No matter what industry you are in, improving customer experience is the key to increase loyalty, boost sales and reduce employee turnover. Previous years have focused on product pricing and features for differentiation, but 2016 will shift the spotlight to the customer experience (CX). This year’s strategy is all about attracting and retaining customers by providing exceptional multi-channel service. Here are some trends that will be big in telesales and customer service outsourcing:
In 2016, customers will continue to use the telephone over any other channel to get issues resolved. According to data from a recent customer service software survey, 81 percent of customers use the phone on a regular basis, while 78 percent, 64 percent and 62 percent use email, live chat and FAQs/support portals, respectively. However, this does not mean that phone users are happy about it; they just don’t have a choice. More than half of customers say that they would gladly exchange text messages with customer service reps rather than be put on hold.
However, other contact points and engagement channels are missing necessary data to resolve issues. SMS/text messaging, online chat, forums, websites and crowd sourced answers can be helpful at times, but nothing beats talking to a real human being. Self-service interactions will cut the number of people waiting to talk on the phone to service reps, but this means that people who do end up with phone agents will tend to be upset or have more complex issues.
Voice support still reigns in terms of friendliness and knowledgeability of agents. This is why contact centers will always be in demand. Companies will continue to use onshore and offshore call centers in 2016 to provide 24/7 support at a cost-effective rate.
More than half of customers tend to abandon calls after a minute of waiting. This translates to thousands of dollars of lost employee productivity every year. A study by customer experience research firm Temkin Group found that a company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) and the number of Twitter complaints about being put on hold are directly related. The more “on hold” complaints companies have, the lower the Net Promoter Score. A high NPS is important because it represents more promoters than detractors. Promoters are more likely to buy again, try a new product or service, recommend the brand to a friend and forgive the company in case of problems.
This year, companies will focus on reducing or eliminating hold times to boost their NPS and retain and attract customers. They will look for ways to reduce productivity costs while boosting customer satisfaction. This can be done through partnerships with third party call center providers specializing in the client’s product or market. Outsourcing providers can also help eliminate hold times by deploying more agents, using a more efficient multi-channel support solution and adding the call-back functionality. Call-backs raise customer satisfaction because the customer gets their time back and feels respected.
Customers that fail to get their issue resolved in one channel (chat for example) will be forced to look for other avenues like telephone or email. As a customer, it’s incredibly frustrating to repeat the same thing to multiple customer support agents. Majority of customers want companies to create a seamless support experience for faster resolution. They also want customer support reps to have their latest information on hand regardless of channel. Research firm Aberdeen Group reports that companies with strong omni-channel support retain 89 percent of their customers, while companies with poor omni-channel support retain only 33 percent.
In 2016, companies will address this issue by integrating separate channels. Omni-channel tools that allow customers to pick up where they left off and enable agents to monitor event tickets across multiple platforms will be in demand. Channel integration can be achieved in-house, but many companies will work with third parties to reduce costs and scale up or down more effectively.
Many companies already provide customer support via live chat, SMS, mobile and web. However, few have a way to escalate support tickets from these channels to voice agents. Analysts say that more than a third of inquiries coming from other channels eventually get redirected to phone agents. In 2016, more companies will implement a click-to-call option for customers to request a call-back from any channel they use to contact support. Once a phone representative is available, he or she will be connected to the customer. Companies will seek help from third parties to implement click-to-call functionalities for multiple support channels.
Only a small percentage (3 percent) of a company’s communication with customers happens on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. However, this does not mean that customers are not complaining about their experience on these channels. Businesses that are not on social media cannot respond to these complaints or resolve issues to win back upset customers. Those who do engage with customers gain huge benefits. Global social selling revenue is expected to hit $30 billion by the end of 2015, and this will only increase in 2016 and beyond. Effective social media management and customer engagement requires skilled professionals. Companies will continue to work with third party outsourcing providers in 2016 for customer support and online marketing services.
Majority of businesses understand that customer experience provided by contact centers helps their brand stand out, but few organizations invest in improving the experience. By 2017, experts predict that 50 percent of product investment projects will be directed towards innovative customer experience solutions to improve customer loyalty and retention. A recent Gartner survey showed that companies focusing on experience first improved the collection and evaluation of customer feedback. This requires sophisticated analytics tools that many companies do not possess. Increased investment in the customer experience means increased outsourcing (of IT and customer support services) for companies with limited resources and those seeking maximum savings.
The adoption of self-service tools will increase in 2016 and the coming years. Most customers today expect some type of self-service function on company websites. By 2020, Gartner predicts that customers will manage majority of their relationship with a company without human intervention. This puts the pressure on companies to make self-service customer interactions as smooth and pleasant as possible. This year, companies will leverage customer service tools (in-house and third party) and external services to help customers perform tasks that they want to complete on their own.
As we’ve already shown, customer experience will be the hottest customer support outsourcing trend in 2016. How customers feel about the company influences their loyalty better than the effectiveness of a product or service. Customer feedback varies in quality, however. Some customers give negative reviews without explanation, while others are more vocal about their dissatisfaction. Voice of the customer (VoC) solutions capture customer preferences and opinions and convert them into intelligence. This year, more companies will use VoC tools combined with sentiment analytics, predictive analytics and other tools from third party providers to determine what their customers are really saying.
Companies tend to focus on the volume of calls handled by each agent rather than empowering reps and giving incentives to those that improve the customer experience. In 2016, more companies will provide the right technology and tools to keep agents informed, help them think outside the box and resolve issues on the first call. Customers shouldn’t have to be transferred back and forth from one agent to another because the first agent isn’t authorized to perform a specific action, like giving credits or reinstating blocked accounts. Companies will also use tools to track agents and managers at every level to determine who needs help and who should be rewarded. Companies that struggle with poor customer satisfaction/experience will work with third party call center providers and consultants to improve metrics.
The telemarketing industry has evolved over the years, and the rise of digital media, mobile devices, cloud services and other disruptive technologies are forcing businesses to change the way they pitch their products to consumers. As customers depend more and more on mobile devices, home phones are no longer the main channel for communication and engagement. However, the telemarketing industry is far from dead.
Companies have outsourced their telesales/telemarketing and sales activities for many years, and this trend is expected to continue in 2016 and beyond. The telephone (mobile, home and office) still plays a major role in generating leads and business. Used responsibly, telesales can increase returns from campaigns and reduce the public’s negative perception of the process.
Technology continues to change and disrupt the sales process. There are more sales channels than ever, making it more difficult for companies to distinguish themselves from the competition and attract the attention of their target audience. Information from customer relationship management (CRM) systems, websites, mobile devices and other sources is constantly accumulating, and sales teams are using the data to target prospects more effectively. The key is to turn data into intelligence and intelligence into revenue. This requires analytics tools and leadership that focuses on innovation.Service providers will step up to fill the skill and technology gaps, allowing in-house telesales teams to innovate and drive competitiveness.
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