According to the Contact Center Satisfaction Index 2019 from CFI Group, a market research firm, customer satisfaction with contact centers has been on the decline in the past few years. With the COVID-19 outbreak, this trend took a sharper slide.
Let’s face it: Many contact centers, including those with well-prepared disaster recovery plans, were caught unprepared in the face of this global humanitarian and economic crisis. Many of them are still scrambling to tackle an unprecedented spike in overall call volume (particularly in health care, government, and financial services), as well as manage staffing resources and the huge transition to the work-from-home environment.
When the coronavirus outbreak hit us, chaos loomed everywhere. Movement patterns of customers had flipped, and workforces got atomized. As they should, safety and reliability became the top priorities for businesses and customers alike.
As customer behavior moved from physical interactions to digital transactions, businesses came under enormous pressure to continue delivering customer services, with quality and compassion. As the customer demands soared in the contactless business environment, businesses found themselves short of capacity and unable to address the emerging needs and consumption patterns. Many businesses pivoted and retooled to adapt to this society-wide shift. But as the outbreak has intensified, and with online buying at an all-time high, logistical delays and related issues have again led to exceedingly high call volumes.
While customers were initially patient and understanding, they’re now realizing this is the new normal, and many believe, understandably, that customer service organizations should have this figured out by now. Faced with long wait times, being routed from one channel/agent to another, having to repeat themselves, and, worst of all, not getting their problems resolved, customers are no longer finding the situation acceptable. They have started hitting their breaking points and increasingly bidding a not-so-fond farewell to companies.
The contact center industry has been facing one of the greatest challenges in its history—a sharp need to augment its ability to serve COVID-19-related customer queries and emerge stronger in the aftermath. As businesses formulated and implemented short-term crisis management plans, some smart companies had their call centers respond by adopting forward-looking reallocation measures.
While some companies have succeeded in re-evaluating their contact center strategies, capabilities, and channel mix (live chat, voice channels, etc.) to support the heavier volumes, deliver quality customer experiences, and gain a competitive edge by earning customer trust, others still seem to be struggling to adapt.
Since customers understand that normality is not likely to be restored anytime soon, they are pinning their hopes on companies adapting to the crisis now, and may not be in a forgiving mood. For instance, Amazon shoppers have quickly lost tolerance for delays and damaged or lost items, and are posting negative reviews to a degree never seen before. We’re all too familiar with what a spate of bad reviews can do to organizations, with or without a pandemic.
It’s a no-brainer that a good customer experience during the crisis will create a positive brand perception and customer loyalty post-crisis. Conversely, ill-prepared, ineffective, or uncaring responses are likely to trigger an equally pronounced negative reaction, which may lead to permanent loss of customers sooner than most companies realize.