Overcoming the Digital Age Disconnect
How disjointed communications technologies are letting customers down — and how to solve it.
Sir Richard Branson said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Yet according to our global survey of 2,000 customer-facing knowledge workers and customer support employees, businesses are missing the opportunity in these words of wisdom. The fact is that employees are not being set up for success, specifically those on the front lines servicing and supporting customers.
The majority of these employees are frustrated with disjointed communications technologies, which affect their productivity and ultimately hinder their ability to effectively service customers. Not only that, ineffective technology makes employees unhappy, and, more importantly, makes customers miserable and in some cases drives them away.
That’s the bad news. The good news is CIOs and leaders from customer support and lines of business have an opportunity to use communications technologies to better engage employees and customers, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and business profitability. This article, based on a study conducted by CITE Research, outlines how.
The digital age has raised expectations for customers, but customer-facing employees don’t have the tools to meet —much less exceed—them.
• Customers—96% of them expect their issues to be resolved (quickly) on the channel of their choice. Yet 74% of agents have to toggle between applications to reach a customer resolution every day, which according to a CITE Research study on app overload wastes up to 60 minutes a day. Hardly what your agents want to be doing when a customer is waiting.
Complex workflows and disjointed communications frustrate customer-facing employees, affecting their professional and personal lives.
• 75% of agents and other customer-facing employees say when communications technologies hinder productivity, they get unhappy at work; and half say this makes them more likely to be rude to coworkers, friends, and family.
This creates a ripple effect. Customers become frustrated when their issue isn’t resolved quickly—and the repercussions for businesses are serious.
• 9 in 10 employees agree disjointed communications technologies negatively affect workflow and job satisfaction—and this in turn impacts customer satisfaction and the bottom line.
• Customers have stopped using a product or service four times, on average, in the past year due to a bad customer service experience.
IT, customer service, and business leaders need to see the light: There is a direct connection between employee and customer engagement.
• Companies need to rethink their business and technology strategies to deliver seamless experiences for both employees and customers and drive greater customer satisfaction and business profitability.
• The vast majority of employees (92%) say a seamless communications and collaboration platform would make it easier to keep customers happy, improve customer satisfaction scores, and improve both the employee and customer experience.
Sky-high Customer Expectations
It’s a simple fact: Customers today expect a lot from brands, and the companies that best meet those expectations are going to thrive in today’s digital economy. Those that don’t will be left behind. So, what key customer service expectations should you prioritize?
95 % Friendly and knowledgeable agents - The No. 1 expectation is, no surprise, issue resolution. This is a near-unanimous opinion in the global survey; virtually all of those polled said this was the most important function of customer service and the basis for a great experience.
94% Not have to repeat information across channels - Customers’ second-most important expectation for the service experience relates to speed and the ease with which issues are resolved. In other words, customers don’t want to get frustrated trying to reach the right person who can help them—and this includes figuring out how to contact customer service.
72% Reach agents via channel of choice - Regarding technology expectations, customers want to reach out using the channels of their choice. The days of relying primarily on phone calls and email are over. In the digital age, social media, live chat, in-app messaging, communities, and video conferencing—to name a few—must all function seamlessly as customer support channels.
The Gap Between Expectation & Reality
Customers have high expectations for their support experience, the support agent, and the communications technologies used. And brands aren’t delivering against these expectations.
The simple reality is: Today, brands can’t bank on customer loyalty.
When customers receive poor service, they won’t think twice about moving on. The data shows that customers have stopped doing business with brands an average of four times in the past year after a bad customer service experience.
While reasons for leaving a brand vary, 41% cited their dissatisfaction with the need to repeat themselves over and over as they were passed from one representative to another, and 88% said they hated repeating themselves when interacting through multiple channels.
There’s also the issue of negative social media and online reviews. One recent study shows 92% of dissatisfied customers in today’s digital age are more likely to air their grievances in public forums and social networks, hurting a company’s brand and impacting overall market and customer perception.
Communications Friction Impacts Employee Productivity
In order for companies to provide exceptional customer service, employees need to be empowered with effective communications technologies. Even the most knowledgeable customer-facing employees can’t overcome technology issues that don’t allow them to quickly access needed customer information that’s dispersed across multiple apps.
Today, 74% of customer-facing employees say they have to toggle between different applications to access the information they need to resolve customer issues quickly. They are faced with having to sort through siloed data and communicate through multiple channels to resolve customer problems.
What’s more, these challenges aren’t just reserved for customer interactions; they also apply to collaboration with coworkers. For complex issues, agents often need to consult with colleagues. Yet 70% report they have to leave the customer communication app to consult with coworkers —increasing customer wait times and time to resolution.
What service agents need
-Data at their fingertips so customers don’t have to repeat the same information across channels.
-Help quickly from peers to resolve customer issues.
What service agents experience
-67% don’t have any historical data about the customer and their previous interactions.
-63% are not aware of customer interactions on other channels.
-66% have difficulty pulling in an internal expert to help resolve a customer issue.
-64% can’t seamlessly add a coworker to the customer communication channel.
Engage Your Employees
When companies think about engaging employees, most think about free lunches and ping pong tables—not technology and whether it supports a productive, effective employee experience. But technology is an essential part of engaging employees, and deficiencies in this area affect companies in ways many IT, customer support, and business leaders are not considering.
The majority of agents—75%—reported being unhappy at work when the tools they use to communicate hinder productivity. The negative effects of these disjointed workplace communications apps do not simply disappear once agents clock out. Half were self-aware enough to understand that their work frustrations bled into their professional and personal lives, often making them short-tempered with coworkers, friends, and family.
Three in four employees agree, companies prioritize the employee experience with perks, not with communications technologies. Digital transformations prioritize the customer experience – not the employee experience.
The Customer Letdown
It often takes a village to solve customer issues. Collaboration is a crucial ingredient to success, yet when ineffective communications tools do not let agents easily connect with internal experts to find answers, customer service is diminished.
Employees want to support customers, but they don’t have the right tools or information to get answers quickly or easily. Nearly 80% of agents have to put customers on hold every day. Handcuffed by these technological shortcomings, a similar number of agents—77% — have to put customers, who expect rapid resolution of their issues, through longer-than-needed service times.
Everyone is a customer with an issue at some point, so most agents feel it keenly when technology prevents a great customer experience and leads to lost business or complaints on social media. In many cases, more seamless workflows and effective communications technologies could address customer issues.
Rethink The Status Quo
Enabling better communications and collaboration for customer-facing employees is a challenge with realistic, workable solutions. The employee experience is increasingly a major focus for many companies, but employers need to see the larger equation.
Giving agents the tools they need to succeed starts with business, IT, and contact center leaders shifting their mindsets and evolving their thinking. Companies are following workplace trends and offering engaging perks, but 75% of employees felt their employers were prioritizing those programs over communications technologies.
This must change for companies that want to find and keep the best employees and earn long-term customer loyalty. As companies strike a better balance between their digital transformation investments in customer and employee engagement, they will begin to reap the rewards.
Boost Customer Satisfaction & The Bottom Line
Employees may see the benefits of effective technology, but too often business, IT, and contact center leaders don’t grasp that ineffective communications tools have a significant impact on workplace satisfaction. Virtually all employees—88%— agree that poor tools make for equally poor workflow, and on-the-job happiness suffers for it.
The other byproduct of frustrated employees may not be as intuitive, but is equally clear: Low satisfaction in the workplace also harms customer satisfaction. Richard Branson’s axiom rings true for 89% of employees, who agree that unhappiness at work is inevitably passed on to customers, which, in turn, impacts a company’s bottom line.
Leaders must understand how current technology investments limit employee productivity, and consequently, harm their business. Investing in employees delivers synergistic benefits that will improve happiness for both employees and customers, driving greater profitability and long-term loyalty.
The Employee & Customer Engagement Equation
Traditionally, businesses think about employee and customer engagement strategies as two separate areas, owned by different stakeholders. This siloed approach creates barriers within the organization that are difficult to tear down. But the status quo isn’t sustainable. Businesses need to create a seamless workflow connecting both employees and customers and driving greater engagement.
According to the overwhelming majority of employees (92%), the solution to these challenges is an integrated communications and collaboration platform that lets them navigate between all the ways they communicate with coworkers and customers. Such a solution would unlock the ability to solve customer problems swiftly by making it easy to manage customer interactions across all channels and extend customer support across the organization.
It also appeals to the C-suite, who see such technologies as a way to solve one of their biggest challenges with customer-facing employees: Retention. Over half of CXOs (52%) agree that employees would be happier and stay longer with access to a seamless communications platform.
Employees and customers have essentially the same expectation: They both want and need a seamless communications experience that meets their needs quickly. Their reasons for wanting that frictionless experience are different, however. Employees want to be as productive as possible in serving customer needs quickly; customers want to be able to get speedy service, on any channel, and not have to repeat information, wait on hold, or be transferred to multiple different agents.When companies satisfy the communications preferences of both employees and customers, employees are empowered to deliver quality service in real time on customers’ channel of choice. And that translates to happier employees and customers, boosting the bottom line.