This article originally appeared in the Sept. issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
While the explosion and diversity of customer service channels have changed our approach to customer care over the past decade, the recent NICE Consumer Channel Preference Survey reveals that while consumers do exercise a wide range of channels, our industry sees them turning to, on average, almost six different channels for contacting service providers.
Smartphone apps, social networks and websites showed the highest growth, but across the board, approximately 86 percent of consumers report they are interacting more often or at the same level with their service providers.
Self-service has shortened time-to-service overall, and self-service channels continue to evolve, with Generation Y consumers (aged 18-30) driving their use. Not surprisingly, the web remains the first choice for all customers seeking help from their service providers. Nearly 30 percent of survey respondents said they consult their providers’ websites at least once a week, making it the most frequently accessed channel. And it is beginning to rival assisted-service (e.g., contacting a human being at a contact center or physical location) across all geographies, ages and industry verticals. In fact, for the first time, the web is emerging as nearly as successful in enabling customers to accomplish tasks as consulting a live rep (65 percent vs. 71 percent, respectively).
However, the contact center is here to stay in most environments, because when consumers were asked what accounted for any discontent with self-service, they responded that web self-service does not lend itself to complex tasks (43 percent) and that it takes too long to find information (43 percent). More than 50 percent of respondents noted that, when unable to accomplish a task via self-service, they turn to the contact center to resolve their issues. In fact, the primary reason consumers seek assisted service, the survey shows, is the ability to achieve first call resolution when interacting with a person.
Self-service preferences and usage continue to evolve. What’s emerging is a portrait of the engaged customer, who expects his or her experience to be consistent and continuous across channels, his or her service providers to be aware of his or her interaction journey, and a live rep to be able to resolve his or her issues quickly and efficiently. These interactions represent decisive moments when customers are literally and figuratively on the line. Yet, having more channels and more interactions across them means more decisive moments for organizations every day.
Now is not the time to do away with the contact center. But it is the time to prepare your customer-facing employees for the decisive moment as they pass from self-service and expect more.
Edited by Brooke Neuman