Seventy per cent of contact center managers feel their teams are providing emotional empathy on calls . . . versus only 58 per cent of consumers. Seventy nine per cent of managers also feel agents are meeting needs in terms of answering complex questions . . . but 59 per cent of consumers agree.
These are just two examples of the differences in how contact center performance is being evaluated, based on research published by Calabrio. The Minneapolis, MN-based provider of workforce management technology surveyed 500 respondents split evenly across consumers and contact center managers from the U.S., the UK, Nordics and DACH to produce its report State of the Contact Center 2022: Empowering the Contact Center as Brand Guardian.
While it may not be surprising that contact center managers would rate their team higher than those they’re serving, the Calabrio study highlighted several other areas where the gap should be closed. These included quick response times, meeting the need to feel heard and understood, and the availability of human agents.
The role of agents in continuing to deliver key elements of CX was underscored by the nearly 80% of consumers who ranked phone interactions as their preferred customer service channel. Managers — probably influenced by ongoing industry conversations about the promise of tools like chatbots — put voice calls third, following e-mail and web transactions.
Consumers were equally vocal about what contact centers should be doing to improve. For instance, 70 per cent recommended more agent training, and 58 per cent said they need to deal with staffing levels. Investing in chatbots or virtual assistants came in at only 16 per cent.
“Contact centers need to offer these modern channels—and they cannot ignore the labor efficiencies of tech-driven interactions. But contact centers need to continue focusing on phone and email—and ensure they’re connecting website data back to the contact center,” the report’s authors wrote. “Empowering agents with omnichannel customer visibility and predictive analytics insights for proactive service leads to better interactions. The strategy here is leveraging tech to support—not replace—the human experience.”
360 Magazine Insight
Calabrio has quantified a number of areas that deserve greater attention in this study — not just the perception gap with consumers but some of the internal struggles that managers are going through.
One in three managers surveyed said agent stress has gotten worse over the past year, for example, and 93 per cent said that stress is already affecting metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT).
I imagine some companies hope that technology will help them address agent turnover and possibly save expenses by pushing customers towards self-service. Instead, this data suggests that technology will likely only offer long-term value if it builds upon the work of an empowered team of human agents.
Calabrio’s use of the term “brand guardians” may be helpful here. It found 83 per cent of consumers see agents this way. As they look at additional technologies to play a role in delivering customer experiences, companies may need to ask themselves if those technologies can truly act as brand guardians, too.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.