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Impact of bad customer service on retailers revealed

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Nearly six in ten (59%) consumers have stopped shopping with a retailer due to poor customer service in store, on the phone, or online.

That’s according to new data by 8×8, which 2,018 UK adults in October, finding that when asked about the bad service they had received, the most common issue consumers cited (78%) was being ‘passed around the houses’ or having to re-explain their problem multiple times to different people in order to get an answer.

The majority have had to speak to three different people on average, with some saying they spoke to 12 different agents for just one query. Nearly half of customers (49%) also said that staff had been rude to them.

Retailers struggling to join up their internal data is also impacting service levels. Over half (51%) of consumers said they are less likely to shop with a retailer if they can’t talk to the online customer service team about in-store purchases, or go into a physical store to ask about online orders.

95% also said that they found it frustrating when agents didn’t have any information about their previous calls or emails.

When asked what they consider the most important elements of good customer service, having queries resolved quickly is the most important factor for retail customers (48%), followed by getting a human response (47%), and  having one person being able to answer their query first time (44%).

David Rowlands, Director, Customer Success, UK & EMEA, 8×8, said: “For UK retailers, every customer counts and in a tough year for the sector, this has never been more important. Yet if customer service isn’t up to scratch, customers are happy to vote with their feet and shop elsewhere.”

8×8’s  research also revealed the UK’s top eight customer service frustrations:

  1. Being put on hold for a long time (86%)
  2. Automated responses or obviously scripted answers (85%)
  3. Customer service teams not having information about their previous calls or emails (83%)
  4. Customer service teams not caring (82%)
  5. Being told to go to a help section or FAQs instead of being helped on a call (77%)
  6. When I call a company for a specific query, but get asked to visit their website instead (76%)
  7. When staff try to sell them a product while they are still trying to get their problem solved (75%)
  8. Not being given rewards for being a loyal customer (64%)

55% of UK contact centres expect lower live call volumes in 2019

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The majority of contact centre operations expect their live inbound call volumes to decrease in 2019, according to a new study.

The survey of over 200 contact centres undertaken by ContactBabel for its UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide report also found that despite this expected drop, live telephony is still seen by businesses as the most effective channel for customers to use for sales, service or complaints.

The report also finds that:

  • Average cost per call is slightly higher than email and web chat (£4.27 / £3.81 / £4.24)
  • Web chat, interaction analytics & AI are expected to show the strongest growth in 2019
  • At 41 seconds, mean average speed to answer is more than 2.5 times as long as it was in 2004
  • UK average new agent salaries rise to £17,507; contact centre managers’ to £40,785.

Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst at ContactBabel, said: “The steep rise in digital channel usage (email, web chat and social media), as well as customers’ increasing familiarity with web self-service means that, for the first time in the 18 years that we have been studying the industry, the majority of contact centres expect fewer calls in the next year.

“Yet many businesses believe that customers would usually be better-off calling the contact centre, rather than using a digital channel. Although many see email as a good channel for resolving complaints, and web self-service for account-based issues, live telephony is still viewed by businesses as the gold standard for customer contact. ”

The 2018-19 UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide is downloadable from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

Based on detailed interviews with over 200 UK organisations, the report provides hard data about every aspect of UK customer contact management, technology and strategy, including AI & machine learning, customer personalisation, digital channels, robotic process automation, agent engagement and HR/operational benchmarking statistics.

UK insurance contact centres ‘battle 60% rise in call duration’

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UK insurance companies expect to make significant investments in AI-enabled web chat, automated customer identification and interaction analytics technology within the next two years.

A survey of over 200 UK contact centres undertaken by ContactBabel shows that insurance operations expect their use of web chat to grow from 44% today to 94% by the beginning of 2020.

The use of interaction analytics is expected to rise to 43%, as is automated speech recognition, with much of the latter being used to reduce fraud and the time required to take phone customers through security.

In 2012, only 7% of inbound interactions with insurers were through email, but this has risen sharply to over 15% today.

Due in part to increased automation, the sector will see a drop in contact centre employment of around 5,500 jobs by 2020.

The report’s author, Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst, ContactBabel, said: “With average call lengths in UK insurance contact centres having risen by over 60% since 2010, the industry has embraced the opportunities that digital channels can bring, especially in terms of automating simpler interactions.

“AI-enabled web chat can handle a large proportion of straightforward customer requests, while automating the customer identity process will shorten call times and reduces fraud. The insurance sector has also seen very significant rises in the average time taken to answer calls, as well as the length of calls. The significant growth in digital activity, particularly email, shows that insurers are understanding how their customers wish to contact them, while managing the cost of service.”

The report is downloadable free of charge from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

Digital channel use gaining ground – and it’s not because of AI Chatbots

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Use of digital channels by consumers to contact brands is gaining ground on more traditional methods, with email doubling and chat tripling among US consumers in 2018, according to a new study.

However, the research by NICE inContact also found that use of “automated assistants” or chatbots by consumers for recent service interactions is still limited at only 8 per cent globally.

The second annual NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark includes consumers from three countries – United States, United Kingdom and Australia – with year-over-year results for US (2018 vs 2017), and new benchmark data for UK and Australia.

Key findings include:

  • Agent-assisted Digital Channels Gain Ground, Chat Reigns for Satisfaction

The CX Transformation Benchmark year-over-year results among US consumers show growth of digital channels for service – use of email doubled and chat tripled. Consumers in all regions are most satisfied with online chat with a live agent, compared to ten other channels evaluated. At 56 percent, more than half of US consumers surveyed are highly satisfied with chat interactions; 47 and 44 percent of UK and Australia consumers, respectively, report being highly satisfied with their most recent chat experience.

  • Consumers Want True Omnichannel Customer Service

Consumers want true omnichannel customer service, and service that’s seamless, convenient and quick. If a conversation needs to move from chat to a phone call, nine out of 10 consumers say they expect a seamless transition when moving from one communication method to another. Chat and phone are each viewed as convenient and quick, requiring a minimal amount of effort.

  • Consumers Reward Companies Who Deliver Exceptional Customers Service

Today’s consumers are vocal about the brands they love, and aren’t afraid to share negative experiences through their network. The study found that, overwhelmingly, customers who have exceptional experiences are more willing to: recommend that company on social media (83 percent), buy more products and services from that company (89 percent), and go out of their way to purchase from that brand (82 percent). But, one-time exceptional service is not enough to cement loyalty as 81 percent of consumers reported that they are very likely to switch to another company if they’ve had a bad customer service experience.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Has Room for Improvement, Consumers Skeptical

While businesses continue to experiment with AI applications within customer experience channels, only eight percent of global consumers interviewed had used an AI enabled service channel like chatbots or a home electronic virtual assistant for their most recent customer service interaction. The study found that nine out of 10 consumers prefer to talk to a live agent rather than a chatbot or virtual assistant. And, consumer satisfaction with automated assistants is low, with only 27 percent of users giving a 9 or 10 rating out of 10. AI has yet to mature, and consumers agree. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said chatbots and virtual assistants need to get smarter before they are willing to use them regularly, and 66 percent disagree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier to get issues resolved.

“Businesses are no longer just being measured against their direct competitors – they are being measured against every positive customer experience a consumer has ever had,” said Paul Jarman, CEO of NICE inContact. “The global CX Transformation Benchmark Study findings highlight that to deliver exceptional customer experiences that drive growth, businesses must continue their digital transformations to power smart and seamless omnichannel interactions. Despite widespread interest in AI, the research shows that its application is still finding its way in delivering exceptional customer experiences. Investing in an open, native cloud contact center platform can help businesses meet evolving and demanding customer expectations highlighted in the study.”

NICE inContact surveyed more than 2,400 consumers across the globe on their most recent customer service experience across 11 different channels – both agent-assisted and self-service – on over 4,600 total interactions.

To download the full research report, click here.

Not valuing customers ‘leads to $136 billion switching epidemic’ in US

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US businesses have contributed to a switching epidemic by not valuing customers or listening to them when they have problems, with the resulting switching by consumers costing firms $136 billion a year.

A report from CallMiner features survey responses from US adults who had contacted a supplier in the last five years and shows that 85% of adults switched suppliers 1.81 times in the last 12 months.

The sectors that top the CallMiner Index over both the last five years and the last 12 months are:

Sector Position Last Five Years Sector Position Last 12 Months
1. Communications companies* (71%) 1. Communications companies (51%)
2. Banks (32%) 2. Insurance caompanies (24%)
3. Property Insurance suppliers (27%) 3. Property Insurance suppliers (20%)

* Communications includes mobile telephone, broadband and landline telephone.

The CallMiner Index reveals that the average switching rate over five years is 0.68 times per annum. The rate for the last 12 months is almost 2.5 times higher at 1.81 times – showing that the pace of switching is accelerating.

The survey also shows that consumers feel new customers are treated better than loyal customers and that suppliers are focusing more on acquisition than retention.

The third highest reason for churn (30%) is that there is no reward for contract renewal, i.e. no reward for loyalty. The fifth highest reason (27%) is that discounts offered to new customers are not automatically given to existing customers. This reinforces the sense that existing customers can feel less valued than new customers.

In fact, the fourth reason (28%) is that consumers feel like they are not being treated fairly. The main actions by suppliers that force people to say goodbye are as follows:

1. Prices are too high or have increased  66%
2. There is a serious problem with the product or service  32%
3. There is no reward for contract renewal, i.e. no reward for loyalty  30%
4. Feeling like you are not being treated fairly  28%
5. Discounts offered to new customers are not automatically applied to your accounts  27%

Scott Kendrick, Vice President of Marketing at CallMiner, said: “A shifting focus on new customer acquisition over customer loyalty is creating a dangerous situation that drove 85% of people to make a brand switch last year. Three of the top five reasons for switching indicate that customers want to feel valued by the companies they choose and will make a change if they feel they are not being treated fairly. Suppliers should take this research into consideration as they review the value they place on customer retention and how much could be at risk.”

The top advice consumers provide on how to keep them loyal accentuates their desire to feel valued. However, the strength of feeling about what is the right thing to do is indicated by the fact that 43% more people on average provide this advice than those that switched for the same reason.

Reason for Switching Advice to Keep Them Loyal
Keep prices the same or better than those for new customers  66%  78%
Reward them for renewing their contract  30%  53%
Automatically apply new discounts to existing customers  27%  50%

The top two reasons to contact a supplier relate to problems that need resolving. The first reason relates to problems with the service or product (60%) and the second reason to problems with the invoice or bill (57%). Both these issues usually require specialized support from a contact center agent.

However, although 40% of consumers said they wanted to be listened to before making a call about a problem, only 23% said they felt they had been listened to after making the call – which may explain why 30% leave frustrated and 24% annoyed, 17% upset and 15% angry.

The survey uncovered that consumers want to stay loyal but are ‘forced’ to switch because of bad or ineffective supplier practices. The total planning to switch is just 57%. The three highest churn rates are for the same sectors as last year but are 22% lower on average than last year.

For example, 40% say they are planning to switch communications suppliers but 51% did so this year. The fact that the intention to switch rates are lower than actual switching for this year might indicate that churn rates are slowing. But it is more likely to indicate that people want to stay loyal and suppliers do something that triggers the desire to switch.

Web chat high on UK financial services agenda

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UK financial services companies expect to make massive investments in AI-enabled web chat, automated customer identification and interaction analytics technology within the next two years.

A survey of over 200 UK contact centres by analyst ContactBabel shows that financial services operations expect their use of web chat to grow from 24% today to 89% by the beginning of 2020.

The use of interaction analytics is expected to rise from 33% to 77%, and automated speech recognition from 17% to 52% in the same timescale, with much of the latter being used to reduce fraud and the time required to take phone customers through security.

Due in part to increased automation, the sector will see a drop in contact centre employment of around 7,500 jobs by 2020.

Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst at ContactBabel, said: “With average call lengths in UK financial services contact centres having risen by over 50% since 2010, the industry is looking for ways to manage their costs while maintaining the quality of customer service, and making each customer more profitable.

“AI-enabled web chat can handle a large proportion of straightforward customer requests, while automating the customer identity process will shorten call times and reduces fraud. Analytics gives businesses an insight into how and why customers are contacting them, and provides opportunities to grow the business through providing contact centre agents or the automated channel with timely and relevant cross-selling and up-selling offers.”

The full report is downloadable from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

FREE GUIDE: The cure for the common call

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By Synthetix

No-one likes waiting. Untimely responses to customer queries are one of the hallmarks of poor customer service and precious time wasted. A recent study by the Institute of Customer Service concluded that the UK public waste millions of hours trying to resolve customer support issues from their workplace. This disruption in employee productivity cost employers £28 billion a year. What a pricey commodity time has become.

Jo Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said: “There will always be times when employees will have to take time out of their working day to deal with personal issues. However, the responsibility lies with UK organisations to ensure that, as much as possible, problems are prevented at source and customer service interactions are right first time — to protect both the productivity of their own staff, and those interacting with them.”

Tickly truths

The concept of serving customers over multiple channels is not new. Consumers are no longer reliant on local businesses to meet their needs with the evolution of the internet alongside portable tech such as laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Many customers call the contact centre simply because that’s what they’re used to, however many would prefer a self-service option if they understood that it saves them time and hassle. Forrester’s latest research shows online self-service to be THE preferred channel for customer service over any other channel including phone and email.

Enter the new challenge for businesses: Creating consistent and seamless customer experiences across multiple channels.

These free guides offer practical advice from improving agent productivity, NPS or CSAT scores, to delivering consistent customer experiences across multiple channels.

Multi-channel Online Customer Service for Dummies

Web chat – 5 killer reasons why you are doing it wrong

Virtual agents – to bot or not?

Buyer Trends

Artificial Intelligence tops 2018 contact centre buying trends

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Artificial intelligence, multichannel communications and web self-service/web chat top the list of solutions the UK’s leading call centre professionals are sourcing in 2018.

The findings have been revealed by the Call Centre & Customer Services Summit after delegates attending the event were asked which areas they needed to invest in during 2018 and beyond.

39% were looking to invest in AI, with 37% sourcing Multi-Channel Communications/Integration solutions. Just behind were Web Self Service / Web Chat, Call Centre Technology and products that offer a Single View of the Customer.

“It’s no surprise that AI tops the list of areas our delegates were most interested in,” said Call Centre & Customer Services Summit Event Manager Gayle Buckland. “But the full table provides a valuable insight into trends within the customer service sector.”

% of delegates at the Call Centre & Customer Services Summit sourcing certain products & solutions (Top 10):

Artificial Intelligence – 39%
Multi-Channel Communications/Integration – 37%
Web Self Service / Web Chat – 37%
Call Centre Technology – 35%
Single View of the Customer – 33%
Social Media – 33%
Agent Coaching and Monitoring – 31%
Analytics – 31%
Virtual Call/Contact Centres – 31%
Display Boards – 30%

To find out more about the Call Centre & Customer Services Summit, visit www.callcentresummit.co.uk.

Customer Service

Americans say customer service is better than ever

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US consumers – especially millennials – say businesses are meeting or exceeding their service expectations according to research from American Express.

The study shows US consumers are happier than ever with the service companies provide, with eight in 10 Americans (81%) reporting that businesses are meeting or exceeding their expectations for service, compared to 67 per cent in 2014.

In fact, the 2017 Customer Service Barometer indicates 40 per cent of consumers think businesses have increased their focus and attention on service, a significant increase in just three years (up from 29% in 2014).

“More companies are realising that delivering great care is not just the right thing to do; it also makes great business sense. Seven in 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service,” said Raymond Joabar, Executive Vice President of American Express’ servicing organisation. “Service is an increasingly important competitive advantage for companies, both large and small, that make doing business easy and put their customers’ needs first.”

Digital servicing options are helping to drive this uptick in servicing satisfaction, as is improved person-to-person care.

More than two thirds of those surveyed (68%) said that a pleasant representative was key to their recent positive service experiences, and 62 per cent said that a representative’s knowledge or resourcefulness was key.

Americans continue to reward companies that get service right. US consumers say they’re willing to spend 17 per cent more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service, up from 14 per cent in 2014.

As a group, Millennials are willing to spend the most for great care (21% additional), followed by men (19%).

But there’s another side to that coin, too: poor service is costing companies. More than half of Americans have scrapped a planned purchase or transaction because of bad service, and 33 per cent say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service. The stakes remain high for getting service right.

Millennials are particularly happy with the service they’re receiving from businesses. Eighty-four per cent say that businesses are meeting or exceeding their service expectations, significantly more than older Americans (79%).

Millennials are also the only generation that tells more friends and family about instances of good service than bad ones, bucking an established trend in how Americans talk about service.

As in previous years, Americans across the board report telling more people about poor service (15 people on average) than about good experiences (11). Millennials, though, tell an average of 17 people when they get great care, compared to the 15 they tell about poor experiences.

Men are especially chatty when it comes to service, telling twice as many people as women both about their poor experiences (21 compared to 10) and good ones (15 compared to 7).

There is a growing preference for self-service and digital options on simpler inquiries, specifically for online chat and mobile apps.

More than six in 10 US consumers say that their go-to channel for simple inquiries is a digital self-serve tool such as a website (24%), mobile app (14%), voice response system (13%) or online chat (12%). But, as the complexity of the issue increases, such as with payment disputes or complaints, customers are more likely to seek out a face-to-face interaction (23%) or a real person on the phone (40%).

More people than ever are also using social media to get help from businesses. In the past year, 35 percent reported reaching out in social channels, up significantly from the 2014 survey (23%) and double the percentage from 2012 (17%).

Of those who have used social media for a customer service concern, 84 pe rcent say they have received a response or resolution, up significantly from 65% in 2014.