It’s time for your business to adapt! A new study shows that just one experience with a contact center can permanently shift a customer’s perception of a brand. Furthermore, this can be seen as a giant trend in the business world – it’s no longer enough to be the best at what you do, you also have to make significant efforts (both financial and behavioral) to foster positive consumer relationships. The study looked at over 2,000 consumers, more than 100 agents, and analyzed a wide range of customer journeys. The conclusion couldn’t have been clearer: in 2020, experience drives business growth as much as or perhaps even more than product. Understanding Where the Trend Is Going It’s an age where outrage culture is firmly rooting itself in modern consumer behavior. Today, if a company representative behaves poorly towards the customer, the immediate reaction of many is to voice their outrage. While a big portion of those does so on social media, from a business perspective it’s still harmful if they do it in front of their friends. The Atlantic article I linked in relation to outrage culture makes a point that people forget “scandals” very quickly in a world where we’re bombarded by news every single day. But I’d argue that from a business perspective, it’s much more difficult to forget, and, especially for those affected directly, to forgive. The current research by Qualtrics uncovered that a staggering 78% of people said that just one experience with a contact center representative was enough to permanently change their opinion of a company. This does appear to go both ways, however, with positive experiences counting just as much as negative ones. For that, the study looked at contact centers that made it: the companies that engaged in an active effort to improve their customer experience and turn it into an advantage. Companies like American Express, Patagonia, or Zappos are just a few of the examples cited in the study. These businesses understood the net-value of positive customer support and made a conscious move in that sense. They managed to turn an interaction that most people dread into something that surprises them in a positive way, even going so far as building a brand out of positive contact center experiences. That’s precisely why good products, good ideas, or good business models fail so often. This is also why the call ecosystem is in a continuous shift proportional to the number of platforms where dissatisfied customers can express their anger. You need good customer appreciation ideas for any interraction that goes awry. The Importance of Studying Your Customer Journey Qualtrics also uncovered some very interesting facts about customer journeys that businesses may want to consider moving forward. Specifically: with all the channels present in a contact center today, how do consumers choose to communicate and why? Email. Less time-sensitive journeys often end up being resolved through email, which also has the added benefit of being recorded on both ends. Social media chat. Familiarity with the platform is also an important part of customer journeys today. People use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Twitter messages because they want to have a quick chat – e.g. check on an order status, ask about a product, or schedule an appointment. Social media posts. The familiarity aspect still stands here, but in comes the need for exposure and outrage. Customers choose to vent their anger in social posts for either (or all) of three reasons: They are genuinely angry They want to raise awareness of the issue They want their issues solved as quickly as possible (hoping that exposure will help expedite their resolution) About 75% of easy customer journeys begin in digital channels, 33% of those end on the phone. Phone calls. If we consider contact centers as the last line of defense, as the study proposes, then phone calls are the last line of the last line, so to speak. Customers call when either the social channels don’t exist or have not worked (either completely or for their specific issue). Calls also happen when the journey is difficult, at which point they wish to bypass any sort of filter and just want to get on the phone with an actual human as quickly as possible. 60% of consumers say they prefer a phone call for difficult journeys, bypassing self-serve channels altogether. How Is Your Contact Center Performing? As a telecom carrier for contact centers, we know just how expensive running a contact center can be, and thus the need to make it cost-effective. The telecom bill often is one of the top expenses for big businesses, and in some cases it's the number one drain on budget. We also know how difficult it is to find a balance between an inefficient and understaffed contact center. The Qualtrics study also cites these problems. If a company makes false predictions for the number of incoming calls, it leads to overstaffing issues. The end result is an expensive contact center that drains the company budget. The opposite is also true. When the forecast for call volume is too low, staffing levels will fall short. That’s most often the case when you’re dealing with long wait times, lots of abandoned calls, and overall bad customer support experience. Unsurprisingly, and perhaps one of the most often overlooked side-effects of this, employee satisfaction and retention always go down as a consequence. Their solution? The study proposes adding a metric tracking the lifetime value of a customer (CLV) to the reports. This will serve as a balance to the extensive performance metrics that most agents have to meet. We know from experience that putting too much pressure on meeting key metrics like resolution rates or customer wait time negatively impacts agent performance. Furthermore, when tracking CLV, special attention needs to be placed on seeing how it was preserved and how it was expanded. Negative CLV should be a warning sign that an agent isn’t doing the job properly. Positive CLV should be rewarded in some way. And seeing as call centers are becoming the last line of defense, everyone needs to make sure that line is functioning properly. The Need to Shift Contact Centers towards Customer Experience The conclusion of the study, with which I agree, is that companies need to stop seeing contact centers as overhead. Cost should be optimized so that it stops being a concern when managing one. Instead, the focus should shift towards customer experience. Making interactions with clients more efficient and more meaningful. One interesting fact that didn’t make it in until now: 80% of customers indicated that a contact center agent should call them back to fix an issue if a call ended unsuccessfully. So, another focus should be owning company failures, and owning what you’re not able to provide. Not denying that there was a problem or forgetting about it. If this study shows one thing clearly, it’s that customers are susceptible to shifting their opinions based on contact center interactions. That means every effort should be made to resolve an escalated situation, even after the call has ended. In essence, contact centers are now experience centers. They should be viewed as the reins with which a business holds its brand image in check. They should be managed not as a cost, but as a way to secure the company’s future. Optimize costs for your business by using our Telecom Carrier plan. Fill out the form in the sidebar (desktop) or below the article (on mobile), and talk to us about how you can transform your contact center into an efficient experience center!