4 Customer Service Trends That Will Impact the Contact Center

Contact center operating environments and technology continue to mature and transform to meet the dynamic needs of customers and the enterprise. Customers have made it clear that they expect good service, so delivering an outstanding customer experience should be the status quo for most companies. (Unfortunately, this isn't the case, and it's starting to impact the bottom line of some companies).

Customers now have higher expectations. They want companies to make it easy for them to conduct business throughout their entire life cycle and provide a frictionless experience. While a lot of this is being driven by Millennials who do not have patience for bad business (and technology) practices, it's a good idea in general for companies to enhance their service experience and delivery tools, as it will also reduce their operating costs. The four trends below are going to play an increasingly important role in contact centers during the next few years.

Reducing Customer Effort

In 2015, this became one of the top five goals for contact centers. Recognition of the issue indicates a major change in how customers are viewed and, hopefully, how they will be treated. It means that companies are starting to look at experiences through the eyes of their customers, which is a major shift from the traditional corporate-centric perspective. Few companies are sure about how to measure customer effort, but 36.3 percent of respondents in DMG's recent worldwide benchmark study about service priorities named it a top-five issue, reflecting its growing relevance to organizations.

Improving the Customer Journey

Customers (and prospects) view all parts of a company as one entity, but companies tend to act as a collection of departments that often do not share the same goals. While there is still much room for progress, companies are beginning to appreciate that if they want to deliver a great, frictionless experience, they need to capture and analyze what happens to customers (and prospects) at every step of the interaction journey. Customer journey analytics solutions are emerging to address this critically important opportunity. These solutions are in their infancy, and most of them address just a couple of channels, but DMG expects to see substantial investment in this sector during the next five years.

Improving the Customer Feedback/Surveying Process

Due to poor surveying solutions and practices, response rates for many surveys are abysmally low. Research firms and companies have to work extremely hard to receive a large enough volume of responses to make the results statistically significant. (Frequently, when results are communicated, there is no discussion about the validity of findings.)

The greatest impediment to a successful surveying process are the practices that are employed: how the survey is delivered, where it's delivered (i.e., what channel), the questions asked, the way questions are worded, parameters of the type of feedback permitted (highly structured questions vs. free-form/unstructured), how the feedback is used (if at all), whether any feedback is provided to the survey participants, if and how the findings are used by the organization, and a whole lot more.

There is also the issue of the surveying solution—customers (and prospects) want to be heard, but do not like to respond to surveys. Passive customer feedback tools—using text and speech analytics to identify customer insights and sentiments, for example—are relatively new techniques that are now available, as are newer methods for some of the traditional approaches. DMG expects to see more innovation in the world of surveying, because this input is highly valuable when the findings are valid.

Employee Engagement

Contact center managers have always appreciated the relationship between happy agents and satisfied customers. The challenge has been to translate this relationship into processes and systems that enable managers to sustain employee—and customer—satisfaction. Employee engagement has become a buzz term for many companies and vendors, although there is a great deal more talk than action.

It's one thing to name a product an "employee engagement" application or suite, and another to deliver functionality that facilitates it. While companies and vendors need to invest significantly more in the area of employee engagement, they are taking steps in the right direction.

All four of these trends present companies with great opportunities to deliver an improved and easier customer experience. In working toward these goals, they'll also reduce operating costs. Customer service is at a pivotal point. Business as usual is not satisfactory for customers or the companies that deliver the service experience. It should not be a question of whether your organization will evolve, but instead what approach you'll take to addressing the customer experience challenge.  

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Posted April 29, 2016