Businesses risk losing customers due to inconsistencies in the efficiency and quality of service across channels, according to new research by Pegasystems, the software company that crushes business complexity. The global study, conducted by research firm Savanta, recently surveyed 12,700 business leaders, agents and customers to understand how the pandemic is impacting the current and future states of customer service. Businesses are making progress by adding more digital service channels to keep up with customer demands; however, this progress often comes at the expense of service quality by creating more inconsistencies and increasing customer frustration.
For many businesses, the pandemic created extraordinary challenges that exacerbated long standing customer frustrations, such as having to repeat the same information to multiple agents and being passed to different departments to resolve a single issue. Bad service can be so irritating that nearly 27 per cent of consumers surveyed felt it had ruined their day and even caused one in 10 to cry or nearly cry. But their most consequential reaction is often expressed through their wallets: 77 per cent of customers said they would take their business elsewhere if they received poor service. The pressure is on executives to address these service issues before they do any further damage to their businesses, many of which are still in pandemic recovery mode.
In some ways, businesses are already responding. Compared to a similar study in 2019, the number of businesses providing some form of omnichannel service today has increased from 55 per cent to 68 per cent – a 24 per cent increase. But even as organisations invest in or explore new technologies to enhance service, 80 per cent admit the quality of service varies across the channels they support.
The survey identified three areas that will be a priority as organisations continue to strive for optimal customer service:
- Service needs to offer final resolution on all channels: The main issue with service today is the lack of consistency; 67 per cent of customers think businesses need to improve service quality on non-traditional channels, such as web, mobile app, and chatbot/intelligent virtual assistant. This lack of consistency results in customers repeating information across channels (the top frustration amongst surveyed customers and agents) and resorting to less desirable channels, such as the phone, to achieve final resolution – half of customers cited a phone call as the only way to solve an issue. If they’ve tried and failed with other channels, by the time they resort to the phone, they are often frustrated, angry, or both. Organisations need to equip all service channels to be equally effective, saving customers and agents time and improving the experience for customers and employees.
- Self-service is gaining in popularity, but mainstream approaches fall short: The desire for self-service is stronger than ever – 45 per cent of customers surveyed are more likely to use self-service today than before the pandemic. And while 82 per cent of consumers are willing to use self-service, almost half (46 per cent) still don’t expect it to work. With 75 per cent of customers wanting businesses to improve self-service and 56 per cent visiting a business’ website before calling, there is a massive opportunity for business leaders to improve self-service capabilities. And as customer bases grow to include younger, digital-native generations, organisations must meet new service preferences and expectations to maintain loyalty and draw new customers in.
- AI and automation are crucial to achieving high levels of service: Once life begins to return to normal, customers will still expect the same – if not better – levels of service, which require the right infrastructure and tools. Eighty-five percent of businesses expect to invest in AI technology in the next few years, while 57 per cent will increase investments in self-service and automated customer service technology within the next two years. Additionally, 53 per cent of business leaders plan to use technology to proactively monitor customer data to predict problems before they arise, and almost two-thirds of customers agree companies should provide this service. These investments will help enhance both agent-assisted and non-agent-assisted channels for faster resolution – sometimes even before a problem arises.
“The pandemic served as an accelerator for many organisations to fast-forward their customer service strategy deeper into digital,” said Jeff Nicholson, Global Leader, CRM Strategy, Pegasystems.
“Today’s challenge, however, is that many traditional approaches still lack the journey-centric technology needed to achieve fast resolution via a customer’s preferred point of contact. Just being present on a range of channels is no longer enough. The next great opportunity is to up-level the quality of service on all channels so they can consistently resolve the same critical customer issues,” added Nicholson.