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What Kind of CX Do Customers Really Want?

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Someone rating customer service
Image: Looker_Studio - stock.adobe.com
Over the last four years, traditional contact center channels like voice and email have declined, as the rise of the chatbot became one of the big trends. At least that has been the conventional wisdom.
 
But customers may not be fully on board with this transition, at least according to a recent survey conducted by Genesys. Ginger Conlon of Genesys presented some of the results from the 2021 survey during an Enterprise Connect webinar this week, comparing this year's findings to the results from a 2017 version of the same survey. Turns out customers in 2021 are more satisfied with voice and email as contact channels, and much less satisfied with chatbots than they were four years ago.
 
The share identifying themselves as "highly satisfied" with email grew from 25% in 2017 to 33% in 2021; for live agent interaction, it rose from 35% to 38% in the same period. In contrast, those "highly satisfied" with chatbots fell from 35% in 2017 to 25% in 2021.
 
Email is a particularly challenging channel for today's contact centers to deal with, said Adrian Swinscoe, a contact center advisor who joined Conlon on the webinar, which Genesys sponsored. That's because customers have a tendency to cram multiple issues into a single email, and the asynchronous nature of email communications can make it difficult to resolve all of these issues on the first contact—impacting one of the contact center's key metrics.
 
"It throws a wrench into the system," Swinscoe said.
 
So what can the contact center do about it? Not much, he said: "Customers' behavior will shift when it shifts." You can "nudge it along," Swinscoe said, but of course many of the drivers for customers' behavior are beyond the enterprise's control.
 
Swinscoe points to the pandemic as an example. Contact centers in all types of enterprises saw record call volumes as people struggled to deal with the various crises they suddenly confronted. This naturally bred high stress levels, and "under stress, we're always going to default to the things we're familiar with."
 
So why the dissatisfaction with chatbots? Swinscoe and Conlon chalk it up to chatbots' proliferation—the more of them out there, the more uneven the quality of any given chatbot interaction is likely to be. To mitigate this challenge, Swinscoe suggested that enterprises do a better job of setting expectations by giving the customer a clearer idea at the outset of what the chatbot can and can't do to help. No chatbot can do it all, he says.
 
It was refreshing to hear such a frank discussion of where contact centers really are today when it comes to aligning with customer expectations, and an acknowledgement that just because a technology sounds impressive and promises benefits to the contact center, the customer gets a vote too—the deciding vote, ultimately.
 
The survey and webinar discussion also held positive messages for the contact center, as well as a data point I found telling: The majority (53%) of CX leaders expect their contact center headcount to increase by as much as 50% in the next 12 months; 11% expect it to grow more than 50%. In contrast, just 21% anticipate any decrease in headcount. It's more evidence to suggest that automation will function to assist agents, not replace them.
 
This is an exciting time to be building the next generation of contact centers. The demand (and need) for high-quality customer experience has never been higher—and the challenge of meeting that demand has never been more complex.

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