Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Survey Examines How Customer Engagement Tech Impacts Customer Experiences

January 18, 2016

So often, we with a passion for the contact center solutions/customer engagement community get fixated on what is the latest technology.  We tend to forget that customer engagement really is a two-way street where the bottom line is directly impacted by how people feel when they are interacting with a brand.  Obviously, there are metrics for things like speed to resolving an issue, customer churn and now customer reviews, but in many ways understanding all of the components of what about the engagement delights or turns of a customer is still a bit of a frontier.

In fact, as a now defunct brokerage firm here in the U.S. liked to tout in the 1970s (subsequently or simultaneously appropriated by the tabloid the National Enquirer), “inquiring minds want to know.”  Yes, they do.  It is was compelled customer engagement solutions provider Interactions LLC  to join forces with Dr. James E. Katz, Dr. Jacob Groshek and Dr. Jill Walsh from the Center for Research on the Information Society, affiliated with Boston University to better understand current consumer attitudes toward the most widely used customer service interfaces.

The results, now available in the white paper, Human Touch and the Customer Service Experience, are illuminating.  They are based on surveys, in-depth interviews and focus groups with over 1,300 people covering their reactions to their most recent customer service experiences.  Questions delved into feelings about interactive voice response systems (IVRs), chat, text, social, and the role of technology in relation to customer service.

The high level findings are the subject of a recent blog by Interactions VP of Marketing, Jane Price.  As Price notes, “Not surprisingly, we heard some familiar themes: customers are frustrated with traditional IVR and other automated solutions. But we also learned a lot about the customer journey to getting the help they need and what’s working - or not - between consumers and the brands they do business with today.”

Price then provides six takeaways on where current systems are falling short.  Before getting to them, the big pullout here was in regard to IVRs.  The results reflect what unfortunately most of us know from our own experience, i.e., IVR interactions can be annoying and color our experience right out of the box. And, while the report finds that younger people are less frustrated, the depth of frustration across all categories presents a big industry challenge.

Source: Interactions, LLC:   Human Touch and the Customer Service Experience, 2015

As to those six observations about shortcomings, you are invited to read the details, but in summary they are:

As to those six observations about shortcomings, you are invited to read the details, but in summary they are:

1. It’s Not a Straight Line From A to B: The typical customer service journey starts on the Internet and not with a phone call to customer service.  Hence, customers by the time they reach an IVR want a quick and efficient answer to their problem and don’t want to listen to the IVR menu tree.

2. Traditional IVRs Still Have the Lowest Score:  As seen in the graphic above, dissatisfaction with IVRs is “astonishing” with it having the lowest scores as a technology that customers find helpful.

3. Technology Needs to Speak the Customer’s Language:  Customers are intimidated by IVR’s and feel they will be misunderstood when interacting with them

4. Live Chat is a Rising Star, But it Has to be Genuine:  Customers like chatting but with people and not computers.

5. Social Media is the Option of Last Resort: While self-explanatory, regardless of age most view social as a way to vent rather than to have their issue resolved.

6. People are Looking for a More Human Touch:  Regardless of which channel they use to engage a company, 90 percent of respondents said that they start the customer service journey with the aim to speak to a live agent. 

The last point is the one that should resonate the most.  Despite all of the automation technologies available people still trust people to solve their issues.  This does not mean that technology is unimportant. Quite the contrary is the case when it is balanced with knowing when and how realt-ime human interaction is employed. 

As the report concludes: 

“The benchmark for customer service is still established by live customer service agents, either on the phone or in person. A personalized experience is of utmost importance to most callers, who want to feel as though someone on the other end of the line is invested in solving their problem. For many companies, the existing IVR system in place lacks this human-like, adaptive interface. This means that companies will be required to innovate in order to provide the most accurate, efficient, and personalized customer experiences possible.”

This is certainly something to think about when transforming how best to improve the customer experience and what roles people and technology can and should play in the process.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere