The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had tremendous impacts on the ways we work and the ways we interact on a global scale. As vaccines roll out in different countries, some aspects of life will go back to the way they were, while others will be changed irrevocably. One is that even I, an avowed extrovert who relishes water cooler chit chat and cubicle tchotchkes, may never go back to working in an office five days a week. Another is that service will never be the same.
In our latest customer service research, Resolution Revolution: Customer service insights report, conducted by Savanta, we learned that 60% of business respondents believe the pandemic will have long-term consequences for service, including the number of channels on which organizations provide service and quality of service across those channels.
These changes, which COVID-19 accelerated, are contributing to the revolution currently taking place in the customer service space – a revolution all about delivering resolutions, no matter how a customer chooses to engage.
There are four major shifts contributing to this resolution revolution:
- Expanding channel options
- Measures of success are changing
- A rise in self-service adoption
- Dominance of digital channels
Expanding channel options
Customer service providers have been striving to provide service on more channels for a few decades now. At first, the focus was on multi-channel service: moving from only in-person/agent-assisted phone service to offering email and interactive voice response. So many companies were offering service on two or maybe three channels. As channel choices started to grow – and continue to increase – the focus shifted to omni-channel service. The ultimate goal of omni-channel is to provide consistent, high-quality service across any channel customers may use for interactions. In 2019, 55% of business leaders surveyed said they provide omni-channel service. In 2021, we saw that figure jump to 68% – a 13% jump in two years!
Not only are we seeing a greater number of organizations providing omni-channel service, but of those that do, they are also supporting a greater number of channels – 49% provide service on four to six channels, and 21% provide service on more than seven channels. In addition to the number of channels on which they provide service, 57% of business respondents think within two years they’ll be providing service on a channel that doesn’t yet exist. And yet, 80% of businesses admit that the quality of service varies based on the channel through which a customer makes contact.
Measures of success are changing
As organizations expand service channel offerings, they are also changing the ways they measure success. Regarding both customer satisfaction and agent productivity, first call resolution (FCR) is becoming increasingly important. As a measure of satisfaction, FCR is the third most popular measure after customer service satisfaction and customer satisfaction scores. Thirty percent (30%) of businesses use FCR to measure productivity – and for business leaders, it is the top measure of productivity. Forty-one percent (41%) of leaders rely on FCR above all other measures to indicate the productivity of their customer service teams.
Why is FCR on the rise? It demonstrates the emphasis around resolutions that is sweeping the customer service industry. It’s not just about delivering service that’s speedy – it’s about getting customers the answers and solutions they need. With this channel explosion that’s occurring and the increasing dominance of digital channels, I also think we will see FCR become commonly known by its alternative meaning: first contact resolution. It’s not just about resolving a customer inquiry at the first call but, rather, resolving it at first contact – regardless of which channel a customer chooses to use.
A rise in self-service adoption
One of the biggest shifts in the service space is the move toward self-service. While self-service options are not new, they’ve already gained more popularity and more credibility when wait times for agent-assisted channels skyrocketed during the pandemic. With the abundance of channel options available, many customers still gravitate toward the phone. Why? Well, we found out that 50% of customers still believe the phone is the only effective way to solve their issues.
We are seeing a change of heart around self-service though. Eighty-two percent (82%) of all customers surveyed said they were willing to use self-service when given the option. And among younger generations, self-service is a preferred channel. For millennials and Gen Z, more than 30% of these populations would always use self-service. And since the pandemic forced so many customers to seek alternative modes of contact besides the phone, 45% of customers are more likely to use self-service than they were before.
Dominance of digital channels
Self-service is one channel that’s starting to take greater hold, but other digital channels, including messaging, social media, and SMS, are also on the rise. Sixty percent (60%) of business respondents agree that COVID-19 demonstrated the need to provide digital-first service. And to support these digital channels, we will see 57% of businesses increasing their investment in self-service and automated customer service technologies over the next two years.
The pandemic shone a light on the shortcomings of service on many of the alternative channels that businesses provide. And more than two-thirds of customers think businesses need to improve the quality of service they provide on channels other than the phone. Additionally, 45% of customers found these alternative digital methods to be more convenient. This presents a huge opportunity for businesses to intercept and triage many inquiries through more cost-effective channels and minimizing the volume of calls that reach an agent – which will, in turn, give agents more time to focus on the most complex inquiries that truly require their time and attention.
Are you ready for the revolution?
Many organizations were unprepared for the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Switching to a fully remote workforce, supporting massive volumes of inquiries, and big upticks in the numbers of customers attempting to interact through alternative channels caught many organizations by surprise, and they scrambled to try and adapt to the new reality. The good news? Many have now started to evolve into more digitally led and omni-channel service providers. The not-so-good news? Customers are going to continue using alternative channels and want to receive the same quality of service on these channels, especially since they promise even greater convenience.
You can’t stop a revolution. So, are you ready for the resolution revolution?