08 October 2015

Are your service users monsters?

Have we created a monster? Hand a service user a smart phone and they have the power of the social, located internet in the palm of their hand. They use more rather than less channels – as they move from apps, to the web, to the physical organisation, ring the contact centre and then tweet their dissatisfaction on social media.

As we get more and more people armed with these technologies, the way that we consume things starts to change. We aren’t really omni-channel, we are goal directed – and we use the tools at our finger tips to get us to our goals. We just want things to be easy, personalised and seamless.

Busy autonomous service users, super-charged by smartphones and social media, still want what people have always wanted.

‘Ease’ and ‘convenience’ top wish lists according to the ‘Autonomous Customer’ research we did in partnership with Avaya earlier this year. This research sampled 5,500 customers across ten global markets. They felt that they were having to work very hard when dealing with organisations. 88% said they would willingly do business with an organisation that made things easy for them and there was a 30% increase in the last two years in people valuing convenience above price (in both the UK & US).

Service users dream of an easy life

Whether they are online or in store, service users want organisations to make life easy for them. Online, this is about ensuring that the website is user friendly and they can easily achieve their aim; if public sector services online are to be embraced by the British public, organisations need to ensure that their network infrastructure can flex up and down to meet the demand.

Ensuring staff have access to the same information so that they can create better and more personalised experiences can start to blur the lines between the digital and physical channels.

Real-time response is a reality with social media

Service is still a critical factor and where it is increasingly open to scrutiny is in the realms of social media. According to the ‘Autonomous Customer’ research, some 45% of people globally have commented on social media via their smartphone about customer service they have just received.

Our ‘Serving the Social Customer’ research done earlier this year (a snapshot across 13 brands in six vertical sectors) we found that forums accounted for 84% of total social media interactions with organisations. These now make up just 2%. There are still some notable and very active exceptions like TripAdvisor for the travel sector, retailer technical help sites and community sites like Mumsnet and NetMums. But consumers are moving on platforms that deliver more instant responses and real-time customer service such as Facebook and Twitter.

According to the ‘Autonomous Customer’ research, one in six has already used these channels to make a complaint. 70% of consumers said they would expect a response to a social media comment made to an organisation within 15 minutes – which is a challenging service level agreement to meet and requires customer service teams to have the resourcing, escalation, service level agreements and back end system integration that it requires.

Businesses must adapt to the omni-channel customer

The rise of social media is just part of the trend towards ‘fragvergence’. As we open up more channels through more devices, we potentially also increase complexity. The more doors we open into our organisations, the more corridors there need to be to connect them all together. 81% of autonomous customers feel that organisations should always offer different channels to meet their needs, with many wanting the option to switch between phone, email, web chat and social media when dealing with agents.

Our research also highlights that as video culture continues to grow and video becomes more part of our daily lives, there is growing interest in video-chat for customer service and engagement. In fact, 63% would like to use Skype to contact organisations, and half of UK consumers would like to video-chat with organisations to discuss queries and services.

However, less than one in three autonomous currently agree that organisations make it easy to switch between different channels. Channel blindness is still a significant issue as the organisation and digital channels are still often run as separate unconnected entities. Worse still, the social media team probably don’t take phone calls or link into webchat.

Service users don’t see channels – how do we make their experience journey as connected as they are?

Dr Nicola Millard, Head of Customer Insight & Futures, BT Global Innovation Team.

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