose. What if it wasn’t different? Omnichannel callback solutions enable companies to create a consistent experience, make the customer feel valued across all channels, and resolve problems more efficiently, regardless of channel.
As the future of contact centers turns toward omnichannel, it’s important to remember that omnichannel callback solutions should allow customers to request a callback (or even a “chatback”) from any device – smart phone app, tablet, PC or even TV. This makes it easy for them to connect with the company without having to jump through hoops or waste time.
Omnichannel also means integrating all channels of communication and following a customer’s journey through each of them. It’s not easy. In fact, in a 2014 study from IQPC on the state of omnichannel, 60 percent of companies said they’ve had little to no success so far in integrating and passing data between channels. But it’s critical for customer service.
Companies need to know their customers: why they’re contacting the company, what they’ve already done to resolve the issue, and what channels they’ve tried. This is critical in providing customers with a positive issue resolution experience: creating a consistent experience across channels, resolving issues quickly, and eliminating customer frustration.
Freeing the customer from frustration benefits agents, too. Repeatedly dealing with frustrated customers can negatively affect an agent’s attitude. With omnichannel callback, agents can focus on the real reason for the interaction rather than starting every conversation with an apology.
A recent Net Promoter Score study conducted by one of the largest cable brands in the U.S. found that offering omnichannel callback drove a 3 percent increase in promoters and a 2 percent decrease in detractors, resulting in an overall 5 percent improvement in its NPS® results simply by aligning customer context with an available agent. This also improves agent responsiveness, directly improving first contact resolution and customer loyalty.
In addition to measuring NPS, more brands are using customer effort score (CES) to measure the effectiveness of their customer service. Customer effort score stems from a study by the advisory firm Corporate Executive Board. CES shows that reducing the effort a customer exerts throughout the customer lifecycle will result in higher customer loyalty and spend.
CES results show that reducing customer effort, while important to increasing customer loyalty, only counts for one-third of the overall loyalty score. The other two-thirds come from the customer’s perception of the interaction with the company.
A separate study (conducted by my company) focused on customer perception and showed that offering omnichannel callback positively enhanced customer perception from the initial contact with an agent.
The study surveyed two groups of consumers: one group that waited on hold for an agent and another that received a callback. The survey asked the following questions:
- Was the agent knowledgeable?
- Were you confident in the service you received?
- Did the agent address the issue?
- Was your issue resolved?
Results showed that those receiving omnichannel callback had responses that were 2-7 percent higher.
While the only difference in the actual treatment received was waiting on hold versus receiving a callback, making the customer feel valued through offering a callback helped increase their emotional connection with the brand, enhancing perception and ultimately reducing frustration.
Solving the challenge of reducing customer frustration is achievable. Many of the technologies available today can start the journey and measure success. By empowering customers, giving back their freedom and time, and making it easy for them to interact with a company, brands can create a more positive landscape. This, in turn, can improve customer loyalty and longevity.
As more companies move in this direction, it will continue to positively affect the industry and minimize the 50 percent of customers leaving companies due to contact center frustration.
Ted Bray is the vice president of marketing at Virtual Hold Technology (VHT). VHT delivers solutions at the heart of the customer experience, enabling contact centers to maximize the opportunities that come from customer interaction, regardless of channel. Learn more at www.virtualhold.com.
[From Connection Magazine – Nov/Dec 2014]