Is the quality of customer service really fading?

In its annual study of customer experience trends, the UK Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) has found that 34% of people think customer service is worsening.

Their report, Voice of the Contact Centre Consumer, was undertaken through online interviews with 2,000 consumers in March this year. Whilst the document provides a snapshot in time, the reported downward year-on-year trend in perceived quality certainly gives food for thought for the whole customer service and contact centre sector.

There were a variety of explanations offered up by the CCMA’s report, with one being that widespread staffing constraints are conflicting against a rise in demand for quality service. Anyone in the industry, certainly on the recruitment side, would agree that was definitely true as the fight to recruit and then retain the best talent has, and continues to be a challenge for everyone.

What’s abundantly clear is a trend which points towards far more people self-serving digitally to solve their basic transactions and queries. However, if you view things from a different perspective, this has in turn seen complex issues becoming a growing focus for contact centres to deal with as often angry, emotional, financially struggling consumers crave the reassurance of human-to-human contact.

To deal with those complex queries effectively costs both time and money, and with the current recruitment challenges, coupled with high staff turnover across the board, they are factors which can damage businesses, balance sheets, and vitally, reputations. 

Digital vs Human – the benefit of balance

So, what’s the solution, and how can a business achieve great service, offered by great people, but underpinned by the latest technology?

Without a doubt, successful examples point towards businesses which are finding a balance between digital and human customer service. Those who know us here at Sigma Connected, will know that finding that middle-ground is something we push time and time again.

We invest in and stay ahead of technological trends as much as anyone in the sector, but we know that when it comes to innovations such as chatbots, the human touch needs to be added into the process – meaning that if someone can only go so far with the chatbot, then they have an immediate option to receive a call back once the chatbot conversation has ended or been abandoned.

That’s just one example as we see that digital-only journeys can frustrate people and ultimately, risk damaging the brand in question.

Focusing on the human side of that much-needed balance, quality people, and indeed brand protection, our offshore capability in South Africa has been a tremendous success and is very much part of our client offering. Over the years it’s become widely acknowledged that South African workforces have high emotional intelligence and are driven by an innate desire to help people.

As I’ve said, finding a mix is vital, and I’d like to highlight our current human digital marketing campaign which, amongst other messages, aims to make you think about what your current customer service approach is really delivering.

As part of the campaign, feel free to fill in our “how human is your customer service” quiz, the perfect and simplest way to see for yourself if you need to think differently and find the human vs digital balance. You can access the quiz here on our website and the results may surprise you!

Empathy and excellence

To conclude, I’d like to go back to this year’s report.

In her foreword, the CCMA’s CEO Leigh Hopwood concludes by highlighting that “empathy, reassurance and human assistance are more important than ever” and that we must protect our people on contact centre ‘front lines’.

It almost goes without saying how important a statement that is as whilst technology is here to stay, the report itself underlines exactly why the industry must find a balance between a smooth digital experience and the empathetic, problem-solving touch only a human interaction can bring.

The evidence for marrying technological innovation with a traditional human touch is more compelling than ever, and once again, the CCMA’s annual review provides an excellent snapshot of where the industry is, where it needs to be, and questions that must be answered.

About the author

With two decades of experience within the BPO and customer service sectors, Ben Jones is the Chief Commercial Officer at Sigma Connected Group. For further information readers can contact Ben through ben.jones@sigmaconnected.com , or you can also connect with Ben on LinkedIn.

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