Customers to Companies: We Want Better Service and More Channels. Companies to Customers: Sorry, I Didn't Get That

Your company may think that its contact center has a handle on that multichannel thing that everyone keeps talking about. Of course, there are the old standbys, the phone and email—there's even an option for live chat on the Web site. We're not sure why, but it’s not used all that much—it only takes a few minutes to find it. Social media sounds nice, but we're pretty sure that people just use Twitter to keep up with Kim Kardashian.

This may sound silly, but it demonstrates the mind-set and subsequently the standard operating procedure of more consumer companies than you might think. Customers are asking, even demanding, better service through more channels, according to research from Ovum, in collaboration with LogMeIn. But many companies aren't hearing them.

The findings confirmed the disconnect. In results tallied from hundreds of surveys, nearly half of the respondents said that customer service has gone downhill over the past two years—and nearly 50 percent said that trying to get in touch with reps has became more difficult.

At the same time, the stakes have gone up: Customers are not letting companies slide. A whopping 76 percent said that after one—just one—bad experience, they will walk away from a company. What's going on?

"This study reinforces how important it is for businesses to provide good service to their customers," said Aphrodite Brinsmead, senior analyst of customer engagement at Ovum, in an email. "The new multi-device, always-connected consumer is well educated about the competition and willing to switch providers if they aren't satisfied. Businesses should realize the value of customer service in retaining customers and invest in modernizing their centers."

Check Your Equipment for Cobwebs

Contact centers are often one of the last places to see any spending. Consequently, many companies have antiquated systems that inefficiently handle call volume—forget about adding other channels. Haskell agrees.

"It's unfortunate, but contact centers are often looked at as the redheaded child—they're really just big cost centers. They don't provide any value; they just cost money," says Ross Haskell, senior director of products at LogMeIn's BoldChat Products.

"Even though contact centers are filled with connected people and manager themselves are consumers, I think that unfortunately the policies, procedures, and technologies in place in contact centers are just behind," Haskell says. "People are at a running speed and the contact centers that care for them are at a crawl."

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

While the people upstairs in corner offices may not realize how much of a dent old technology puts in customer loyalty and the bottom line, contact center managers get it. The study found that 41 percent said that they knew that technology is frequently or occasionally to blame for customer service issues.

"My experience with managers is that all these channels have really complicated things and have made a big soup out of contact centers," Haskell says.

"After talking to contact center managers, the one thing you get from the study, that you walk away with, is that this is complicated stuff. It's not cut-and-dried, it's not easy. We've spent decades trying to figure out how to run contact centers just for phones. Now all these new channels are happening really rapidly, and technology has become very complex."

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