Customer service expectations have risen exponentially. While the pandemic has been blamed as a major reason, other factors contribute to this shift. Today, contact centers will fall behind if they do not identify and analyze customer needs. Demands are not going anywhere; the question is, how to tackle them head-on? This blog discusses four root causes of rising customer expectations as well as solutions for your contact center.
1. Generational Expectations
A big driver is a perception that service should be instantly available on any device, from anywhere, and on any channel.
As a person born in the 80s, I grew up without a cell phone, social media, or the internet. When I talk to people who have never lived without it, they are shocked at how drastically different life was for my generation. My parents had an AAA roadmap in the car, as GPS navigation did not exist. If I wanted to see a friend, I simply visited their home.
Today I communicate via WhatsApp, SMS, and Facetime to catch up with family and friends. Therefore, it is common and acceptable for people like me to expect to use multi-channel customer service. Where things still feel archaic is in the customer service journey.
As quoted by Joe Gagnon and Jason Dorsey, co-authors of The Aspect Consumer Experience Index: Millennial Research on Customer Service Expectations:
|“Millennials, mobile technology, and social media are colliding to radically change customer service as we know it. This new generation will not tolerate waiting in lines, repeating their problem to five different people, or being treated like a number (genhq.com).”||
How does this relate to your contact center? It is simple. Younger generations are tech savvy, can multitask with various communication channels, and have grown accustomed to rapid answers. It is thus paramount that contact centers avoid a one-channel service.
Consumer technology is driving expectations that are not consistently reflected in the contact center space and business tech. In our private lives, we essentially have a powerful computer in our pocket, thus the expectations for seamless tech in the customer service journey are expected.
Contact centers must factor in this pertinent point in crafting their customer service solutions. The best way to approach this first issue is to think in cross channels. What does that mean? One analogy to explain this is through restaurants. Vegetarians dining at a restaurant that does not offer anything vegetarian on the menu means they do not have options. In turn, they will not become loyal customers to a restaurant that does not have an inclusive menu.
This is like a one-channel approach; there are not plentiful options for everyone. If options are limited across channels (just speaking with an agent for example), there is a considerable risk that many customers will be dissatisfied. This will hurt your enterprise and impact customer loyalty.
- As Saharsh Buxy from the Conversation Design Institute stated, “Customers, particularly millennials, appreciate it when they can fix their problems without having to speak with anyone. Companies may provide customers with an unrivaled self-service experience by using conversational AI-enabled chatbots (Conversation Design Institute).”
- Try to emulate the options present for your customers that exist within their normal lives. It is common for us to switch from Facetime to Teams while messaging with WhatsApp. Our society has normalized tech multitasking; keeping this in mind for your contact center solutions will make things feel natural for customers.
2. Instant Gratification (and Instant Complaint) Generation
For better or worse, the rapid improvements in tech, communication, and delivery of products or services have created a platform for praise and complaints. For example, if a flight is canceled and the customer receives poor customer service, they can take to Twitter, Facebook, etc.
In this scenario, time is crucial. The customer could be at the airport panicking about the canceled flight, or worried about missing a business meeting or conference. Or perhaps the customer has a family emergency and needs to get home. Ensuring the customer´s flight is rebooked in a timely fashion could make or break whether they will book with the airline again.
The need for several channels is necessary to facilitate positive customer service journeys. If a customer can rebook his or her flight via an AI chatbot, the problem is solved without waiting on the phone to talk to an agent. Contact centers must provide options across multiple, streamlined channels to manage instant gratification and instant complaint generation.
- Power Up your customer support with Conversational AI. Without this solution, it is near impossible to offer on-the-spot service 24/7.
- As Saharsh Buxy from the Conversation Design Institute comments: “One of the most essential goals of automating customer support is to provide instant responses. From a customer's standpoint, it establishes a company's credibility (Conversation Design Institute).” Even if you start small, you can continue to build on this solution, especially if you find a solution that does not require a complete revamp of your infrastructure, but a usage-based pricing structure. This saves time, and resources, and allows you to scale up in the future.
3. Products are not Competitive Advantages or Differentiators Anymore
There are very few products that are major competitive differentiators anymore. Anything that has been invented is quickly copied or improved upon. Thus, few companies can rest on their laurels, products, or tech. The real differentiators today revolve around experiences.
Let´s look at Apple for example. You can switch between your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, using each as if they were all one device. It is the slick, user-friendly UI and frictionless interaction that keep people in the Apple ecosystem. It is not that they have a specific feature Android does not, but this seamless experience journey differentiates Apple from its competitors.
The experience with the product/service and your company will make or break brand loyalty, word of mouth, and ultimately, your revenue. That is why CCTRs are critical.
Products nowadays are new and fundamentally different for a brief period. The feedback loop between innovation, bringing a new product or feature to market and it being picked up by competitors is shorter than ever before.
So how are you going to keep customers? According to Brooke Lynch's special report: Enhancing Customer Engagement: “To engage customers in 2022, organizations must personalize interactions, improve the customer journey, and simplify the agent experience for streamlined support (customercontactweekdigital.com).”
- Through using Conversational AI digital agents, customer information is ready through the use of technology.
- If a customer needs to add a piece of baggage for a flight, they can perform this task on their phone by messaging with a chatbot. If a human agent needs to step in for some reason, they will see which customer is on the line.
- The agent´s experience is simplified when they have help in real-time, can easily see customer information, and are not juggling a mountain of customer inquiries.
4. Companies are Their own Worst Enemy, Hyping Experience
Enterprises hyping up their customer service can easily shoot themselves in the foot. If a customer is told that the customer service experience is guaranteed seamless and frictionless, not much room is left for disappointment.
While companies go out of their way to appear innovative, fresh, and customer-centric, the reality is typically lacking vision; what happens when customers with those freshly set expectations land in your phone queue? Disappointment, frustration, anger.
While we would all love to have a customer experience so amazing, we are calling our friends about it the second we hang up with an agent, the reality is it is better to aim for consistency and predictability.
Let us say you have a gorgeous, user-friendly website that allows customers to self-serve. Perhaps you are even chatting via Facebook Messenger, and it is going well. But then someone calls, waits forever, gets passed around, and must repeat themself to several agents.
While that may be an all-too-common experience in general, compared to the expectations you have created in other channels, it is an awful experience that breaks your brand’s promise and harms your reputation.
- Instead of approaching channels ad-hoc or focusing on specific new software, look at how you can bring consistently decent service to all your channels, which is a far greater challenge than just doing one well. Once you are there, you can work on incremental improvements.
- Set expectations from the beginning. What you can do now, is do it well. If you tell people all you can do is email and call, set that expectation. Promising more than you can deliver will negatively impact the customer's journey.
- Look at your solution as a marathon, not a sprint. Establish a step-by-step process rather than doing too much and not doing it all well. Deliver on promises, then incrementally improve.
Although I have only discussed four reasons, of course, there are many more factors influencing rising expectations for contact centers. Enterprises must address this phenomenon, otherwise, the risk is high for both agent burnout and customer dissatisfaction.
Whether you have already begun the journey of Powering Up your contact center or are just getting started, it does not matter! The best thing you can do for your enterprise, agents, and customers is to simply get the ball rolling.
As you increasingly see the benefits of implementing a Conversational AI solution, you will gain more confidence and build on this. The results are worth it!
Check out our Customer Success Stories eBook to learn more about how Conversational AI can Power Up your contact center!