Despite the relatively common idea of poor customer service being the 'norm', 61% of consumers surveyed said they see call centres as doing a better job than they did three years ago, according to an international survey for customer contact software provider Genesys.
The survey of 4,300 consumers found that, despite some obvious frustrations, 23% of consumers found their experience with call centres "significantly better" than three years before, while 38% felt it was "somewhat better", and only 12% thought it was "worse".
Driver of profit & satisfaction
Genesys also found that customer service has become a critical driver of both customer profitability and customer satisfaction, with more than 75% of consumers saying they would give more business to a company based on a great contact centre experience. Half of the consumers interviewed (50%) said that the last time they stopped doing business with a company was partly or wholly due to a poor customer service experience.
The survey, which measured consumers' likes, dislikes, and frustrations with contact centres and automated customer service systems, found that while investments in technology and self-service are starting to pay off, consumers increasingly want better multi-channel service through SMS text messaging, e-mail, and other new media channels.
Drivers of frustration
In 2003, Genesys conducted a study into customer frustration, and has updated the results each year since then. Globally, the major sources of customer frustration remain consistent with the findings over the past four years:
- Long hold times: 67% of consumers are frustrated by long hold times, and 88% would prefer to receive a call-back in 10 minutes than to be on hold for that long;
- Poor automation: 57% of consumers are frustrated by IVRs with too many or incorrect options and 76% of consumers feel that companies are pushing them to use self-service systems instead of talking to live people;
- Customer repetition: 52% of consumers are frustrated by having to repeat information they've already provided.
Wes Hayden, president and CEO for Genesys, warned: "Given the direct impact of contact centre performance on customer loyalty, companies must now take every opportunity to connect with their customers to create a positive experience. Customer service is improving, but the expectations of consumers are going up as well."
Making positive experiences
Consumers generally agreed that a good way to create a positive experience is to address their basic frustrations immediately. For example, companies can eliminate long telephone hold times by including a call-back option within the IVR system. Rather than waiting on hold, 74% of customers would prefer to have the option to ask for a call back when they feel the wait would be too long.
The most prominent emerging trends identified by the study were a consumer-driven desire for proactive contact and the need for better support for a broader set of communication channels (such as SMS, web chat and e-mail). When it comes to new channels, 86% said they want e-mail communication, and more than 45% would like e-mail to become their primary communication channel.
But the speed of communication is also critical, with 21% expecting a one hour response time (up from 6% in 2003). An additional 17% of consumers expect an e-mail response within 4 hours, and 47% within 24 hours. In addition, 19% would like web chat (e.g. instant messaging) and 17% want SMS text messages.
Proactive communication wanted
Perhaps surprisingly, over 89% said they would like to receive proactive communications from the companies they deal with, by telephone or text message, to keep them informed about service delivery and other products and services that may be of genuine interest to them.
According to the survey, 87% of customers would have a more positive opinion of a supplier after receiving a courtesy call to thank them for their business or to ask about their satisfaction, while only 43% said they have received such a call.
While consumers agreed on most of the core customer service issues, a number of international regional differences emerged. For example, Europeans are ten times more likely to want text messages sent to their mobile phone than Americans (21% in Europe compared with only 2% in the US). Similarly, 19% of Asia Pacific consumers and 7% in Japan also want to receive text messages.
But more than 28% of Americans want instant web chat capabilities, compared to only 19% in Europe, 18% in Asia Pacific, and 11% in Japan.