Customer service has long been the subject of jokes, comedy skits, and memes. Why? Because everyone can relate. Whenever the topic of customer service comes up, everyone has a story to tell–and there is no holding back. People remember both the good, and they definitely remember the bad.
Interactions recently surveyed 1,100 U.S. consumers to see what they like when it comes to customer service. Given that 92% of consumers surveyed believed that today’s customer service needs improvement, brands have a big opportunity to make excellent customer service a key differentiator. Brands must look at what customers really want and remove pain points from interactions. Our survey found that 8 out of 10 people have switched brands due to a poor customer service experience. This could drastically affect a brand’s bottom line.
What consumers want (and don’t want) in a customer service interaction
So what exactly do customers want? Here’s what we found.
They want automation
Customers recognize the benefits of self-service through automated systems. The convenience (44%) and speed of getting things done (23%) were the top benefits noted in the survey. Closely following (and also very interesting), the 3rd benefit noted by 21% was “not having to speak/type to a live person.” My hypothesis: speaking to a live agent often involves a wait time. Customers like speed, and an agent can prevent the most efficient path.
However, customers don’t want just any automation. In fact, 53% of consumers say the biggest deterrent of using an automated system is getting stuck in a never-ending loop, followed by “not being understood” (18%). This is no surprise since many brands have tried to implement automation in an attempt to offer self-service over the years, but these efforts often fall short. Again, customers like speed and convenience. If automation isn’t delivering this, it’s not doing what it should be put in place to do.
Even newer technologies like chatbots can trap customers in the same never-ending loop. When looking to make technology upgrades to improve CX, brands need to think about the customer experience they want to offer and find the right technology to support it.
Customers are often forced to conform to technology by saying or typing things in a certain way. Conversational AI solutions, like virtual assistants, allow consumers to speak or type naturally and be understood.
Phone is their go-to way to contact you, but text can go hand-in-hand
People love their phones. It’s no surprise that 47% of consumers said this mode of communication (landline or mobile) is their go-to way of contacting customer service. The second? Webchat or in-app chat at 22%. In urgent situations, even more people reach for their phones first (65%).
When looking to automate or improve channels, brands should look at the most used channel. Investing in this channel can lead to quicker improved CX and financial return. However, when choosing a solution, it’s also important to find one that can easily scale and expand to other channels.
Although a brand may start with voice, a solution that can scale easily to include text can help optimize the customer experience by making it easy for customers to engage. Being able to seamlessly transition from voice to text and vice versa while carrying context offers customers the flexibility to choose what is best for them at that point in time while also providing a consistent experience. Tackling individual channels with different solutions will lead to a disjointed customer journey and only frustrate customers more.
Empathy and respect go a long way
When it comes to the top characteristic of a great customer service experience, quick resolution comes in first (30%). Being treated with empathy and respect is a close second at 27%.
What’s even more interesting is that the number one top characteristic of poor customer service is rude agents (33%).
Empathy is the up and coming star of the contact center. However, while empathy is still about being kind and thoughtful, it also extends to respecting a customer’s time (removing long wait times) and communication preferences (talk or text), and not asking them to conform to technology.
Personalization is appreciated
People don’t seem to mind personalization in a customer service interaction as long as it is used in the right context and it adds value to the experience. When asked about the use of personalization in customer service (e.g. agent knowing why you are contacting the business before you provide detail, providing recommendations based on previous purchase history) 62% of those surveyed said they liked it.
Knowing why people are contacting you can help make the transaction a more efficient one. It can also remove other customer pain points from the equation like having to repeat or re-enter information multiple times and being transferred multiple times, both noted as characteristics of poor customer service at 16% and 14% respectively.
So, what’s a brand to do?
This information may seem straightforward, but each brand may interpret, apply, and move forward differently based on the final experience they want to offer. Technology is playing a larger front-facing role in the contact center than ever before. When it comes to choosing technology to improve CX, brands need to remember not to look to technology for quick fixes, but rather as a long term strategy. Contact center technology should grow and scale to meet your brand’s changing goals.
Conversational AI applications like virtual assistants can provide automation while offering a conversational and empathic experience over both voice and text channels. They can also easily integrate into backend systems like CRM to bring personalization and efficiency to the interaction and easily scale to incorporate additional channels.
Read our ebook Blueprint of the Modern Consumer for more survey results and tips on how to meet today’s consumer expectations around CX.