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Nearly half of customer service workers avoid calling contact centers in their personal lives

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Nearly half of customer service workers avoid calling contact centers in their personal lives

When they’re the ones wrestling with a product or service issue, those who work contact centers say they treat phoning an agent as a last resort, according to research released by Lucidworks.

The San Francisco-based firm, which provides what it calls a Connected Experience Cloud based on artificial intelligence technology, gathered responses from more than 800 people across the U.S. and the U.K. for its report State of Customer Service 2021: The Journey from Consumer to Support Agent. Those answering the survey had to be employed part time or  full time in a customer service role, but the questions sought their perspective and experiences as consumers as well as employees.

Perhaps based on their training and first-hand knowledge of customer service operations, more than two-thirds of respondents said they try self-service options before turning to a contact center. Chatbots were the most preferred channel, followed by visiting the web site FAQ page or help center.

There was some difference across generations, however. Those over 45 were more likely to pick up the phone than write an e-mail, for example. Overall, 70 per cent say they use a variety of channels when seeking out answers to their problems.

Despite their popularity, only three in 10 respondents say FAQ pages can help them, and 61 per cent said help centers are sometimes (but not always) easy to use.

When it’s time for them to show up for work themselves, though, customer service employees have to juggle multiple priorities. Just over half said cross-selling and upselling is now part of their job, and 84 per cent attempt to do so when resolving complaints or answering questions.

“Standard customer service KPIs, including average response time and resolved issues per hour, influence the tickets that support agents pick up,” the report said. “Revenue-driving support departments are now shifting these metrics to include the value of selling efforts. Companies must shift the way they think about the contact center—upselling may increase average time to resolution but it could be better for the bottom line.”

360 Magazine Insight

It should go without saying that those working in customer service are human beings just like the rest of us, but this was the first research project I remember coming across that had them offer their opinions personally as well as professionally.

You could argue that agents might be biased towards self-service and technologies that they’ve been exposed to at work, the Lucidworks survey showed they saw plenty of room for improvement. Almost a third of respondents said that personalization and chat tools don’t work well for them as employees, for example. This, of course, helps sell Lucidwork’s more comprehensive product, but the findings are still valid.

What may be the most important part of this research, however, are the findings around contact center employee’s well-being. Despite all the rhetoric about teamwork, for instance, entry-level employees were more likely to say they don’t get enough breaks in the day to have the energy to deal with customers compared to senior management and executive employees. There also seemed to be bigger emphasis on supporting mental health in the U.S. versus the U.K.

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