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Compliance software investments ‘a priority’ for contact centres

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

91 per cent of contact centre IT staff consider compliance software investments a priority.

The research commissioned by enterprise software solutions company, NICE, also found that 97 percent of IT and compliance professionals were concerned about the ability of their organisation to meet today’s compliance requirements.

These concerns ranged from the introduction of new regulations and growing threat of cyber-attacks to the increasing complexity of internal systems.

When asked to identify the most important factor for improving contact centre compliance, 88 percent of respondents highlighted a need to improve proactivity and speed through better mechanisms to detect violations (26 percent), better error prevention (23 percent), improved visibility across different tools/systems (21 percent) and quicker violation resolution (18 percent). 

The survey also found that a quarter of the Contact Center IT staff’s time is being invested in compliance-related activities

A key conclusion identified by the research was that dedicated compliance solutions comprising analytics and automation will help contact centres optimise resources while empowering employees to ensure compliance and building trust among customers.

“Contact centres must protect the interests of their customers when it comes to their personal data,” said Barry Cooper, President of the Enterprise Group for NICE. 

“Ensuring compliance requires contact centres to navigate a maze of regulations, standards and best practices, which are becoming increasingly resource draining for IT and compliance professionals. Businesses must leverage analytics, AI and automation to adopt a proactive approach, uphold the trust of their customers and simplify their employees’ day to day tasks.”

Image by bhupendra Singh from Pixabay

Retail failing at social media for customer service

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Retailers are neglecting social media when it comes to customer service, and are not listening to consumers to drive customer experience improvements.

That’s according to the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, which found that while retailers successfully answered 59% of routine queries asked via web self service, chat, email, Facebook and Twitter, there were wide variations in performance between channels.

Retailers provided answers to 83% of queries on their websites but only responded correctly to 38% of tweets and 50% of Facebook messages.

Performance had worsened on many channels since 2017 – then retailers answered 73% of emails. By 2019 this had dropped to 68%, despite the continued popularity of the channel with consumers, who use it for over a quarter of their interactions with brands.

As part of the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, 20 fashion and food & drink retailers were evaluated on their digital customer experience, alongside brands from other sectors, by testing their accuracy and speed at answering relevant, routine queries, repeating research conducted since 2012.

Questions included asking about ethical sourcing policies (fashion) and allergy labelling (food and drink). Additionally, 1,000 consumers were asked for their views on customer experience.

Fashion (answering 60% of all queries) and food and drink (59%) were the top sectors surveyed, but still failed to respond to 4 in 10 of all routine queries.

The research also demonstrated a direct link between trust, listening and loyalty. 89% of consumers surveyed said they either will stop buying from brands that they don’t trust or will spend less. Building trust begins with delivering on basic promises – 59% ranked giving satisfactory, consistent answers as a top three factor in creating trustworthiness, while 63% rated making processes easy and seamless as key. Just 8% of consumers felt that brands were listening to them all of the time, with 74% believing brands pay attention to their views half the time or less.

“The move to digital has transformed the retail landscape,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Greater choice means consumers are becoming more demanding and are actively seeking out brands that they can trust and who listen to them. While retail brands have made some improvements since 2017, they have slipped back in others, damaging trust and ultimately customer loyalty and revenues. If they want to succeed they need to listen to customers and use their insight. Only those who do this will thrive and stay ahead of the competition.”

RetailAccuracy 2019
versus 2017
Average speed 2019
versus 2017
Web83% vs 70%n/a
Email68% vs 73%10hr 19m vs 24hr 12m
Facebook50% vs 28%43m 24s vs 3hr 34m
Twitter38% vs 50%1hr 56m vs 1hr 43m
Chat35% vs 25%8m 43s 4m 24s
Total59% vs 55%

Speed of response also varied widely between channels – and even within sectors and brands. One fashion retailer answered a tweet in 17 minutes, yet another took 50 hours to reply. A food and drink retailer responded on Facebook within one minute, but needed nearly 23 hours to provide an answer on email.

Overall response times on chat doubled from 4 minutes back in 2017 to 8 minutes this year. Facebook had the fastest average speed of response, at 43 minutes, 24 seconds – over twice as fast as Twitter (1 hour 56 minutes) and nearly 15 times faster than email (10 hours 19 minutes). This is despite exactly the same questions being asked across these channels.

The study evaluated 50 UK brands, split equally between the fashion, food and drink, travel, insurance and banking sectors. Brands were rated on their ability to answer five routine questions via their websites, as well as their speed, accuracy and consistency when responding to email, Twitter, Facebook and chat.

Additionally, 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed on their attitude to trust, its relationship with customer experience and on loyalty and brand reputation. All research was completed in H1 2019.

A full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands to transform customer experience is available at https://www.eptica.com/19cxretail.

AI key to customer service, but performance overrated

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Sixty-three per cent of contact centre leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved.

That’s according to findings of the second annual NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark, a global research study that gauges the changing attitudes of both industry professionals and consumers.

NICE inContact polled contact centre leaders in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The report compares global findings to the 2018 consumer wave of the study, and includes year-over-year findings for the US.

NICE inContact says results reveal that businesses are confident in artificial intelligence’s (AI’s) role in delivering exceptional customer service experiences, but they overrate their own CX performance.

Compared to consumers, businesses overreach when estimating their own net promoter scores (NPS), overrate their own CX success, and underperform when it comes to delivering seamless omnichannel experiences.    

Key findings:

·       Businesses express confidence in AI. The CX Transformation Benchmark found that 63 percent of contact center leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved, and 68 percent of those surveyed agree that consumers want to use virtual assistants to interact with them. Findings show that significantly more US businesses now offer automated assistants / chatbots online, at 54 percent compared to 44 percent the prior year.

·       Business overreach in self-assigned Net Promoter Score (NPS). Compared to consumers, businesses give themselves higher net promoter scores for every method of communication tested. Businesses overestimate most channel-specific NPS by broad margins. For example:

o   Automated Assistant / Chatbot: While consumers award automated assistants an NPS of -8, businesses estimate they earn an NPS of 25, for a gap of 33 points.

o   Email: The consumer NPS for email is -9 while the business NPS is 19, for a gap of 28 points.

o   Text: Consumers give text a -2 NPS while businesses estimate 25, for a gap of 27 points.

·       Businesses overrate their CX success. Businesses are 15 percent more likely than consumers to agree that they make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels, and that they provide a consistent customer service experience across the purchase journey.

·       Businesses understand the value of omnichannel experiences, but underperform. While 93 percent of businesses agree that consumers expect companies to provide a seamless experience when moving between channels, only 24% of businesses globally give themselves an excellent rating on allowing consumers to switch seamlessly between methods of communication.

Paul Jarman, CEO at NICE inContact, said: “We are at an inflection point for AI in the contact center. AI innovations are at their best when paired with the human touch and deployed to address targeted customer and agent experience opportunities. AI in the contact center has the potential to add significant value to customer experience outcomes and operational performance.

“The CX Transformation Benchmark shows contact center leader confidence in AI, and we join them in delivering end-to-end AI capabilities that span the entire customer and agent experience, to empower organizations of all sizes to stay one step ahead of customer expectations.”

NICE inContact surveyed more than 900 contact center decision makers in the US, UK, and Australia. The report presents global findings from the business wave of the research and provides comparative results to the consumer study published in 2018.

For more information and to download the full research report, please click here.

Conversational marketing

Consumers love messaging for customer care… but hate its experience silo

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Consumers love the convenience of messaging but ‘struggle mightily’ with its experience silo, according to a new study.

Conducted by YouGov on behalf of eGain, the survey was based on responses from 1,777 consumers in the US and UK who messaged a business for customer service in the last 12 months.

When asked about their struggles when messaging businesses for customer service:

  • 43% hated repeating information across agents or when escalating to other channels;
  • 28% struggled with the speed of response; and
  • 23% were stumped by the relevance of response.

Another interesting and somewhat expected finding was the higher adoption of messaging for customer service among younger consumers. The survey found:

  • 39% adoption for the 18-34 age group;
  • 32% for the 35-54 age group; and
  • 20% for the 55+ age group.

Finally, younger consumers had a more positive view of messaging as a customer service channel compared to other contact channels like web chat, email, or phone.

  • 37% in the 18-34 age group were more satisfied with messaging than other contact channels; versus
  • 23% in the 35-54 age group; and only
  • 18% in the 55+ age group.

First Direct tops latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Banking provider First Direct has topped the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), with a customer satisfaction score of 86.7 (out of 100).

The UKCSI, published today by The Institute of Customer Service, is produced twice a year and rates customer satisfaction at a national, sector and organisational level across 13 sectors – incorporating the views of 10,000 consumers on 247 brands.

Retailer, John Lewis, and M&S Bank follow immediately behind first direct with scores of 86.5 and 86.3 respectively. High street brand, Next, ranks fourth.

Next recently reported overall sales growth of 1.5% for the last two months of 2018, against a backdrop of ever-growing challenging conditions on the high street. Online giant, Amazon, which became the world’s most valuable listed company last month, takes fifth position.

The Index reveals M&S Bank is the top performing brand in the UKCSI’s ‘emotional connection’ dimension, which measures the extent to which an organisation engenders feelings of trust and reassurance in customers. Three banks and building societies make up the top 10 in a year where providers have been compelled to publish their customer ratings by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The Institute’s research shows a brand achieving high ratings for customer experience (such as ease of doing business with, getting things right first time) and on measures like emotional connection, customer ethos and ethics can engender higher levels of satisfaction, particularly when paired with a customer-centric approach.

The top 10 rated organisations in January 2019 are:

1. first direct

2. John Lewis

3. M&S (Bank)

4. Next

= 5. Amazon.co.uk

= 5. Nationwide Building Society

7. Netflix

8. Argos

9. Nationwide Insurance

10. LV=

The upper part of the index is dominated by retail brands, making up almost half of the top 10 and top 20. John Lewis outperformed other historically bricks and mortar retailers as the leading non-food retail brand. Iceland is the supermarket consumers are most satisfied with for the second time in a row with a score of 83.2, followed closely by Aldi.

Retail food and retail non-food are the highest scoring sectors in this latest iteration of the UKCSI, followed by banks and building societies. Insurance is the only sector to have risen by more than one point, helped by top 10 rankings for Nationwide Insurance at number nine and LV= at 10. Overall, the UKCSI puts customer satisfaction at its lowest since July 2016 – the third consecutive half-year drop.

Twenty-five customer measures are surveyed as part of the UKCSI, including staff professionalism, the quality and efficiency of the service, trust and transparency, the actual customer experience, complaint handling and ethical dimensions. To reflect evolving customer priorities, an additional set of measures reflecting consumer emotional and relationship needs were introduced in this latest iteration of the UKSCI. These include whether consumers feel organisations keep their promises, do ‘the right thing’ in business practices and make them feel reassured.

In the food retail sector, Co-op Food is the most improved supermarket, in line with a 7% sales growth and market share increase of 0.2%. Companies whose customer satisfaction was at least one point higher than the sector average earned average sales growth of 6.9%, compared to 1.5% for those with lower than average satisfaction; showing a clear ROI on exceptional customer service.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, said: “In today’s complex world, it is vital organisations get the basics rights first: efficiency of service, complaint handling and the actual customer experience. On top of this, consumers are placing growing importance on trust, transparency, emotional connection and ethical behaviour. Our research shows there’s a compelling argument for meeting both these types of customer priorities for a profitable business return.”

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.