• May 29, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

I’m Ready to Move On, And So Are Your Customers

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, contact volumes more than quadrupled for many firms, customer interaction technologies provider Ada reported in early May after surveying its clients. More than half of the respondents said the number of inquiries they received increased sharply compared to just year ago.

But it wasn’t just consumers reaching out to companies. It was a two-way street. Consumers heard more frequently from companies as well, a survey by Mitto, a provider of omnichannel customer communications solutions, found.

In total, 53 percent of consumers said they heard from companies more often, and 73 percent also felt the increase in contact was appropriate. In fact, 58 percent welcomed communication about changes to the business that could affect them during the crisis; 77 percent felt that the messages made them feel like those companies cared about their well-being; and 30 percent felt companies made them less anxious. Very few (11 percent) said they were not interested in hearing anything from companies regarding COVID-19.

But fatigue has definitely set in, and consumers are ready to hear about something else now. Forty-one percent of respondents to the Mitto survey, which was conducted in late April, said they were ready right at that moment—not next week, next month, or later this year—to hear from companies about topics unrelated to COVID-19

“The crisis has been a challenging time for all businesses around the world, and marketers are required to be mindful of how, where, and how frequently they engage with their customers,” said Andrea Giacomini, CEO of Mitto.

“Fortunately, marketers have more technologies than ever before at their disposal to better understand the pulse of their customers.… As we move out of this crisis, brands and their marketers must not underestimate the value of building strong customer relationships during normal times that get tested during tough times,” Giacomini added.

At the same time, consumers surveyed said they were more tolerant of slow communication from small businesses than from large companies. I can certainly relate to that. At the start of the crisis, I was having problems logging in to one of my personal email accounts. I tried to call the company’s support line. The first thing I heard when the call connected was a recording saying that call wait times might be longer than usual. As I sat there on hold for more than two hours, no one ever answered. I eventually hung up in frustration and called again several other times over the next two days, each with the same result.

I’m generally a patient person, but this was just inexcusable. I might expect such bad service from a small start-up that doesn’t have a lot of people or resources, but this is one of the largest phone/internet/TV companies in the world. You mean to tell me a company like this couldn’t set up a few agents to work at home and take a few calls?

Additional data from Forrester Research suggests that frustrations like these might be with us for a while yet. The firm’s findings showed that 76 percent of business leaders expect difficulty increasing customer satisfaction without raising costs.

Companies have made some progress on this front over the past few months with automation. Forrester’s research found that 65 percent of companies began embracing automation during the pandemic, and of those, 61 percent noted improved customer satisfaction and 46 percent cited decreased operational costs as a result of automation.

Nearly half of Forrester’s respondents are using chatbots, with another quarter planning to add them within a year. And they’re working: 76 percent of respondents said their chatbots had a positive impact on satisfaction levels.

I’d like to interact with chatbots, just as long as they don’t use words like coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, Wuhan, co-morbidity, or the other uncommon terms that became part of the vernacular in the past few months. Most people, I’m sure, are sick of hearing them. I know I am.

Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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