Consumer Perception and the State of Service Trends

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Odigo’s Stuart Clarke looks at three years of data, a negative shift in consumer perception and multiple drivers, including many from outside the contact centre, and asks is it time to recalibrate CX strategies?

The CCMA’s Voice of the Contact Centre Consumer 2023, supported by Odigo, has surveyed UK consumer perception for a third year. Each edition has captured sentiment on both sides of the equation with consumer opinion and the perspective of contact centre leaders.

This year’s insights are valuable both on their own, at a time of growing financial concerns for customers, and also retrospectively. What’s the story behind today’s state of service and how it might inform the next steps of an adaptive CX strategy?

Context Has Been the Pretext for Change

Consumer perception has undoubtedly been influenced by accelerated changes in service. From COVID to relative normality and then on to the cost of living crisis.

Customer service professionals have had a rollercoaster to deal with and it’s worth remembering the pressures before examining the patterns in the data.

  • In 2021 the CCMA’s UK consumer survey was completed in March-April after a year of intense change following the first lockdown in March 2020. The sudden need for remote work and increased contact volume as a result of changing shopping habits, decreased face-to-face and rising awareness of vulnerability were highly challenging for contact centres, to say the least.
  • 2022’s data was collected against the backdrop of new digital norms and rising frustration with customer service excuses.
  • This latest 2023 survey samples consumer perception after the briefest period of relative normality out of which the cost-of-living crisis has developed.

There is a new tide of consumer concerns but is there an overarching trend in the CCMA data?

Changing Consumer Perceptions

The quickest way to sum up recent changes is increased choice and increased complexity. Some high-profile universal brands have showcased world-class customer service innovations while others are struggling with limitations: technological, financial and strategic.

As all this has unfolded the CCMA have asked consumers if overall customer service has got better, worse or stayed the same. When you compile the data into 3 age groups distinct trends appear.

  1. Each year positive perception of service decreases with age.
  2. Every year positive consumer perception has decreased full stop!
  3. Neutral opinions are increasing with the overall percentage of consumers who think service is the same rising from 29% in 2021 to 35% and 42% in 2023.
  4. In 2021 and 2022 negative consumer perception of service increased with age while the 2023 data, during the cost-of-living crisis shows that compared to the previous two years the 35-54 years olds have overtaken the oldest age group in terms of negativity.

Getting to the bottom of the why for these trends is complex and multifactorial. There are certainly drivers of opinion at play both within the contact centre and outside of it.

Looking at this year’s research in particular the CCMA’s questions have highlighted both the prevalence of financial difficulties and levels of upset and anger during interactions.

The complete three-year picture does raise the question of digital acceptance and self-service adoption. Older generations are considered to be later adopters of new technologies while some younger generations can in fact prefer digital interactions.

For the past 3 years, by tracking the willingness to self-service across a range of intents, CCMA data does shed some light on how this balances out.

Consumer Perception: the Self-Service Story

When asked whether they would be happy to self-serve or prefer assistance across a range of query types consumer opinion is not clear-cut.

Roughly a third or more of consumers will self-serve any query type. However, over the three years, there is a subtle picture of mixed losses, gains and fluctuation.

There are likely unique motivators behind the uptake of self-service across the different intents. This year, for example, willingness to self-serve for deliveries, which had increased in acceptance in 2022, decreased again.

With complex and hybrid working patterns on the rise, planning ahead is no longer straightforward. This means in addition to current financial concerns some simple query intents are regaining complexity, the value of reassurance is high.

Consumer perception of self-service journeys has of course been impacted by exposure to low-quality touchpoints but urgency and query complexity are strong motivators of consumer behaviour. As is convenience. Self-service uptake may turn out to be the product of a tug-of-war between these factors.

It’s not a question then of whether to offer self-service but rather a question of when and how. If consumers are restricted or pressured into a single pathway to resolution, journey rigidity will not be able to maintain high-quality customer experiences in the face of challenges. Context is king and adaptability is queen.

Looking More Closely at Consumer Perception in 2023

This year not only has negative opinion increased again, more dramatically, positive consumer perceptions have dropped.

It is a difficult time for the UK. Voice of the Contact Centre Consumer data shows 53% find it harder to manage their finances and more than half have become angry or upset during interactions.

The generational differences illustrated in the research further support the overall narrative behind consumer perception.

Stephen Yap, Research Director for the CCMA, talked about the findings in Get Out of Wrap podcast #161. He was candid about the state of service but also offered motivational words of encouragement and understanding to contact centre leaders and decision makers.

CCaaS, Consumers and Complexity

It’s not enough to measure consumer perception. Data should inspire decisions, even if the decision is to stay the course of a carefully planned long term strategy, because ultimately what customers want doesn’t change. As Stephen Yap said in a previous Get Out of Wrap podcast, #120:

“ When it Comes to Customer Contact, People Want Their Questions and Their Queries Resolved Quickly and Painlessly. That’s It… Of Course Delivering That is not Easy. Delivering That is Getting Harder and Expectations are Changing.” 

Part of navigating these difficulties is managing expectations and consistently delivering the basics. Such a foundation creates more space to delight customers with personal touches and agent-led experiences.

However, as contextual changes occur both for customers and those within the contact centre, adaptability is critical.

Experience shows that customers often turn to traditional agent-led channels during tough times. Although more costly they are also inherently more flexible to changing conditions on the customer side. Agents can adapt to complex sets of factors and multiple requests.

Curating these touchpoints maintains a reliable, adaptable service base for changing consumer conditions.

To manage changing conditions in the contact centre, scalability and a high-quality set of self-service touchpoints, for appropriate query types, instils operational adaptability.

Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) solutions provide omnichannel interaction management, automation and a 360-degree customer view for agents to enhance consumer brand perception with more consistent service, despite the conditions.

Although there may be themes in the data there is only one solution, adaptability.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Odigo – View the Original Article

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Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Author: Odigo

Published On: 11th Jul 2023 - Last modified: 12th Jun 2024
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