As the saying goes, ”it can take months to find a customer, and seconds to lose one”, and in the rapidly evolving business landscape, this sentiment rings truer than ever. The pandemic forced businesses to reassess and adjust their customer service models, first due to lockdown restrictions, and then, more importantly, because their customers’ needs and expectations changed. This meant businesses had to adapt to meet changing expectations in record-time, during unprecedented circumstances.
Most businesses will point to customer service as their competitive edge, however according to a recent Pega survey, plenty are letting their customers down with subpar service and clunky customer service channels. The survey found 30 per cent of Australians have experienced service so poor it ruined their day, with one in ten being brought to tears; while the majority (82%) said they would take their business elsewhere if they received poor customer service. So, in this competitive world, if a customer thinks they have to ask twice, they are more likely to ask someone else instead.
Over the past eighteen months, Australians’ attitudes towards different customer service channels and journeys have shifted, with 42 per cent more likely to use self-service channels than prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately, despite this increased willingness to use self-service, 44 per cent of those willing to use self-service still don’t expect it to work.
These customers aren’t just looking for speed, they want their issue resolved. This results in 55 per cent of Australian customers selecting the most traditional (and costly) channel, the phone, because they think it’s the only way. Even then, about half (51%) are left frustrated that they must contact more than once to resolve an issue. Hardly a frictionless customer experience.
Siloed customer service channels must go
Customer frustration is largely caused by the inconsistency experienced across different channels. They are inconvenienced by the inability to address their issue in the channel they choose. More frustratingly, they are regularly bounced from one channel to another, where they often have to start their request again.
With the number of channels on the rise, this isn’t likely to change. Seventy per cent of business leaders surveyed said they are now supporting more than four channels, compared to 60 per cent in 2019. Businesses raced to add apps and web chat bots to their traditional channels of email and phone to retain customers and deliver around the clock support on a channel of choice.
The key for these businesses to succeed will not be in merely developing these channels, but in their ability to provide the same ability to resolve each customer’s service journey – regardless of the channel.
It’s a challenge unlikely to change any time soon, as channels evolve at pace. Within two years, over half (57%) of business respondents believe they will be providing service on a channel that does not yet exist. This could be a big challenge given 80 per cent of businesses admit the quality of service provided across all channels already falls short.
The other side of the coin
Friction caused by poor customer service is experienced on both sides of the conversation; contact centre agents without the right tools to do their job efficiently are less productive, and more frustrated in their work.
The silver lining is that by using the latest advancements in AI and automation these friction points can be eliminated, with 94 per cent of Australian businesses looking to employ AI in their service offerings within the next few years.
AI-powered “co-pilot” technology can behave as an agent’s wingman, taking out the manual work by analysing customer and business data in real-time, and surfacing relevant insight at speed. Legacy systems of information will soon be replaced by systems of insight.
To retain customers and employees, every second matters, regardless of channel. By having effective channels, businesses can offer simplified, personalised service experiences for customers and employees alike. The customer service movement for years to come will prioritise consistency, continuity, and faster channel resolutions, to keep the customers the organisation has worked so hard to attract.