70% of survey respondents say their organisations compete on the basis of customer experience, with 82% using it as a motivator for improving customer service levels. These were among the key findings of the latest industry benchmark report “The Next Generation Contact Centre in the Cloud” by research and advisory services firm, Ventana Research.
One of the ways to enhance customer service, of course, is by offering more channels to customers. In line with this, the Ventana Research Benchmark report, sponsored by Enghouse Interactive, found that although the average number of channels used by organisations had only increased by one since the last benchmark conducted four years ago, more priority was being focused on digital channels.
While the top three channels of communication remain inbound calls, emails and outbound calls, digital interactions are expected to grow the fastest, with companies having to plan to support additional channels. The most prominent forms of these are video calls, outbound text messaging, mobile apps and web-based chat.
To make customer service improvements, however, businesses first need ‘to know how well they are doing and where their weaknesses are’, the report says. While 63% of survey respondents said they use the customer satisfaction metric as a KPI in their contact centres, the next three most commonly used KPIs – average length of calls, number of calls handled and speed of answer – address operational efficiency.
“In interacting with customers on the ground, we are seeing a switch away from cost-based measurements like average handle time towards a stronger focus on the quality of the interaction and overall customer satisfaction, but these results indicate there is more work to be done in terms of educating businesses and delivering the right technology to support that,” says Jeremy Payne, International VP Marketing, Enghouse Interactive. “We agree with Ventana Research’s view that “every company needs to track efficiency… but doing it at the expense of more customer-oriented metrics can undermine the goal of better customer service.”
The research also highlights the growing relevance of self-service which “appeals to consumers who seek information and take action at a time of their choosing and on their preferred device, most likely mobile, rather than engaging with a person.” A quarter or more of companies, according to the report, now plan to adopt self-service systems in the form of social forums (27%), stand-alone mobile apps (23%) and social customer service (23%).
Ventana Research also highlights the importance of “cloud-based applications, which largely obviate the need for dedicated technical resources in-house [and] can be easier, faster and less expensive to implement than products on-premises.”
Enghouse Interactive’s Payne said: “We are increasingly seeing many of our customers looking to either deploy fully in the cloud or use cloud capacity as an add-on to their on-premise systems. They see the cloud as a great way of achieving enhanced flexibility and scalability and of better managing the peaks and troughs within their own business.
“This is one key element of how the whole customer engagement and interaction landscape is changing today,” he concluded. “More broadly, the Ventana Research report highlights how the evolution of technology, coupled with radical changes in customer behaviour as the move to digital accelerates, is driving businesses to implement multiple customer contact channels. Enghouse Interactive is ideally positioned to add value in this fast-evolving environment, delivering solutions that help organisations provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across each and every channel.”