what customers want from your contact center

Customer expectations are continually rising – and what is important to consumers is also changing rapidly. For example, thanks to the pandemic use of digital channels such as email, chat and social media has increased dramatically, changing the channel balance of customer service operations.

Understanding what customers want – and delivering it successfully – is therefore vital to businesses. When dealing with an organisation consumers now expect both competitive, quality products and a high level of service and experience as standard. There’s also a strong relationship between customer satisfaction, greater loyalty and higher spending. The most engaged of your customers will not only buy considerably more from you but will also act as advocates for your company with friends, family and social media.

How can companies meet these needs – particularly as they may well vary between different demographic groups or users of different products? To help, as part of its latest UK Contact Centre Decision-Maker’s Guide 2020-21, sponsored by Enghouse Interactive, Contact Babel surveyed both a cross-section of the industry and a selection of UK consumers. The findings highlight four key points that should drive CX strategy in the coming year:

1. First Contact Resolution is key

Customers making contact with an organisation have a clear requirement – they want their query or issue to be dealt with quickly and efficiently, the first time they make contact. Across all demographics over 58% of consumers surveyed by Contact Babel listed First Contact Resolution (FCR) as one of the top three factors of successful service. The positive news is that contact centre managers agree – 81% of this group ranked it in their top three factors, with 54% putting it first.

Contact centres therefore need to put in place the processes and tools to ensure that they can meet customer needs and their own objectives. For example, are they empowering agents with the right information that enables them to answer a question first-time, without having to consult a colleague or check a system and then call back? Does their definition of ‘resolved’ tally with that of the customer, or are consumers left feeling that their query hasn’t been adequately answered? Are your processes joined up so that if another department needs to resolve the issue, such as by sending a replacement product, this happens automatically rather than just being passed to another queue?

2. Value your customer’s time

There’s also agreement between contact centres and consumers of the importance of not having to wait for queries to be answered. Just over half (51%) of contact centres ranked this in their top three, and over 50% of consumers over 25 said the same.

However, it is vital that businesses understand what customer expectations are when it comes to waiting. In most instances consumers don’t want to have to make contact at all – they are only doing it because a problem, issue or query has arisen. Therefore, what may seem like an acceptable hold time to an organisation can feel like an eternity for a consumer.

Companies need to take the time to survey what consumers want and structure their processes accordingly. Look at how you can better value customer time, for example by introducing web and telephone self-service that stops them needing to make contact, telling them their position in a queue or enabling call-back options that mean consumers don’t have to remain on hold until an agent is free.

3. Opening hours and locations are important

The biggest difference between consumers and contact centres is around location. Essentially having UK-based employees is seen as far more important to customers than businesses believe, particularly amongst older demographics. 63% of the over 65s ranked it in their top three factors (the highest score of all), yet just 11% of contact centres thought it equally important. Equally 30% of the 25-34 age group saw long opening hours as a key factor to delivering a satisfactory experience, compared to 11% of contact centres.

These differences show the importance of softer factors to the overall experience, particularly amongst certain age groups, highlighting why companies need to really understand consumer needs and structure their operations around the customer, rather than just focusing on efficiency alone. Options such as remote and hybrid working enable organisations to offer extended opening hours and UK-based staff in a flexible way that meets the needs of both customers and agents.

4. Performance metrics only go so far

Businesses understand the importance of satisfying customers, but there can be mismatch between what a customer is looking for, and what a business considers a successful interaction. For example, focusing on operational metrics such as Average Handle Time or the number of calls an agent handles per shift can show how efficiently a contact centre is operating, but not how satisfied customers are with the responses they receive.

As Contact Babel says, “If the customer does not hang up the phone feeling that they have been treated appropriately and that their query has been resolved to their satisfaction, then that counts as a failure, regardless of how good the internal metrics may be."

Given that the report highlights that many contact centres are more focused on these efficiency metrics than measures such as First Contact Resolution, Net Promoter Score or CSAT there is still a way to go to achieve true customer-centricity. Contact centres, therefore, need to adopt and monitor a range of metrics and ensure that they are operating as efficiently as possible, but without impacting satisfaction.

At over 400 pages, the ContactBabel UK Contact Centre Decision-Maker’s Guide 2020-21 provides a detailed report of the state of the industry with insights covering performance, operations, technology, HR, expectations and future plans. Download your copy from the Enghouse Interactive website here.

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