Consumers Call for Smarter Contact Centers

Seventy percent of consumers believe they often know more about the products and services they’re enquiring about than the contact center agent dealing with their call. That’s according to new research from BT and Avaya, which found that 80 percent of people thought agents struggled to answer their questions and 85 percent believed they’d been put on hold because agents didn’t know what to say.

The failure of service identified by the research presents a significant risk to organizations, as 78 percent of consumers say that they only buy from businesses that make it easy for them to deal with and one-third believe convenience is more important than price. Additionally, almost half believe customer loyalty is a thing of the past.

The survey, which polled 1,000 consumers in the U.S. and U.K., discovered an increased use of smartphone apps, video and chat in dealings with organizations. Video conferencing seems to be finally taking off, with usage up 100 percent since similar research was carried out in 2010. Some 13 percent of the people surveyed use video conferencing at home every week — double the number from 2010 — and 55 percent would like to use video chat to have their questions answered by contact center agents. Chat is also growing fast, with 26 percent of people using it to communicate with organizations, up by 36 percent compared with 2010.

But the phone remains the most popular customer service channel, with 77 percent of people having called an organization in the six months prior to the survey. Indeed, 54 percent had used the phone to call an organization in the month leading up to the survey compared with 56 percent for the same period in 2010 — indicating that the phone is holding its own despite the growth of alternative contact channels. More than 90 percent of consumers want organizations to display phone numbers clearly on all channels and 89 percent say that when things go wrong, there is no alternative to speaking to a real person.

As smartphone usage, social media and Wi-Fi coverage continue to grow, half of consumers are constantly changing the way they contact organizations. Eighty-two percent say they need a range of channels to meet their needs. But many are frustrated with the experience of switching channels as it exposes huge gaps in customer service. In fact, just 17 percent think swapping between channels is easy and 69 percent of consumers say they’re often asked to repeat their account details on the same call.

This survey points to the need for up-to-date contact center solutions that provide a seamless customer experience across communications channels. Improved data flows and greater agent training could also help companies improve customer interactions.