Meeting expectations at the right channels
Key findings about customer expectations and preferred communication channels

Customers want frictionless transactions and proactive customer care across all touchpoints. In this CX-driven era, businesses can’t be complacent when finding better ways to meet and exceed expectations across different channels.

Disconnect between customer experience and expectation

According to Microsoft’s “2018 State of Global Customer Service Report,” 70% of American customers expect a customer service representative to know their contact, product and service information or history. But when it comes to satisfying customer expectations, businesses fall flat. IBM’s “2017 Customer Experience Index Study” revealed brands across 25 countries worldwide only averaged 33 on a scale of zero to 100 overall.

This only goes to show that despite the increased focus on customer centricity, it isn’t translating into successful customer engagement. And if companies fail to deliver, research has revealed that 62% of customers will ditch a brand after only one or two bad experiences.

Which is unfortunate because for some industries, up to 87% of customers are willing to pay more for a great experience—so any investments made towards this end will boost the bottom line, increase market share and generate positive brand engagement.

Multi-channel now, omni-channel soon

It’s important to offer customers a multitude of contact channel options. Once a customer uses the channel they’re most comfortable with, it is up to us, the service delivery professionals, to make sure customer experience is cohesive across all channels. Companies with omni-channel engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers and report 23 times higher customer satisfaction rates. Let’s understand how customers currently use contact channels:

  • Self-service is rising steadily with studies predicting that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their interactions with a business on their own and not via a human agent. Human interactions involving the voice channel now tend to be used for complex issue escalations.
  • Voice remains the most preferred customer contact channel according to research, coinciding with the 88% of consumers that often prefer to use this channel. However, “the dynamics and use of voice are changing” and becoming more of an “escalation channel.”
  • Messaging via mobile apps is a key channel to look out for: 50% of customers are using it to get customer service and support. Top messaging apps are Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp, spanning all generations.
  • Live chat is the customer’s go-to channel to get real-time responses. Live chat empowers them to multitask without taking much of their time and attention. However, organizations still need to step up their game as the satisfaction rate decreased from 84.06% in 2016 to 80.68% in 2017.

Smarter contact centers, better agents

When 80% of customer engagements can be handled by bots, automation and AI are without a doubt disrupting the industry. Whether customers select self-service, phone, website, SMS, email or social, Natural Language Processing (NLP) is necessary for automated systems to handle and learn from inquiries and conversations. Automated technologies and AI (i.e. virtual agents and chatbots) can take over repetitive tasks with the option to transfer to a live person for more complex, personal interactions. This requires collaboration between a bot and an agent for a smooth hand-off that brings the best of both worlds—automation and speed from bots alongside authentic human interaction.

And cost shouldn’t be a deterrent with chatbots and NLP predicted to provide contact centers with cost savings of more than $8 billion per year by 2022 according to IBM.

From these key findings, the road to real-time self-service in customer service presents a huge opportunity for forward-thinking businesses. The biggest challenge is to find the right balance between live agents and automated, intelligent systems. The future contact center is a hybrid, intelligent contact center that can deliver effortless, positive experiences across multiple channels to meet customer expectations.

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