Across the world customer satisfaction is getting worse – and younger generations are saying goodbye to the phone channel. These are just two of the headline findings from Dimension Data’s 2013/14 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report.
The 16th edition of the report is based on a worldwide survey of 817 companies in 11 industries and 79 countries. It paints a bleak picture of the state of the market. Customer satisfaction scores have dropped to an average of 77.6%, while First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates are now at 73.1% – meaning more than a quarter of customers are not having their issues solved the first time they interact with an organisation. Both of these metrics have fallen for the fourth year in a row, despite the levels of investment in contact centres.
There’s also a channel shift occurring around the globe. The phone is now the third choice of members of Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000) when they want to communicate with a company, behind electronic messaging and smartphone apps. While consumers in Generation X (1961-1989) still rank the phone as their number one contact mechanism, the gap is narrowing compared to other channels.
So how are companies looking to improve the experience for customers of all generations? There’s an obvious shift away from voice only call centres towards multichannel contact centres, but the study found that agents still don’t have access to unified resources, such as a single view of the customer – no doubt contributing to poor customer satisfaction.
Essentially the report believes that many organisations are still operating channels as separate silos, rather than providing the cross-channel and omnichannel experience that customers demand. This frustrates consumers, pushes up costs and prevents agents from delivering excellent service.
Reading the study, there are three key points I’d pull out that chime with my own experiences:
1 Web chat is a necessity, not a nice to have
The number of web chat deployments increased by 27.2% over the last 12 months, with 50.6% of contact centres either offering or planning to offer web chat. Given the ability this channel has to deliver cost-effective, personal service and its growing appeal to consumers, web chat’s time has definitely come.
2 Isolated technology islands are pushing up costs
Companies recognise the need to lighten the burden on agents, aiming to shift nearly a third (32.6%) of contacts to self-service systems. However many are implementing these through a piecemeal, channel by channel approach, leading to a plethora of systems and silos. What is needed is a centralised approach that collects knowledge and makes it available across every channel in a consistent, accurate manner.
3 Complexity is driving agents away
Front line agents are leaving contact centres in their droves. Agent attrition is running at 26% of the workforce – that’s over a quarter of staff leaving, every year. Additionally, agents are three times more likely to be absent from work compared to their managers. A lack of support and resources to help cope with the move to multichannel is blamed for this accelerating trend – so organisations need to listen to their agents and provide the technology, knowledge and training to help them meet changing customer needs.
The Dimension Data report shows that organisations face significant changes when it comes to delivering the service that consumers require. Investment needs to be targeted to provide the cross-channel experience that customers are demanding and agents need to be armed with the right tools and skills if they are to successfully do their jobs. Consequently the next twelve months will be crucial for many contact centres as they evolve to meet a changing business environment.
The web provides the opportunity for completely new business models, enabling small, lean organisations to compete against much larger players. To succeed they have to be able to deliver what customers want and be responsive to their needs. Consequently service and the customer experience are central to how they must operate.
A great example of how customer service innovation is driving success is at Eptica customer Easyroommate. The world’s number one flatshare and houseshare website, it operates in 37 countries and 12 languages across the globe. Delivering customer service for its 844,000 worldwide users across multiple channels, languages, countries, locations and time zones is incredibly complex, particularly for a small business with a dispersed customer service team. Easyroommate’s 23 agents are split between its main contact centre in London, outsourced partners and teams in Africa, Asia and Latin America who provide local language and time zone support.
By deploying Eptica across the email and web channels Easyroommate has transformed the customer experience and improved productivity. Customer service calls have reduced by 75%, email handling time by 58% and First Contact Resolution has increased to above 90% – despite a 30% increase in users.
Over half (53%) of all interactions are now via web self-service, which is available in eight languages on Easyroommate sites for the UK, France, Italy, Spain, USA, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Netherlands, Poland and Germany. This frees up customer service staff, giving them time to deliver a personalised service to callers with more complex enquiries.
Easyroommate’s 20,000 monthly emails are handled through Eptica Email Management. All incoming emails are now automatically analysed and sent to the agent with the best skills to answer them, along with a suggested response in one of 11 local languages. This has dramatically reduced the average time to answer, more than halving (58%) it from 48 hours to 20.
In recognition of its success, Easyroommate has been announced as a finalist in the SME category at the prestigious UK Customer Experience Awards. Now in their fourth year, the Awards are presented in partnership with Customer Experience Magazine and the Cranfield Customer Management Forum (CCMF). They celebrate and promote excellence and this year’s standard was higher than ever before. You can read the full shortlist on the UK CE Awards website and find out more about how Easyroommate is using Eptica here.
Congratulations to Easyroommate on its success so far – and good luck at the final judging on 17 October!
Delivering the best possible customer experience requires a combination of focused strategy, well-trained staff, a customer-facing culture, robust processes and the technology to underpin the end-to-end customer journey.
Strong, well-implemented systems that are straightforward for agents to use are vital. But in a market where customer service technology can mean anything from a standalone Twitter monitoring tool to enterprise level customer interaction platforms, there is a lot of confusion about what companies actually require.
To help bring clarity to the market, Forrester analyst Kate Leggett is publishing a seven part series on customer service technology – beginning with what your system should contain.
So, to start, what does your software need to do? Leggett defines six steps:
1 Capture incoming customer interactions (whatever channel they may come through)
2 Route it to the best place for it to be answered
3 Start an inquiry case and link it to the customer record
4 Find the answer
5 Communicate the answer
6 Update the case notes to keep records up to date and show the issue has been resolved.
At a high level this looks pretty straightforward. But complexity comes through the number of channels involved and the shrinking patience of consumers, as they demand faster and faster answers. Many organisations still have a silo-based approach to multichannel customer service. Each channel has its own processes, knowledgebase and workflow, making it difficult to switch channels and inefficient to run customer service operations.
To try and overcome this Leggett recommends five different technologies:
- Multichannel communication – systems that support the capture of customer interactions and ensure they are routed to the best agent to deal with the inquiry.
- Knowledge management – a centralised information source that spans all channels and is easy to access, update and manage.
- Customer service analytics – analysis of customer interactions to understand the consumer and provide the best possible service.
- Agent productivity – workforce management and quality monitoring systems used to plan and report on agent activity.
- Voice of the customer – social listening systems and enterprise feedback management software that enable organisations to find out what customers are saying and their views on service performance.
It is very easy to take a channel based approach to customer service. But you then run into problems when you try and extend to new channels as you essentially have to start from scratch – and then manage multiple silos of information that deliver inconsistent, inefficient service. By taking a holistic approach, enterprise systems such as Eptica’s Customer Interaction Management platform provide the central workflow, knowledgebase and analytics to underpin every channel you have, now and in the future. By making it simple to add new channels, centralised customer service technology grows with the needs of the organisation – increasing satisfaction, reducing costs and ultimately boosting revenue.