Contact Center Research Shows What Customers Really Want from Customer Service
- You cannot accurately predict what customers most want from Customer Service. But you can ask them.
- Contact center research shows that failing to clearly and measurably understand what customers want from customer support is the top impediment to achieving successful outcomes.
- Only when the contact or call center implements methods that directly align with known customer objectives can it deliver on-target service at the least cost.
- Also, knowing exactly what customers want avoids investing in things that don't matter.
The most direct route to meet or exceed customer support expectations starts with knowing exactly what customers want. And the best way to do that is to ask them. Which is what we did as part of our contact center research. Findings from the research were published in the Customer Service Excellence Report. Below is a summary of the results.
We then flipped the question from customer support likes to dislikes. The intent was to see where there may be correlations or cohorts that could help prioritize objectives and actions for the contact or call center organization.
There were several findings to help Contact or Call Center leaders prioritize customer support efforts.
- According to customers, effectiveness and ease most contribute to great customer support. Accurate support responses are driven by agents that apply repeatable processes to achieve predictable outcomes. Effectiveness is measured by customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys and the prevalence of reopened cases.
- Ease of resolution is synonymous with low customer effort. Customer satisfaction scores are heavily influenced by the ease of getting a problem solved. This metric is measured by Customer Effort Score (CES).
- Support scores plummet when customers are forced to make repeat visits for the same issue. This metric is measured by First Contact Resolution (FCR) and highly correlates with customer retention.
- When customers have a high priority issue or have exhausted self-service options, they want an easy escalation to a person that can help. And they don't want to incur a tortuous IVR system. When elevated issues are met with arduous IVRs it exacerbates the rest of the support experience. This metric is measured by Abandonment Rate (aka Call Drop Rate (CDR).)
- Customers are mobile and social, and they expect their brands to be the same. Flexible accessibility options, especially self-service, mobile and social channels, are expected by 70 percent of customers – a 20 percent jump from just two years ago. They want service on the channels they frequent and the devices they use.
- Nobody is surprised that callers want agents to have good communications skills. However, what might surprise some is that agent communication was ranked more important than agent knowledge. If callers struggle to understand agents, then their personal knowledge really doesn't matter. We know from three decades of customer service consulting that most Contact and Call Centers don't measure this.
- Customers are more connected, informed and empowered. They have more options. What they don't have is more time. The need for speed counts but pales in comparison to getting it right. Analyst firm Forrester advises that 66 percent of adults say that valuing their time is critical to delivering a good customer experience. However, speed is secondary to quality. Also, the value of speed can shift from a positive to a negative if the customer feels the agent is rushing the case. Studies by Gallup and others show that customers rank their experience much higher when they don't feel rushed or ignored.
- Knowledgeable agents count big in satisfying customers. A trifecta occurs when agents are knowledgeable, empathetic and empowered. Knowledgeable is defined as an agent's ability to resolve the customer's issue without putting them on hold or transferring to someone else. Agents are empowered when they have access to all customer information and authorization to make decisions. This capability can be somewhat measured by Average Hold Time (AHT) and Transfer Rate, although CSAT surveys are more accurate. However, most call centers don't measure agent knowledge.
- Every Customer Experience (CX) practitioner knows that making the customer feel valued goes a very long way. Customer Experience Management (CXM) is the top contact and call center strategy as it excels in delivering support that goes beyond basic satisfaction and achieves more emotional goals. When agents make customers feel delighted, appreciated, valued, engaged or rewarded, they make those experiences memorable.
The most direct route to meeting or exceeding customer expectations is to start with a Voice of the Customer program. Otherwise, you are wasting time and money pursuing a trial-and-error approach that most likely leads to periodic and steadily increasing customer service failures.
Customers are not homogenous, so you need to ask them what they want. Fortunately, we live in the age of the social customer. Customers want to tell you want they want, and if you satisfy them, they want to do more business with you.