A recent poll that investigated which communication channels British consumers prefer, and those that contact centres offer, has revealed demographic preferences for contact methods. The findings also raise questions about how contact centres are coping with the increased number of contact channels.
Corizon polled 2,127 consumers via YouGov, and carried out a simultaneous survey of 90 contact centre managers in England, Wales and Scotland, to find out about the contact channels they handled – and how they handled those channels.
When asked how they would contact a company for customer, billing or support enquiries, consumers chose across a range of eight contact channels. Phone was the most popular channel, selected by 75% of respondents, followed by email (70%), web self-service (43%), letter (31%), social media such as Twitter or Facebook (4%), fax (3%) and SMS (3%).
When asked which contact channels they supported, the responses from contact centre managers showed that phone was the most popular medium, with 100 per cent support for phone queries. 96% had email support, 90% handled customer requests by letter, 65% offered web self-service, 27% supported SMS requests, 20% handled social media such as Twitter, online forums or Facebook, and 11% offered IM and online chat support.
Over half (59%) of contact centre managers interviewed said that their agents were expected to handle different contact channels simultaneously. Over a fifth (22%) said agents were expected to handle different channels, but on separate shifts. The majority of managers (75%) said contact centre staff used three to five different software applications to handle customer service enquiries, a number which typically increases as new channels and related applications are introduced.
“Each channel increases the complexity of an agent’s desktop exponentially,” said Emma Chablo, Marketing Director of Corizon. “As a result of the demand for new contact channels, desktop environments are littered with dozens of different screens with agents scrambling between them to find the right answer. This is hampering customer service operations, making it difficult for many contact centres to achieve the quality of service customers want.”
When investigating different contact channels, Corizon found differences in consumer demographics. Of the 2,127 British consumers surveyed, 18-24 year-olds were the most likely to use social media such as Twitter or Facebook, over 65 year-olds were most likely to write letters, while IM was most prevalent amongst 25-34 year olds.
Geographical differences were also evident. Corizon discovered that the Welsh were the most likely to use chat and social media for customer service technology with 20% using either online chat or social media such as Facebook, Twitter and online forums, whilst Northerners prefer to write, with 74% preferring email and 36% letters – the highest percentages in both categories. Londoners are slightly more likely to text (5%) compared to the rest of the population (3% average).
Corizon understands the pressures faced by contact centre managers. In previously announced survey results, Corizon found that 60% of contact centre agents felt that technology was failing to provide adequate and timely information in customer service situations and 83% of consumers surveyed agreed. The number of applications necessary to resolve queries was cited as key cause, with a third of contact centre managers stating the increase in applications and complexity was a significant problem.
Emma Chablo concluded: “We hear time and time again that contact centres desperately need to lessen the number of applications within customer service environments. It’s unfeasible for agents to switch between so many applications and channels. Contact centre and business managers need to reduce complexity, yet increase access to valuable customer information. They hit a technology wall at the point they realise implementing new software will simply not help. This is the point where Corizon helps, with enterprise mash-ups that combine complexity to produce simplicity.”