BT and Avaya research finds 70 per cent of UK and US consumers think they often know more than the contact centre agent dealing with their enquiry

Seventy per cent of consumers believe they often know more about the products and services they’re enquiring about than the contact centre agent dealing with their call.  That’s according to new research from BT and Avaya which found that 80 per cent of people thought agents struggled to answer their questions and 85 per cent believed they’d been put on hold because agents didn’t know what to say. 

The failure of service identified by the research presents a significant risk to organisations as 78 per cent of consumers say that they only buy from businesses that make it easy for them to deal with and a third believe convenience is more important than price.   Additionally, almost half believe customer loyalty is a thing of the past.

Video conferencing on the up

The survey, which polled 1,000 consumers in the US and UK, discovered an increased use of smartphone apps, video and webchat in dealings with organisations.  Video conferencing seems to be finally taking off, with usage up 100 per cent since similar research was carried out in 2010.

Some 13 per cent of the people surveyed use video conferencing at home every week — double the number from 2010 — and 55 per cent would like to use video chat to have their questions answered by contact centre agents. Webchat is also growing fast, with 26 per cent of people using it to communicate with organisations, up by 36 per cent compared with 2010.

Phone still tops – for now

But the phone remains the most popular customer service channel with 77 per cent of people having called an organisation in the six months prior to the survey. Indeed, 54 per cent had used the phone to call an organisation in the month leading up to the survey compared with 56 per cent for the same period in 2010 — indicating that the phone is holding its own despite the growth of alternative contact channels.  Over 90 per cent (91 per cent) of consumers want organisations to display phone numbers clearly on all channels and 89 per cent say that when things go wrong, there is no alternative to speaking to a real person.

Not easy to swap

As smartphone usage, social media and Wi-Fi coverage continue to grow, half of consumers are constantly changing the way they contact organisations.  Eighty two per cent say they need a range of channels to meet their needs. But many are frustrated with the experience of switching channels as it exposes huge gaps in customer service. In fact, just 17 per cent think swapping between channels is easy and gives them a seamless experience and 69 per cent of consumers say they’re often asked to repeat their account details on the same call.             

Andrew Small, vice president BT Contact, BT Global Services, said: “Consumers are more connected and better informed than ever before, so when they do call — or use another channel such as webchat or video — they expect to deal with someone who knows what they’re talking about.  When organisations fail to connect their customers to the right agent, it’s not only frustrating for the consumer but also for the staff involved.  The solution is for organisations to use technology to ensure their customers’ calls go to the right agent first time and to connect contact centre staff using collaboration tools to create networked experts who can share their knowledge when needed.  This new BT and Avaya research highlights not only that many organisations are failing to do this but also the danger of poor service in a world where consumer loyalty is a thing of the past.” 

New contact centre challenges

Simon Culmer, managing director, UK and Ireland at Avaya, said: “The new challenge for contact centre operators is to build the infrastructure that enables consumers to seamlessly switch between all of the channels they provide to give a truly cohesive and satisfying customer experience.  The most significant factor, regardless of channel used, is that consumers reach the right agent equipped with the right knowledge and tools to resolve their issues in a timely and efficient manner.”

Many well known contact centre gripes remain with 54 per cent of people saying the music and messages on hold often don't provide a good impression of the organisation they’re calling and 93 per cent say that organisations should phone them back when they said they would. 


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