Customer service through call centers is on the rise, according to survey results released this week at Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories' G-Force user conference in San Diego. The survey of about 4,500 consumers in Asia, Europe, North America, and the Pacific, found that more than 61 percent of respondents see call centers as doing a better job today than they did three years ago. Twenty-three percent reported experiences that were "significantly better," and 38 percent deemed them "somewhat better." Those positive experiences have a significant impact on customer loyalty, as 75 percent of respondents said they would give more business to a company based on a great contact center experience.
Only 12 percent of respondents said that the call center experience had gotten worse. In those cases 40 percent said they stopped doing business with a company after a bad call center experience. Among those bad experiences, 76 percent reported feeling pushed to use self-service systems, to which 66 percent had a negative response and 76 percent said they felt less loyal to the company or would take their business elsewhere.
The biggest cause of customer frustration were long hold times (reported by 67 percent of respondents), something that can be easily overcome by offering callers the option of a callback. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they would like that option and would use it if given the choice. Other call center sore spots identified included poor automation (with 57 percent of respondents citing frustration with too many prompts or incorrect options); and having to repeat information that they've already given (cited by 52 percent of respondents).
The newest trend among consumers is the desire for more proactive communications by companies, either by phone, email, Web chat, or SMS text message. Ninety-five percent of respondents said they would be receptive to cross- or up-selling opportunities, depending on the context and communication method. Eighty-seven percent would even have a more positive impression of a company after receiving a courtesy call to thank them for their business or to ask about their satisfaction, though only 43 percent reported having received such a call.
"Most companies are measuring customer satisfaction, but that's not enough," said Wes Hayden, president and CEO of Genesys, who noted that although 80 percent of companies today believe that they have a superior business proposition, only 8 percent of consumers generally agree. "In today's marketplace 80 percent to 90 percent of even the most satisfied customers can leave you if the situation is right, so you need customers to be passionate promoters of your goods and services. Companies whose customers are passionate promoters of the brand grow at two-and-a-half times the industry average, and it's all because they have a good product, at a good value, and excellent customer service."
The call center, he said, is the key vehicle that companies have to not only build customer service and satisfaction, but also to differentiate themselves from their peers. But, given the way that the Internet is quickly changing everything in the business world, the next generation of customer service will cross multiple service channels, taking advantage of the Web, email, phone, text messaging, and more. "Clearly, the Internet and the contact center need to come together," said Nicholas DeKouchovsky, head of marketing and business development at Genesys.
"Given the direct impact of contact center performance on customer loyalty, successful companies must take every opportunity to connect with their customers to create a positive experience," Hayden said. "Customer service is improving, but the expectations of consumers are going up as well. As the world market becomes more competitive, the most successful companies are the ones that make the best use of every channel and every interaction. Companies should engage their customers with a well-planned and executed contact center strategy."
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