2022 Contact Center Recap, Part 2: Consumers Want People, Not Tech, Driving Brand Experience

By Ross Daniels December 12, 2022

We live in a world of tech-enabled instant gratification, so it’s not shocking that consumers today expect faster service and quicker resolutions. Knowing this, companies tend to prioritize solutions that promise speed, implementing self-service capabilities such as chatbots or virtual assistants so customers can get support at a time that works best for them – without long hold times or back-and-forth conversations with a variety of contact center agents.

Though there are inherent perks of customers being able to answer their own questions, brands need to consider how these channels impact customer experience (CX)?

The power of human-centered experiences

AI and ML-powered chatbots have gained popularity in recent years, and they show no signs of slowing down. Gartner predicts chatbots will become the primary customer service channel by 2027 for a quarter of organizations.

Yet, data from Calabrio’s third annual State of the Contact Center report shows nearly 80% of consumers still prefer live phone interactions over any other service channel. Though speedy interactions are convenient, are they always thorough? Technology doesn’t (and can’t) replace the power of experiences with actual people – specifically contact center agents, a brand’s primary guardian.

Consumers have confirmed this, saying the human element remains the most critical factor in brand experience and largest component to brand loyalty. They expect a real, live agent to be available when they need one, and they prioritize emotional benefits and human connection over functional ones. Think of your own experiences for a moment – when you’re frustrated with a brand or product, but you get a good agent on the line to help you work through the issue, you’re going to leave that interaction feeling calmer, maybe even grateful for the agent’s help. You likely don’t think as fondly of a brand if you take an hour sorting through the issue yourself across a variety of channels.

CX excels when the agent experience excels

On the other hand, consumers' biggest sources of frustration are experiences that fall short of expectations for personalization and empathy. That’s why it's critical for organizations to prioritize the agent experience, specifically agent training and engagement. Imagine if you get an agent who is also stressed when you call in about a problem, and you have to repeat all the same information over to them. Are you going to leave calm and grateful in this scenario? Likely not.

CX leaders need to ensure agents have a great working experience because it most likely impacts the customer when they do (and certainly when they don’t). Consumers also overwhelmingly think contact centers should prioritize agent training (70%) and fill staffing gaps (58%), rather than adding additional channels like chatbots or virtual assistants.

Consumer feedback also shows the agent skills they want to be developed are emotional empathy, active listening, and problem solving.

We live in a growing digital world, and it’s understandable brands want to capitalize on time- and resource-saving solutions. It’s a slippery slope, however, and one that can negatively impact CX if speedy technology overrides quality interactions. When this happens, it results in poor brand perception and customer loyalty, ultimately leading to a drop in brand loyalty and a hit to the bottom line.

The good news? Powerful technology and human-centered experiences can co-exist. CX leaders simply need to strike a balance and put people, and human interactions, first no matter what.

Learn more in Calabrio’s “State of the Contact Center 2022 report.”

Edited by Erik Linask
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