CX Trending Down; KM and Other Technologies Can Help, eGain Solve Speakers Contend

LAS VEGAS--Despite all the discussion about customer experience, Forester Research has found that CX has dropped nationally, Forrester analyst and vice president Rick Parrish said at the eGain Solve 22 conference.

In 2021, the average CX score was 72, which Parrish equated to a low C or high D. But in 2022, the average score fell by .7 points, to 71.3. While at first glance, that's only a small change, Parrish said it equates to tens of millions of dollars of lost business for companies.

It wasn't just that one sector fell precipitously, Parrish added. Ten of 13 industry verticals were down, with only wealth management showing a small uptick.

Even though the focus of many firms has shifted to digital experience, particularly since the onset of the pandemic, the performance there is even worse, Parrish said. In 2021, the average score was 69.7, which dropped to 69.3 for 2022. The average scores for hybrid and non-digital CX have fallen as well.

Parrish added that the differential between high and low performers continues to shrink. Poor performers have improved a little, while top performers have dropped a little, which Parrish attributed to an increased short-term focus on the bottom line. He added that the bottom line does increase if the focus shifts to CX and putting the customer first.

Ten percent of companies were customer-obsessed in 2021, a figure that dropped to 3 percent this year, Parrish added. "It's like the leaders forgot how important it is to provide brand customer experience. They became more focused on cutting corners and seeing CX as cost centers," he said.

There were a couple of notable exceptions, however, according to Parrish. These included the following:<

  • Barclay's Bank improved the CX for its credit card division by focusing on customer needs during tough economic times, lowering minimum payments and allowing cardholders with economic hardships to defer payments.
  • U.S. Bank also saw its CX rating rise after adding 170 new features to its mobile app and website in the past year.

Parrish also questioned the budget optimism that many CX leaders have. A large percentage expect an increase in their budgets despite worsening worldwide economic conditions.

Still, companies that keep customers at the center of their operations stand to benefit more as they tend to have more rich data from which to derive valuable insights, Parrish said. Companies that are customer-focused in this way show 2.5 times the revenue growth rate, 2.2 times the profitability growth rate, and 2.2 times the customer retention of their non-customer-focused peers, according to Parrish.

The key, eGain CEO Ashu Roy said, is using a combination of CX and knowledge management technologies that can provide companies with a profitable focus on customers. "The key thing is to enable the contact center to provide better service," he stated.

That's getting harder to do today, according to Roy, because the job of the contact center agent is getting harder, customers are coming to the contact center with more complex questions, and customer expectations for good service are higher than ever.

Additionally, the knowledge that contact center agents need is more complex, productivity pressures are up, there is the constant specter of compliance, and agent attrition is on the rise, Roy said. "That means it's harder to train people. There is an agent crisis that we are all dealing with," he said.

So it's important for companies to use technology and techniques to improve the contact center agent and improve the customer experience, Roy said. AI is a critical component.

It's impossible to train agents to answer every question that customers may have, Roy added.

But, "what if we were able to solve that problem? What would that do for your agent?," he asked.

This will be possible with the application of knowledge and artificial intelligence "in a usable way," Roy said. "That's where we see the contact center moving in the next few years."

By using AI and knowledge management solutions, agents can indeed be guided to answer all of a customer's questions, which, in turn, will make their work much more satisfying, Roy said further.

Customer service is one of the areas where AI has the most impact, according to Roy, who referenced a McKinsey study. "You have to stay on the leading edge and adopting technologies that keep you nimble."

Those technologies are advanced machine learning, KM, and AI, Roy said. KM is becoming one of the most impactful technologies for contact centers, Roy added, pointing to a recent Gartner report.

KM can be leveraged beyond the contact center to product development and other areas of the company, Roy said. But the contact center is where the technology should be implemented first for the most impact.

In an exclusive interview, Roy said contact centers are attempting to deal with an agent crisis that is at an all time high. Younger people who tend to fill contact center positions don't want to go through the necessary training, which can run anywhere from a month or two to six months for contact centers serving highly regulated industries.

With agent turnover running anywhere from 40 percent to 100 percent, contact center operators need systems that can bring agents up to speed quickly by providing guidance any time they run into a challenge. That way, the agent only needs to be trained on the system rather than on the industry, which is much more time-consuming, he suggested.

In the next year, Roy expects to see a growing number of companies adopting such systems, which will help manage the agent shortage crisis while also improving companies' Net Promoter Scores.