Key consumer trends for contact centres and CX professionals in 2022
This article summarises the most significant consumer trends from a selection of leading recent CX trend reports. The aim is to give contact centre executives and CX leaders the main points they need to understand what is driving customer satisfaction and customer behaviours in a post-Covid world. The hope is that reading this will help align your CX strategy with consumers’ expectations in 2022.
If you want to get straight to the key learnings from the research, scroll down to part 4 at the end of this article.
Part 1: Customer experience
At its heart, customer experience is simple. Customers want organisations to resolve their issues as simply, quickly, and effectively as possible. But what does CX mean to consumers – and to what extent are organisations meeting those expectations?
Consumers primarily value first-contact resolution, though other factors are also important
Global and UK-based surveys show that consumers want companies to listen to and understand them. They also rank first-time resolution of their problem as most important to a satisfying customer experience.
According to the State of Customer Experience report from Genesys, 91% of global consumers said they were loyal to companies that listened to them and “understood what they wanted to achieve”.
Contact Babel’s UK Customer Experience Decision-Makers’ Guide 2021-22, shows that the majority of UK consumers rank first-time resolution as most important. ‘Short queues/wait times’ is second most important place, followed by having ‘UK-based employees’.
According to the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) from the Institute of Customer Service, 34% of UK consumers prefer “excellent service”, even if it costs more. The same report also shows that 58.2% of consumers now choose a company for one or more ethical reasons.
There is a disconnect between CX leaders and consumers
There seems to be a gap between what CX leaders value compared with what their customers value in terms of customer experience. CX leaders also appear to think they’re doing a better job than consumers do.
For example, the Genesys report shows that 54% of consumers rate first-contact resolution as most important. By contrast, only 33% of CX professional surveyed feel the same. The same report also shows that 61% of CX professionals rate their Voice channel as ‘highly effective’ at meeting customer expectations. Yet only 38% of consumers said they were ‘highly satisfied’ with their experience using Voice channels. This performance gap is repeated across all channels, according to the report.
Part 2: Changing Customer Behaviours
In response to Covid and multiple lockdowns, customer behaviour has changed. In the UK, use of digital channels has increased, although consumers still seem to prefer interactions with live agents.
Covid has increased the volume of customer contacts across the board
According to the Genesys report, the shift to digital has increased customer transactions via every channel. Social media and web messaging volume has increased by 1.6x. The volume of Voice and Email transactions has doubled. Live Webchat volumes have increased by 2.2x, while SMS/MMS volumes have almost quadrupled (3.8x growth).
Contact Babel’s research shows that UK call volumes increased in all industries in 2021. The most popular explanation was that customers “seem to have a greater need for reassurance and to have the confidence that their issue is being solved: a state of affairs in which the telephone is unmatched.” Significantly, more than half of respondents also cited a “lack of functionality in their self-service systems.”
Interacting with live agents remains more popular than non-live channels
Although the UKCSI shows that a majority of UK consumers used digital channels in 2021 for the first time, the most popular digital channels remain those that involve interacting with live agents – for example via email, webchat, social media and text (SMS).
Statistics from Genesys seem to support this. In 2021, 68% of those surveyed had used voice over the prior 12 months, followed by 63% who had used email, 48% who had used live webchat, 37% who had used a messaging app, and 36% who had used a mobile app. Only 26% of those surveyed reporting trying to self-serve to solve their customer service issue.
Contact Babel’s guide goes even further, stating:
Part 3: How CX is evolving to meet this challenge
In many ways, the impact of the pandemic on CX has been to accelerate pre-existing trends around increased consumer use of digital channels. Here is a brief outline of the most important ways CX leaders have responded.
UK companies have increased their investment into digital channels
In the majority of UK industries, most CX investment has gone into digital channels, despite telephone accounting for 70% of CX interactions:
According to Contact Babel, the two main goals of this investment are to reduce costs and to retain customers:
UK companies have improved their complaint handling in the wake of Covid
The good news – in the UK at least – is that customers are more satisfied with complaint handling than at any time since records began. That’s according to the UKCSI, whose research shows that 23.5% of consumers’ complaints were resolved immediately. A further 15.2% of consumers’ complaints were resolved within 24 hours.
These findings again show the importance to customer satisfaction of solving problems rapidly.
UK companies may be getting better at using digital channels
The UKCSI also mentions higher customer satisfaction levels with digital channels, including text, web chat, social media, email and apps.
“This evidence suggests that many organisations have got better at managing transactions and relationships through digital channels and perhaps also that more customers have adapted successfully to different methods of dealing with organisations,” the report says.
Globally, CX leaders are prioritising the more effective use of data
According to Genesys, “driving customer-centricity through data, insights and AI are at the heart of CX strategy.”
Of the 690 CX executives surveyed in their State of Customer Experience report, 39% cited “Using data and AI for customer understanding and personalization” as their greatest strategic CX priority. This was followed by:
- Enhancing data capabilities for real-time insights, analytics and reporting (37%)
- Improving efficiency through greater self-service (36%)
- Upgrading customer data privacy tools and compliance processes (36%)
- Workforce training and engagement (35%)
- Using technology to drive an omnichannel experience (33%)
- Managing the shift to remove working (32%)
- Unifying data to offer a single view of the customer (27%)
- Migrating CX technology to the cloud (24%)
Part 4: Key CX learnings and recommendations for organisations
This section aims to summarise the learnings and recommendations from the reports discussed in this article.
Key learnings from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index
Based on the UKCSI and the other recent research, the Institute of Customer Service suggests the following key areas of focus to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and trust:
- Define and communicate a clear organisational purpose.
- Integrate technology and human intervention in service experiences.
- Develop the skills, capabilities and behaviours to deliver customer experience objectives.
- Demonstrate local relevance and engagement.
- Integrate ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and the customer proposition.
- Develop expertise in data management and cybersecurity.
- Improve capacity for innovation and agility.
Key learnings from the Genesys State of Customer Experience report
Here are the key action points drawn from Genesys’ global CX research:
- Consider increasing CX budgets and headcount.
- Organisations should focus on improving first contact resolution.
- CX leaders should consider leveraging data and AI for customer insights and personalisation.
- Cloud platforms are essential to increase organisations’ ability to drive CX innovation.
- Agent-assisted technology can improve employee satisfaction and productivity, which will in turn improve the customer experience.
Key learnings from Contact Babel’s UK Customer Experience Decision-Makers’ Guide 2021-22
Contact Babel concludes that, while customer experience is a priority for many UK organisations, “most businesses are still a long way from where they want to be.” Here are their key learnings and recommendations for CX leaders to consider in 2022:
- Good customer experience is increasingly being seen as a key competitive advantage.
- Organisations who are serious about improving their CX should consider making it a C-suite function, or at least giving it a stronger strategic focus at senior management levels.
- Businesses should devise strategies to overcome legacy technology restrictions, which are holding them back from developing a single view of customers across all channels.
- Organisations should prioritise first-contact resolution and short wait times, as these are the most important factors for consumers.
- Organisations will need to offer multiple channels to consumers, “especially live telephony, email, web chat and web self-service”.
- Businesses should research which channels their customer base prefers, and invest accordingly.
- Only a minority of UK businesses currently use CX interaction analytics, so investing in this functionality is likely to be a key competitive CX advantage.
- Companies should consider rewarding front-line staff for first-contact resolution and customer retention rates, since these are “two of the most desirable outcomes of a successful customer experience programme”.
- “The telephony channel must be strongly invested in and supported, not only in the present day, but also into the foreseeable future.”
- “The executive team’s commitment to the CX improvement programme is seen as being more important than any business process or technology investment: without the former being in place, the latter simply won’t happen.”
- Businesses should find out more about their own customers’ preferences regarding CX interactions so that CX investments “can be focused upon the areas and solutions that are valued most highly by customers.”
Our perspective on key consumer CX trends in 2022
While we have highlighted what we believe to be the most pertinent findings from the reports we’ve summarised, we don’t necessarily agree with all the conclusions presented here.
For our perspective on what all this means, look out for our next article coming soon:Why your CX could be doomed to fail in 2022.
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