We are now living in a digital first world, with well-informed and impatient customers using an omni-channel approach to interact with companies. Despite the availability of digital channels and approaches, customers still prefer to speak with a person for complex issues. So what does this mean for the call centre?
Customers are increasingly digital first
The immediacy, convenience, and ubiquity of the internet have forever changed customer behaviours and expectations. Gartner has predicted that by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be digital. Largely, customers today are 'digital first'. Digital first customers are well informed, omni-channel, and impatient.
However, while digital first customers use digital channels at the outset, turns out, digital channels are not a preference at all times.
In a pinch, customers still prefer to speak with a person
The choice of channels depends upon the complexity of the issue the customer is trying to resolve. The American Express Customer Service Barometer demonstrates that for issues of high complexity, the 'digital first' customer wants to speak with a person who is empowered to solve their problem.
As complexity increases so does the propensity to speak with a 'person'. This transcends demographics, although there are differences of channel preferences across demographics for issues of lower complexity. For complex issues, while an in-person interaction is preferred by many, a conversation with an agent is still the most preferred option.
Today approximately 65% of all interactions with customers are through the contact centre with the remainder on digital channels. Gartner expects this picture to change dramatically within a few short years - with only 15% customer interactions through voice channels.
A fundamental shift is underway
And as we transition to become more and more digital, contact centres will increasingly see a shift in the nature of customer interactions they support. Digital first (well-informed, omni-channel, and impatient) customers prefer to self-serve at a time, place and method of their convenience.
However, if they are unable to address their need through self-service, they will contact the contact centre. The customer expectation at this point in the journey is continuity of context - or, in other words, that the person addressing their call will have an understanding of their history with the company, their current issue, and their activities on self-service channels prior to making the call into the contact centre.
Additionally, customers calling into the centres after exhausting all other means of resolution will likely be under emotional duress and anxious to get their issues addressed effectively and immediately. Failure to resolve their problem to their expectations will have a direct impact on customer loyalty.
Of contact centres and customer loyalty
The Temkin Group's research analysed the impact of a company's response to a bad experience (product or service) on customer spending. Research conducted in 2015 indicates that the impact of a company's response to a bad experience is critical to future customer spending (as a measure of customer loyalty). If a company's response is considered 'good' by the customer there is a 33% increase in spending, compared to only 2% for a response perceived as 'bad'. If a company's response is 'bad' there is 65% of decreased spending compared with 24% for a good response to a bad experience.
- In a pinch, digital first customers still want to speak with a human (the contact centre);
- Customer interactions at the contact centre will increasingly address complex issues;
- The company's response will be critical to longer-term customer loyalty and retention.
The contact centre is now the custodian of customer loyalty.
But, the question is - are we ready to meet the needs of the digital first customers with the contact centres we have today?