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New Customer Service Challenges Leave Companies Playing Catch-Up

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March 08, 2012

New Customer Service Challenges Leave Companies Playing Catch-Up

By Chris Freeburn, TMCnet Web Editor

Figuring out as much information as possible about your customers’ needs and preferences would seem to be a critical goal for most businesses. However, according to research conducted by call center and unified communications systems integrator Sabio, in association with the Customer Contact Association, most businesses are failing to examine multiple channels to get a better view of customers.

A survey released by the CCA and Sabio discovered that consumers view personal banking as offering   the most satisfying call center customer experience. Telecommunications and phone service providers, on the other hand, ranked them as the worst providers of call center service. Consumers responding to the survey said they were willing to wait for up to five minutes to have their calls answered, so long as the call was free and that it was ultimately answered in a successful manner.

The survey was part of a research program called “Voice of the Contact Centre” launched by the Sabio –CCA partnership. The program seeks to ascertain the important customer service problems that companies will face in the future. The study includes interviews with customer service and call center managers from industries including financial services, business services, public sector and retail markets. So far, the study has identified three points of concern.

Lowering Costs: With the global economy still facing serious challenges, there is considerable pressure on companies to more efficiently allocate resources and find ways to reduce expenses. This includes personnel numbers of the cost of operations.

Social and Mobile Channel Development: The rise of social media – and intense public interest in platforms like Facebook, Twitter (News - Alert) and YouTube – and the emergence of mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets are forcing companies to explore new customer interaction channels. But, the study found, most are still struggling to respond.

Escalating customer expectations: Customers are increasingly demanding higher levels of customer service and are willing to migrate to new product and service providers if they are not satisfied. Improving the customer experience is now mandatory for most businesses.

 “Our research clearly shows that market conditions are pulling customer service teams in two directions. On one side they’re facing real cost pressures to manage their head count costs, while on the other they’re having to re-engineer their contact operations to accommodate emerging channels such as mobile and social, and deliver a more compelling experience for their customers,” commented Kenneth Hitchen, founding director, Sabio, in a company statement. “That’s why at Sabio we’re focused on helping organisations implement the solutions that can support the changing nature of customer interactions.

Companies don’t have a complete grasp of their customer’s needs, call center managers told the survey. 74 percent said that they didn’t think their companies had a single view of the customer across multiple channels. Still, more than a third of retail sector said their companies were working to address this. More than 60 percent of those surveyed identified unified communications as an increasingly critical issue, and 56 percent said their companies had started deployment of end-to-end resourcing solutions by extending Workforce Optimization strategies to the back-office.

“Whether it’s optimizing workforce levels, rightsizing demand, investing in the right kind of self-service, or putting processes in place to improve service quality, there’s a real requirement for technology-led solutions that can help organizations meet 2012’s customer service challenges,” he continued. “Encouragingly, our research also revealed that members now see Customer Satisfaction as their most important metric – showing a clear move away from the destructive benchmarks such as Average Handling Time, that over the years have helped to cover up sub-standard performance.”

“We provided a balance to our industry research with Sabio by also polling consumers to gain a greater understanding of what good service actually looks like from a customer perspective,” added Anne Marie Forsyth, the Customer Contact Association’s chief executive, in the company statement. “The fact that our respondents found the service provided by Personal Banking organizations more effective than that offered by telecom businesses, confirmed our view that customers typically treat transactional interactions more positively than more complex enquiries such as phone tariff charges.

Customers are also interested in having web-based means of addressing concerns. “We also found that while 44 percent would prefer to speak to a contact centre agent, 50 percent are now happy to resolve their queries using online self-service – this contrasts significantly with only 6 percent who prefer to use telephone-based self-service,” continued Anne Marie in the statement. “When asked what made for a poor customer service experience, 25 percent listed being kept on hold and 11 percent cited having their call transferred. So, even though organizations are faced with real cost pressures and new ways of interacting with consumers, it’s important that they still focus on getting the basics right – recognizing their customers, and dealing with their enquiries quickly and efficiently!”

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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