NICE inContact conducted a ground-breaking study that compares how businesses rate their success across more than 10 customer experience channels versus the actual experience and satisfaction that customers report in those channels.

The new research, the second wave of the NICE inContact Customer Experience Transformation Benchmark Study, analyzes how customer service organizations think they are delivering in both agent-assisted and self-service channels including interactions with contact center agents via phone, email, chat, social media, and text as well as through web self-service, mobile applications, and interactive voice response (IVR). What’s more, the research demonstrates a significant disconnect in how businesses perceive their customer service channels are performing, and how consumers actually feel about the level of service they are receiving.

Loyalty360 spoke to Chris Bauserman, vice president, segment and product marketing, Nice inContact, about the comprehensive and eye-opening study.

Why did NICE inContact conduct this Benchmark Study and what were its goals for it?
Bauserman: Today’s consumers expect to be able to communicate with companies whenever, wherever, and with any device, and it can be challenging for contact centers to keep up. This is the first and only research study that compares how businesses think they are doing compared to how consumers rate their actual experiences–in specific communication channels.

By measuring and comparing business versus consumer perspectives, our goal is to help track business priorities and thus improve customer experience overall. With these insights, businesses can reflect on what is important to consumers, review what makes most sense for their contact center and customer needs, and make changes to their strategy accordingly–rather than guessing what consumers want.

What was the biggest surprise from the study?
Bauserman: There are quite a few surprising findings, but the biggest one was that most businesses (57 percent) are likely to increase resources, adding both people and technology, to handle an increased volume of agent-assisted interactions. Even with substantial investments in self-service, consumers continue to value the speed and personalization that comes from a live agent.

What was the biggest takeaway and why?
Bauserman: Across channels, consumers rated customer service 17 percent lower, on average, than businesses rated their own success with customer experience. This should be a wakeup call for businesses that their customer service isn’t as effective as they think it is, and they need to do something about it–especially considering that 70 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service that has a good customer service reputation.

Companies can’t have only one winning formula for customer experience, or one preferred channel. It’s not an exact science, which is why our survey includes a variety of findings that can help them – including what creates positive emotions for customers. When we asked consumers to rank customer service methods from positive to less positive, phone calls with live reps, online chat, and website were all rated equally positive. Businesses need to do their best to understand what is working and what isn’t working for them, and attempt to improve customer experience across all channels, with true omnichannel experience.

What are brands doing well when it comes to customer experience and where do the challenges lie?
Bauserman: It’s important to address the fact that businesses are not just being judged on customer experiences compared to their direct competitors–they are being judged on all customer experiences consumers have ever had, including their best ones. Building a reputation for good customer experience is key to growing and retaining a customer base.

As for what brands are doing well, the survey showed that they understand consumers’ desire for fast action. Both consumers and companies agree that the speed of resolution is a top priority for customer service, regardless of the channel. In fact, consumers expressed that “fast resolution” accounts for 30 percent of channel performance, rating it twice as important as “convenient” and “personalized” customer service (each scored 15 percent). While businesses perceive that they are quick – and consumers agree–both sides rated ‘responding quicker’ as a top suggestion for improvement. Although brands are doing well in this respect, there is still demand for improvement.

In addition, consumers expect to be directed to the quickest path of resolution. Businesses need to understand this and actively work to identify the channels that are performing best for individual needs, directing their customers to the proper channels for first-time resolution. By doing so, they can foster a better relationship with customers and increase brand loyalty. Considering that eight in 10 customers are willing to switch companies due to poor customers service, businesses need to seize every opportunity to make a good impression and create memorable experiences. 

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