Self-Service Isn't Enough: Contact Center Agents are Critical in the Customer Journey



inContact, a provider of cloud contact center software and contact center agent optimization tools, today announces the findings of their January 2015 customer experience survey that examined consumer perceptions of service while making online or phone purchases over $25 in the previous six months.

When feeling dissatisfied with an order, the majority (81 percent of U.S. adults) prefer assistance from a live representative via phone or online chat rather than using email or online self-service. The study, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of inContact, from January 29-February 2, 2015 among 2,028 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, reveals that 86 percent would be very likely to switch to another company in the future after a bad customer service experience.

The new research, asking about online or phone purchases over $25 in the last six months, shows that consumers are still frequently interacting with company service reps. According to the findings, 43 percent of U.S. adults who made at least one purchase online of over $25 during the last six months had interacted directly with a company representative at least once, with an average of two interactions. When purchasing via phone, 84 percent of buyers were in touch with a company representative an average of five times during that time.

"We set out to understand how shoppers interact with companies when they are making purchases online or via phone," said Paul Jarman, CEO, inContact, in a statement. "Consumers still frequently turn to agent-assisted channels in addition to using self-service options during different stages of the purchase cycle, which makes the contact center a vital link to the customer experience when it matters most—when they are buying."

The majority of U.S. adults expect companies and ecommerce sites to have available at least six of the tested methods of communication during the online purchasing or ordering stage of the customer service journey, including both agent-supported channels and self-service options.

In order of importance to consumers, the agent-supported channels include:

  • Email (93 percent)
  • 1-800 to live reps (81 percent)
  • Online chat (67 percent)
  • Apps for mobile devices (50 percent)
  • SMS/Text message (46 percent)
  • Social networking sites (39 percent)
  • Online video chat (32 percent)

Self-service channels are also important to consumers, including online self-service for order tracking (87 percent) and 1-800 to self-service (53 percent).

A major goal of the study was to gauge consumer desire for personalized and omnichannel experiences when interacting with service representatives. The following findings indicate ways in which companies need to design the customer journey for personalization and consistency across various channels. 

  • Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults expect companies to know their purchase history regardless of method of communication (e.g., phone, chat, email).
  • Two-thirds (67 percent) expect to be able to call the same company representative they worked with previously if they had an order or service issue.
  • Sixty-four percent would expect to be able to continue talking with the same company representative on the phone as they were talking with via online chat.

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Posted March 25, 2015