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Impact of bad customer service on retailers revealed

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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.

UK customers now contact brands nearly half a billion times every month

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Research has highlighted the growing volume of consumer queries that UK brands now need to handle, and the increasing cost this imposes on companies – estimated at £1.227 billion.

The average UK consumer now contacts organisations nine times per month, according to research undertaken as part of the 2018 Eptica Customer Experience Automation Study.

Across the adult population this means brands need to respond to 463.5 million contacts every month, and the figure is rising.

88% of those surveyed said they now contact companies more or the same number of times as five years ago – with 16% getting in touch more than twice as often.

Increasingly, consumers are happy to embrace self-service channels where they can find their own answers, without needing to contact brands through email, the telephone, chat or social media.

83% already use or are willing to use web self-service systems, which analyse queries and deliver automatic instant answers on a company website, while over half (54%) would use intelligent voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Siri from Apple to gain information. 64% also want to use automated, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots.

Using industry average figures from analysts Contact Babel[1], answering these queries costs the UK economy £1.227 billion across the telephone, web, email, social media and chat channels. This is made up of £440.44m (email), £236.98m (social media), £211.99m (chat) and £338.31m (telephone).

In contrast automated channels such as self-service, chatbots and voice assistants have a negligible cost per interaction once they are in place.

“Delivering an excellent customer experience is crucial to every organisation today. However, our research shows the scale of the challenge brands face, with consumers getting in contact nearly half a billion times every month in the UK,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Clearly many of these conversations are complex and require the human touch, but others could be automated, speeding up the process for consumers and increasing efficiency for brands.”

Demonstrating the multichannel nature of today’s customer experience, on average each UK consumer used email for 27% of their interactions by brands, followed by web self-service, telephone and social media (17%) each, with 11% of contacts through chat and chatbots respectively.

“Reducing the number of contacts by 10% would save over £122 million – enabling companies to focus resources where they are needed most. Our research shows that consumers are open to embracing new AI-powered technologies such as voice assistants and chatbots, providing an opportunity to improve the experience and reduce costs at the same time,” added Olivier Njamfa.

For the research 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed online in Q3 2018.

The full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands is available here.

An infographic on the results is available here.

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

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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.

12 point guide for contact centres struggling with GDPR

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Semafone has created a guide for contact centres to help them comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The guide was compiled with the help of four industry experts specialising in data security, GDPR, and contact centre technology and offers practical advice summarised in a 12 step path to compliance.

Semafone cites research from TrustArc that says only 21% of UK organisations believe they are GDPR compliant, despite the regulation coming into effect in May. Other EU countries are further ahead with 27% of businesses stating they are GDPR compliant, but the numbers are even lower in the US (12%), where companies may not have realised the regulation can apply to them as well.

Tim Critchley, CEO of Semafone, said: “Contact centres are under extreme scrutiny when it comes to GDPR. Not only do they handle huge amounts of personal information, but they also have to take into account factors such as call recording and payment handling, which can present serious and complex challenges when it comes to data protection. In addition, contact centres are staffed by agents who themselves need to be protected under the terms of GDPR. This guide helps contact centres to better understand and meet these challenges.”

The full guide can be downloaded here.

Contributors to the report include:

Simon Martindill, Marketing Director, 360 Solutions

Patrick Cooper, Independent Consultant specialising in data and EU GDPR.

Ben Rafferty, Global Solutions Director, Semafone

Shane Lewis, Information Security Manager, Semafone

Amazon still top of UK customer satisfaction index

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Amazon is still number one in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), published by The Institute of Customer Service.

With a customer satisfaction score of 86.7 points (out of 100) this is the sixth consecutive time consumers have rated Amazon number one.

Eight non-food retailers make up this year’s top 20, and the retail sector performed better than any other boasting an average score of 82.2, against a backdrop of challenges that continue apace for High Street brands.

The food retail sector performed best after non-food retail with an average score of 81.2. Iceland took the top spot for the first time, whilst also claiming the title of most improved supermarket, having climbed 26 places in the rankings in just six months.

Four financial institutions made the top 10 organisations, with Yorkshire Bank scoring highest, followed by First Direct and Nationwide. The banking sector overall performed better than ever before, reaching a score of 80.4 and exceeding the UK all sector average score of 77.9.

The Institute warns that “survival of the fittest will be driven by how well customers are served”. After a steady increase in the first five years of the last decade, the latest UKCSI shows levels of UK customer satisfaction across all brands peaked in 2012/13 and have largely plateaued since.

The UKCSI is the national measure of UK customer satisfaction. It rates customer satisfaction at a national, sector and organisational level across 13 sectors – incorporating the views of 10,000 consumers. More than 30 different customer measures are surveyed – such as staff professionalism, the quality and efficiency of the service, trust and transparency scores, the actual customer experience and complaint handling – are factored into the results. It is published twice a year, in January and July.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute for Customer Service said: “The stagnation in customer service levels should be of concern for the UK economy. This comes at a time when, just nine months from Brexit, we need more than ever before to show that Britain is a great place to do business with and in.

“Alongside tangible financial measures, trust, reputation and recommendation are crucial benefits of a deliberate and consistent focus on achieving high levels of customer satisfaction. The UKCSI shows that customers who give the highest ratings for customer satisfaction – express strong levels of loyalty, which brands will need in difficult and unpredictable market conditions.”

This UKCSI’s top organisations are rated favourably for measures of customer effort, trust, ease of contact, employee helpfulness and competence, speed of response, getting things right first time and complaint handling.

The top 50 rated organisations in July 2018’s UKCSI are:

1. Amazon.co.uk

2. John Lewis Retail

3. = Next Retail, Yorkshire Bank

5. = first direct, Nationwide Building Society

7. Tesco Mobile

8. = M&S Bank, Wilko Retail

10. Iceland

11. Netflix

12. Specsavers

13. Pets at Home

14. = Greggs, Superdrug

16. = Argos, Trivago, Waitrose Retail

19. Nationwide Insurance

20. = Green Flag Services, Jet2holidays.com

22. Aviva

23. = Aldi, M&S (food)

25. = Jet2. LV=

27. Halfords autocentre

28. = eBay, Premier Inn

30. SAGA Insurance

31. Santander

32. M&S

33. = Holland & Barrett, Honda, Kia

36. Caffe Nero

37. = Brittany Ferries, Jaguar

39. = Apple, booking.com, Co-op Insurance, Mini, TSB

44. = giffgaff, More Than, Primark

47. Halifax

48. = Lidl, Subway, Toby Carvery

Conversational marketing

Conversational customer relations to take centre stage in 2018?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

New research for iAdvize indicates that conditions are ripe for so-called ‘conversational marketing’ to drive customer engagement across multiple industries in 2018.

The term is used to describe the use of messaging apps (staffed by both real people and chatbots) by companies as a means of communicating with customers, as opposed to telephone and websites.

iAdvize analysed how different UK sectors are using conversational marketing and the kinds of response and conversion trends they are experiencing.

In terms of conversion rate, the cultural goods industry takes the lead with 27.9% of visitors supported via messaging who finalise their order, slightly ahead of general retailers (22.3%).

Websites selling cultural goods are also the ones obtaining the best satisfaction rate  at 93.9%.

On average, it takes retail agents 11 minutes and 31 seconds to handle a chat conversation, with average retail messaging contact turnover of €52.70 per chat.

However, when it comes to gross return on investment, the transportation sector reaches the highest average turnover per contact at €354.10. It seems the sales agents are within transportation are the most responsive among the sectors studied, with an average 1st response given within 26 seconds.

It’s also the transportation sector that boasts the lowest conversation closing time. After the last message of a visitor, agents end a conversation within 2 minutes and 55 seconds, iAdvize says allows them to help other new customers who need their advice. In comparison, the average closing time across all sectors is 5 minutes and 23 seconds.

Finally, it’s the food industry which is most successful in terms of handling time (AHT) with an average handling time of 7 minutes and 46 seconds.

To read the whitepaper in full, click here.