The proportion of people in the UK who believe customer service is worsening (34%) is almost double those who believe service is improving (18%) in the past year. According to the latest research from the CCMA (Call Centre Management Association), which was supported by Odigo, the leading Contact Centre-as-a-Service (CCaaS) provider.
Factors such as the cost of living and energy crisis are fuelling rapid escalations in customer demands and expectations and their need for support. Compounded by increased media attention on customer service, today’s customers are hyper aware of the service they are getting versus the service they expect. As such, contact centres are updating and realigning existing processes and policies to avoid causing a significant mismatch between customer experience (CX) expectations and realities.
The CCMA’s research further reveals that over half of people (53%) find it hard to manage their finances, with 42% of this group believing customer service has got worse this past year. As customers continue to feel multiple pressures on their finances, the urgency of their queries requires faster, yet more complex, resolutions.
Leigh Hopwood CEO of the CCMA comments, “This year we are seeing the impact of economic pressures on consumers, expressed in a downward turn in perceptions of customer service. During these difficult times soft skills such as empathy, reassurance and human assistance are more important than ever in the contact centre. As is addressing the root causes of customer frustration and finding ways to protect and support the people on our contact centre front lines.”
Latest findings further show that in 2023 consumer reception to self-serve, using channels such as FAQs and knowledge bases, has broadly stayed the same for the most complex queries, such as invoices, complaints and refunds. Yet overall, consumers’ willingness to self-serve has fallen for the second year in a row, according to previous editions of the report. Self-serve for delivery-related queries fell from 52% last year to 44% in 2023 and advice prior to placing an order also dropped from 50% to 44% year on year.
Customers, now more than ever, want to negotiate on costs, payment schedules and receive financial help. The result is that traditional ‘quick fixes’ are no longer quick or simple. They require fast responses and complex, personalised care. As such, many self-service eligible queries are moving back into agent territory and contact centres need to ensure their policies and processes reflect this shift.
Melissa Cowdry, Director of Field Marketing at Odigo comments, “This research sheds light on how empowered, informed, and savvy consumers now advocate for their best interests. As a result, contact centres face the challenge to provide support, going beyond mere service, by orchestrating complex care. This can be done through consistent revaluations of existing contact centre processes to ensure they align to rapidly shifting customer demands.
“While confrontations may arise, we recognise the exceptional skills showcased by frontline agents, backed by industry leaders’ ongoing training and support. Promoting and harnessing soft skills will only become more important, empowering agents to continue providing quality service for more complex and often urgent customer requests.”