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February 15, 2022

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The Changing Customer Expectations of the Contact Center

In a previous article, we looked at the top customer contact center frustrations and some of the challenges faced by the industry to keep customers happy during their interaction with the company’s contact center. In this piece, we’re going to explore how technology, communication platforms, and specific online behavior have altered the customers’ expectations.

The shift: brick-and-mortar to online retail

The shift: brick-and-mortar to online retail

Since its inception, the internet has been changing the way we buy products and interact with retailers, creating a much more convenient way to engage with companies on our own time. The COVID-19 crisis has increased the rate at which the shift from brick-and-mortar to online retail by dissuading in-person contact as much as possible. In fact, research provided by OECD.org has shown that the United States experienced a 16.1% increase in e-commerce retail between the first and second quarter of 2020 alone.

With the e-commerce trend expected to continue in the coming years, companies will likely need to focus additional resources on creating fluid omnichannel customer experiences, journeys, and support solutions.

The internet has decreased our patience

The internet has decreased our patience

Pocket-sized devices, daily browsing, and the expanding web of social media have altered how our minds engage with information. This information overload shows no signs of slowing down, and evidence points towards a decline in patience and attention spans as a result. A study across 6.7 million internet users, conducted by Ramesh Sitaraman of UMASS Amherst, showed that users would abandon online content if it took more than 2 seconds to load, with a 5.8% increase in abandonment per additional second of delay. This speaks to the collective impatience that is growing as a result of technology and our online behavior. We’re also quicker to jump to conclusions and display more erratic behavior. We’re quick to frustrate when things don’t go quite the way we expect, and less likely to forgive more than a couple of misdemeanors in our brand relationships.

How often have we been stuck on hold, with no updates of where we are in the queue? How many calls were abandoned from frustrated customers growing impatient?

Customer service solutions must prioritize fast and transparent service to keep customers happy in this culture of instant gratification and diminishing patience

The internet has created a culture of self-service which extends to the contact center

The internet has created a culture of self-service which extends to the contact center

The internet provides us access to a global database of information, and a simple Google search can often offer quick fixes towards most of the hitches we encounter. It’s also true that we beget a sense of satisfaction from completing things. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of accomplishment, is released when we strike off even simple tasks from our to do list, which can motivate us to seek out our own answers. Making sure that we provide customers their own avenue for problem-solving can go a long way in helping offset the negative experience of having to deal with unnecessary CX complexity when encountering minor complications.

In essence, self-service is now standard in our customer service experience. Companies that offer a variety of self-service solutions such as self-checkout, FAQs, intelligent IVRs, and bots that help customers to complete their straight-forward (no expert needed) tasks efficiently will help customers feel supported, without the need for using up valuable agent time.

In a future post we will further explore the role of IVR and chatbot technology in the customer service ecosystem.

Customers desire a personalized experience

Customers desire a personalized experience

As our relationship with the internet widens, our digital experience is becoming more radically personalized. Social media is a highly self-curated space, and we are accustomed to the personalized ad results we receive through various online platforms.

As such, it’s no surprise that the modern-day customer expects some level of personalized customer service, to go along with their tailored and individualized adverts. If a company puts considerable effort into personalized, targeted advertising but fails to offer a similar ethos when it comes to customer service, the customer may feel taken advantage of. The relationship with a company’s marketing and support teams should never overly skew to the benefit of the brand. People want to be treated as individuals and are less likely to feel supported if met with a one-size-fits-all customer service approach.

Customers expect constant availability and convenience

Customers expect constant availability and convenience

With our perpetual tether to devices and access to the internet, there is an increasing expectation of 24/7 support. This often translates into intolerance regarding companies who adhere to the outdated 9-5 weekday business model with no weekend support.

However unrealistic it is to accommodate 24/7 agent support; businesses can leverage technology to appease customer expectations. Chatbots and intelligent IVR can offer customers a support channel to connect with at any given time, for some of these highly repeatable, highly requested support activities.

Customers expect consistent service across channels

Customers expect consistent service across channels

It’s clear that communication with our most beloved brands has evolved significantly over the last 30 years. Frankly, to the betterment of everyone. As in-vogue communication channels have changed so has the reliance on customer service to keep pace. The consolidation of channels in the contact center has been a crucial element of that. But still, not everyone gets it right the first-time round, and it’s important to consistently evaluate if you’re offering a true omnichannel experience or simply accepting multiple, often siloed communication modes. Too often, it seems that companies miss the mark when deploying omnichannel support, creating a wave of frustrated customers repeating answers to prompts that have already been provided. This correlates back to the impatience trend, creating customers that are less tolerant of a company’s failure to deliver optimal customer service. Customers expect consistency and cohesion when engaging across multiple channels of support.

Well-developed and deployed CRM integration can increase communication between channels and decrease the likelihood that a customer’s information will need repeating, all the while improving agent efficiency and customer experience.

The conclusion

The conclusion

The parabolic growth in inter-connected technology of the last 3 decades has created new ways for humans to interact with each other and the companies they do business with. Over time, the internet has proven to alter our relationship to time, information seeking, and communication styles. Naturally, this shift has changed how we engage with companies and what we expect from their customer service standards. In future posts, we will explore more deeply what steps a business can take to optimize its CX strategy in this evolving digital landscape.

Cisco’s Webex Contact Center from Bucher + Suter is an all-in-one contact center solution and a part of the Webex collaboration and CX platform. Learn more about how Webex can help you meet your customer’s changing demands here.

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