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Why consumers now expect service excellence – but won’t pay more for it

Today, good customer service has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. 76% of consumers surveyed by Enghouse Interactive for its new research “The Changing Landscape of Customer Communications” said they would likely stop doing business with a company after just one poor experience. Essentially that’s over three-quarters of your customers you could lose – instantly – if you don’t meet their needs.

Given this stark statistic, what makes excellent service and will consumers pay more for it?

Consumers highlighted three top examples of great service:

  • 57% said goods or services delivered in time
  • 48% rated friendly and compassionate staff
  • 41% that the business responds quickly to any enquiry

Successfully delivering on customer service needs

The key point here is that none of these seem unreasonable. They are what companies should be delivering as a minimum. And consumers are clear on their expectations around them. 50% said they wouldn’t pay more to receive good service, and of those that were happy to spend extra, the majority (58%) said they’d only pay up to 10% more. This contrasts with what businesses think. 85% of companies believe that consumers will pay for better service, with a quarter (25%) saying they’d pay up to 30% more.

Businesses therefore need to understand that good service is mandatory. You need to offer it (for free) to retain customers and avoid churn. As multiple studies show, the cost of attracting a new customer is five times as much as retaining an existing one.

Looking at the three top consumer requirements for great service, how can companies successfully deliver on them?

1. Collaboration to deliver goods and services in time

While the contact centre is the focus for dealing with customer queries, it must work together with other departments to ensure that you resolve issues quickly. For example, when it comes to delivery it needs to collaborate with the logistics team or external couriers.

This requires a seamless unified communications platform for collaboration, such as Microsoft Teams. With Teams agents can instantly contact employees in other departments, such as through chat. That means they can get answers to queries in real-time, while still talking to the customer. The result is that businesses keep their promises and deliver what the customer has asked for, when they asked for it.

2. Empowering staff to ensure they deliver friendly and compassionate service

Customer service agents face increasing pressures. The volumes of calls and messages received from consumers is increasing, while many interactions are now more complex and involved. Agents often have to grapple with multiple systems to find information and respond to customers successfully.

Businesses therefore need to use a combination of technology and training to empower them to better respond to customers. For example:

  • Free up agent time by deploying self-service and chatbots so that consumers can find answers themselves to routine queries. This enables advisors to focus on what they do best, such as showing empathy, to deliver in-depth service to customers.
  • Adopt different metrics in the contact centre. Measuring agents on how many interactions they deal with per hour can prioritise quantity over quality. Instead, measure what matters by looking at customer satisfaction/contact resolution metrics, as these better reflect customer needs.
  • Upskill agents through training so that they are able to deal with more complex calls. Look at developing skills such as emotional intelligence so that advisors can relate to consumers and help them when they make contact.

3. Using technology to respond quickly to enquiries

Customers want you to value their time, answering their query as rapidly as possible. Yet 29% of respondents to the Enghouse survey said they’d had to wait more than a week for a response from a business during the pandemic. Moreover, 70% listed being on hold for a long period as their biggest frustration.

There are multiple ways that technology can help to reduce response times, particularly for more routine queries. These also have the benefit of freeing up agents, enabling them to focus on responding to more complex questions that require friendliness and compassion:

  • Interaction routing and IVR to automatically direct callers to the best available agent, who has both the skills and knowledge to answer their query quickly
  • AI-powered support for agents, such as automatic templates for email responses and access to a constantly updated knowledge base to reduce time to answer and ensure consistency
  • Self-service through the web and chatbots to provide 24/7 access to information for consumers
  • Greater back office efficiency, such as automating interaction wrap-up activities, enabling agents to move onto their next call more quickly.

The positive news from the study is that businesses are already investing in improving customer service with 59% increasing customer service budgets over the last two years. Nearly two-thirds (64%) expect spending to increase over the next two years. Many of the key areas for investment, such as on knowledge bases (highlighted by 34% of businesses), hiring new skilled staff (32%) and training staff in new ways of working (31%), all directly support the requirements cited by consumers.

As the Enghouse ‘The Changing Landscape of Customer Communications’ report shows, excellent customer service is now a minimum requirement for companies if they want to succeed and grow revenues. To find out more about the study download the full report here.