Thursday, 15 September 2016 09:31

Customers still not happy with contact centres


Customers are increasingly willing to walk away from a supplier if they experience bad service, according to a new survey.

A survey by analyst firm Ovum (backed by LogMeIn, which provides the BoldChat live chat software) found 82% of customers have stopped doing business with a company following a bad customer experience. It's even more common in Australia, where the figure was 90%.

LogMeIn APAC managing director Daniel Cran told iTWire this shows "how empowered customers are... that's a positive thing" as it can lead to customer advocacy when organisations get things right.

But those bad experiences include long hold times, unresolved issues, and difficulties using products and services, all of which are clearly negative from the customer's perspective.

So "you've got to get everything right," said Cran. It's all very well having good SEO and paid search strategies to attract customers, but bad experiences will drive them away again.

The top three issues for customers were "annoying" automated phone systems, difficulty in reaching a human representative, and waiting times to reach a human representative. All three are considered worse now than they were two years ago, and the report implicitly blames attempts to reduce service costs – a short-sighted strategy, given customers' willingness to go elsewhere. Among Australian respondents, 50% are frustrated by automated response systems, 37% find it difficult to reach an agent, and 34% are dissatisfied with the time it takes to reach an agent.

Perhaps in reaction to poor phone experiences, customers are increasingly turning to self-service. Even though 72% of customers (up from 61% in 2014) use the Web or a mobile app to find information before calling, "60% said they want easier access to web support channels, such as social media, communities, and live chat, above all other choices" for improved customer service, according to the report.

Customers are willing to avoid phone calls – 78% would choose a channel other than phone if they knew their issues would be resolved on the first attempt. (Technical issues are the exception: 51% of customers would prefer a phone call, probably because of the complexity and urgency of such issues.)

But when online self-service fails, they want faster access to a live representative.

"Humans do still want some form of human interaction," Cran said, so phone, email and live chat are all important.

Interestingly, 69% (73% in Australia) said they use a company website or mobile app while on a call with an agent.

It can be very frustrating dealing with an agent who appears to be getting all their information from the same site you're using when the reason for calling is because the site didn't have the answer to your question! As Ovum puts it, "Agents are expected not only to provide answers to simple questions, but also to add value and more information to the customer’s knowledge base and to be prepared to reach deeper into databases and other information sources to satisfy customer needs."

The research also revealed a mismatch between what customers say is the number of interactions required to resolve an issue and the figure reported by contact centre managers. A total of 62% of customers say it takes five or more attempts, while 54% of managers say the average is one or two attempts.

The use of live chat systems such as BoldChat allows organisations to achieve more resolutions in a more timely way for customers, Cran said. Bouncing customers from one agent to another is frustrating, but it is easier to connect them with the right agent the first time using chat.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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