Transcript for Tim Passios on Interactive's Customer Service Experience Study
Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights. This is Jim Burton. And I am joined today by Tim Passios, Vice-President of Solutions Marketing at Interactive Intelligence. I was fortunate enough to be at Interactive Intelligence’s conference last week, and got to see a presentation on the customer survey experience study that Interactive conducted. Tim is here to talk with me about it.
So Tim, as we get started, why don’t you give us a little bit of background about the study, the countries that were involved, and the number of people that participated.
Tim Passios: Absolutely, Jim, and it was good seeing you last week, by the way. I’m glad you and the rest of your crew from UCStrategies were there. This customer service experience study was conducted across several different countries. We had about 1,500 participants worldwide from countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Sweden, U.K., and the U.S., of course.
We conducted it just early this year, right about the spring of 2014, and the goal was to ask questions around two basics ideas. What do customers want in a great customer service experience, and then what customers and companies want from technology behind that great customer experience? This is the second year that we have done this now. We took the same approach as we did last year, which is, we want to not only identify what customers want, but also what the providers think the customers want.
So we went to organizations and asked them the similar questions, and tried to identify what they think is most important to their customers and then match them up to see if they are actually meeting what was necessary.
Then to give the audience a little more details about some of the questions that we asked, we were asking things about what channel preferences do they have? What are things that frustrate you the most in your customer survey experience? What about your requirements when you are on a mobile device; your social media usage? What about that agent experience? What do you expect from that agent’s ability to handle your interactions? What happens when they transfer you, put you on hold, and things like that?
And then we also wanted to find out who, in their opinion, at least from the customer’s opinion, did they think were the best in the industry? And I always think those results are pretty interesting to look at.
Jim: We’re going to put a link to the survey, which can be found on the Interactive site so people can actually look at some of the survey results and go along with us. I will let everyone know that the order that Tim and I will be talking about isn’t necessarily the order of the report. So you may want to pause from time to time to find the section in the report that kind of addresses this.
So let’s get started, Tim. And since I did hear this presentation, I have some questions that I think would be of a lot of interest to our listeners. Let’s start off with the overall expectations of customers versus professionals, and which they value most in the customer interaction.
Tim: That’s a really good place to start. We asked our customers and the organizations, or what we refer to as professionals here, the exact same question: which do you value most in customer service interaction?
And the results were pretty identical. The customers have had their opinions and the professionals lined up pretty much in line with them. But there are some notable exceptions. First of all, at the top of the list for both of them, they felt that a timely response was most important for that customer service interaction. Both the customers and the professionals felt neither wants to wait very long for the ability to interact with an agent.
The second on the list was a knowledgeable agent. Now here is where we get a little bit of differentiation. The customers said, yeah, that’s second on the list; it was actually higher than what the professionals said. The professionals were like, “a knowledgeable agent is probably not as important as what the customers think.”
And it flip-flops when it comes to professionals. Customers, at least in this particular question, said yeah, professionalism is great, but not as much as I might think. Meanwhile, the companies or the professionals thought that yeah, we want agents to be as professional as possible.
That one result there was kind of interesting because a little bit later in our discussion we are going to come back to this point about professionalism. And I will draw some conclusions on that as well.
Jim: Well, the next thing I think, we all have these experiences of being frustrated when you are interacting… so what were your findings about what was the most frustrating for people?
Tim: Jim, this is a really good one to discuss right here because I think this is one of those areas where, as a customer, you always want to voice what’s frustrating you the most. And right at the top of the list, which is pretty similar to what we had last year, were two items tied for first place. The first one which was, you can’t understand the agent on the phone, which to me is interesting. Either contact centers have not gotten the message over the past couple of years about outsourcing and have not started pulling back in those agents. And if they have, then that memory of that poor experience when outsourcing was the big thing is still resonating at the top of the list with the customers. And the second one that made the top of the survey response that tied for first was “agent is condescending or demanding.” So clearly we don’t like it when agents are belligerent to us with the customer service.
Now Jim, what is interesting about this is we have several different results here that tell us by priority what customers think are most. And by a clear landslide, those were the top two tied for first reasons. The other ones fell in line there.
But when you take that information and you look at the next part of that question, which is okay, so you have identified there were several items that were frustrating to you, but which of those actually cause you to look for an alternative business or service provider where I am ready to turn my business elsewhere?
So remember we had two items tied for the top as the most frustrating for customers. But of those two, if the agent is condescending or demanding, that one clearly causes people, by a large majority, to move to another business or product service provider.
So you can have agents that perhaps don’t speak the best English, but you are probably okay because that is not necessarily going to cause you to lose that customer. As a matter of fact, when you can’t understand an agent on the phone that ranked fourth in list of things that actually cause customers to turn their business elsewhere. So I thought that was interesting.
Jim: Yeah, that is interesting. But it also then begs the question, if you have got the most frustrating experience, what are the issues with when you get exceptional service? How do you deal with that? Do you tell friends and family? What were your findings?
Tim: Yeah, I like this one because I want to know what is going to happen. And so really, the findings were not any different than what you would expect. The results show that if a customer had a positive experience, they are definitely going to tell. Two-thirds of those respondents came back and said yeah, we are definitely going to tell others – friends and family. And then the other part of that was so you are definitely telling other people. But did that positive experience really change the customers’ behavior at all. And yeah, of course, the results still said yes, it certainly did change their behavior. And here are three areas in which it changed. First, at the top of the list, they would tell their family or friends about the company and the great experience they had. But the second one was they either increased the purchase with this company or they became even more exclusive with them and said I only purchase with this company now versus any others in the industry. So I thought that was very telling. But it backs up what I think we have known all along. If you provide a fantastic customer experience, then you are going to build brand loyalty, customer advocates, and not only are they going to tell their family, friends, and others about you, but they are also going to devote their business purchases to your business in spite of others hopefully.
Jim: Well the next question is around which industry provides the best customer experience. And I think what is important here is to not only talk about who provides the best, but who provides the worst.
Tim: Do we have to go there, Jim?
Jim: We do.
Tim: Okay. So in hopes of not offending our audience listeners here, here are the results. And I don’t think it is really going to surprise you because if you put yourself in the shoes of yourself as a consumer and you really think about this, the results are pretty much on target. So at the top of the list, the winners on the list in a clear landslide, 61 percent of the audience responded and said hotels were right at the top of the list. So if you’re in the hospitality industry you are doing a great job.
Looking a bit further down the line, still at the top, online retail stores was second followed by banks. And third and fourth, technology providers. And just so you know, this is pretty much consistent with the results that we had last year. Those companies continued to do a fantastic job providing great customer experiences for their companies.
Now we went through and we looked at insurance companies was on the top of the list. About middle of the way through, credit card companies. Airline companies still towards the bottom, not doing so well. And then here is where we probably get some people upset or we confirm what they already knew. The bottom four, I will go from – actually, I guess the bottom four would include in fourth place airlines, third place healthcare providers, second place utility providers, and then the very top of the bottom of the list would be no surprise, government agencies.
Jim: All of that is consistent with my personal experience. I can tell you that. So let’s move on to what channels do the users prefer, breaking it out by both consumer and professional, because they both look at things a little bit differently.
Tim: You’re right Jim, they do. And I think it is really important for our listeners, obviously if you’re in the customer service arena, that you understand that, at least based off these results and again they are consistent with what we saw last year, what you think is the most important channel for your customers is not what they think is the most important.
Where we do see alignment is right at the very top, both customers and organizations that we surveyed both agree that “live agent” is still right at the top. When you are doing customer service and you are interacting with somebody, they just find it more efficient. And they want to communicate with somebody in dialogue over the phone, over the voice.
Now, this is where we get differentiation between the next couple of channel choices. And as for the customers, their second favorite channel choice that they prefer is web chat followed by email for third. And then fourth actually would be visiting the website and probably doing some self-service there. So again, we look at phone first of all followed by web chat, then by email, and then by website.
Now, when we look at the professionals, the organizations that are providing customer service, they felt clearly voice was still number one. But then they quickly saw in second place a big differentiation between the customer side. They said self-service. Now in that particular case, it makes sense because contact centers want to deflect as much call volume away from the contact center as possible and allow customers to be able to help themselves.
If I think about this, I am probably more in line with what the professionals or contact centers are saying. Me, myself, as a consumer, I want to try self-service first. And I want to try to solve my problem myself without having to reach to the contact center. But again, and it is not what they survey results here said. But maybe it is because I am too close to the industry. I would agree with that self-service piece. So for professionals, it was phone first or live voice followed by self-service and then in third was email and fourth place was web chat. Remember for customers, web chat was second place. So there are still some areas of improvement where organizations need to align themselves a little bit better with what the customers are expecting.
Jim: Well Tim, how does that break down by age group? Because we know the millennials have a different approach than people that are older. So when you look at these different categories, what does it look like from age group?
Tim: Yeah, it is certainly different. The results there indicated that sure, the channel they prefer is still voice. And that is still the clearcut winner regardless of what age group you break it out into. Live agent via the phone is still by far the best.
But when we look at the individual age groups, then we really see some disparity. But actually, we can even see a lot of disparity with that live agent for voice. So when we look at ages 18 to 24, half of them thought voice was at the top of the list. So 50 percent of the respondents said that. And then it just slowly climbs up a little bit higher, all the way up to 70 percent of the respondents said phone was by far what they prefer the most when you get into the 55 and older category. And it is just the gradual slowly trending curve there that indicates that the older you are, clearly, you prefer voice most of the time.
But then when we get in the other channels, web chat was at the top of the list for millennials ages 18 to 24, ages 25 through 34, and then it just starts dropping off there. So the younger you are, web chat is obviously much higher. Second place as far as the channel of choice, as you get older when you get into 35 years and older, it starts becoming email. So web chat when you are younger is second place. Email is second place as you get into 35 years and older.
Jim: Well the next topic we need to discuss is how long are people willing to wait? Because I think that is such an important thing as people are figuring out how are they staffed, how many people they really need to make sure they cover the various workloads? Then by type, whether it is by telephone, by web chat, by email; what did the results show there?
Tim: Yeah, I love the results on this one because as service providers we often think that we need to respond much faster than what customers expect. And so this particular result that I have got here in front of me was all around what do customers expect when they are dialing up or chatting or emailing? And the results correlate what we had last year. So we were not as surprised. But the first time I saw these, I was still surprised.
So when customers are contacting you via the phone, they said look, it is okay if you do not get back to us for one to three minutes or you put us on hold for about one to three minutes. We are good with that time period. Forty-three percent all responded yeah, one to three minutes would be right. About 20 percent said less than a minute. So we are in good shape there. You can keep a customer on hold longer than you probably thought. Now, the contrast to that, you still have to make sure you provide a good customer experience.
As we get into the other channels, maybe some interest here. With web chat, you had a little under a minute all the way up to three minutes that you had to make sure to respond. So still pretty good there to wait. When you are looking at SMS, they want it still pretty quickly. The vast majority of them said I need you to respond to my SMS text within one to three minutes.
Now when we get into those little less active or little less live types of interactions, email, website, social media. With emails, it’s still pretty consistent from what we have seen between four hours and 24 hours. So you have got a lot of time there to respond back to those emails. And then when we get into websites that could be just responding back to them if they submitted something on your website. Eighteen percent of the users, and that was the high number, all said somewhere around four and 24 hours. And then with social media, it jumps back up because they expect a much faster response. They are looking somewhere around 10 minutes to an hour for them to respond.
In general, stay voice. You got a little extra time than you thought. And the rest of the channels, probably anywhere between one to 10 minutes for the majority of non-live chats. And then once you get to social media, you still have to respond a little faster.
Jim: It is very interesting. Let’s move on now. When people contact regularly, what is important to them? What do they want whoever they are talking to to be able to follow up with?
Tim: This makes a lot of sense to me, Jim, when I look through these results. Yeah, if I am doing business with an organization repeatedly, I want – there is an expectation there that they should know me more. And the results say these top two items bubble right to the top and that is expected. One, the agents can access notes from previous service interactions. So they know all the different things, reasons why I called in. The second thing is agents can access my account transaction history. So any kind of billing, purchasing, etcetera that I have done with them, the agent can access it. The bottom line is, the more you do business with an organization, the more customers expect you to know about them so they do not have to repeat themselves.
And this brings me back to the old general store days. I’m not going to date myself, Jim; I am not going to date you, either. So let’s just say that both of us have no recollection of what a general store was, at least how it worked. But what I am told in the history books is that when customers would walk in, they were always greeted by name. The business of that general store, they knew their customers. They saw them every day or every week. And they knew what they had purchased. They knew about their families. They knew what their birthdates were, when their anniversaries were. And I think we are getting a lot back to that. We have so far strayed from that type of service. Customers are now shouting it out pretty loudly here that they want that relationship with the organization that they are doing business with regularly.
Jim: That is really good. And then I think, as you put it, it is pretty consistent. When a customer has an interaction, there is a list of topics that I know that you have surveyed on how valuable it is that a company provide. And what were those topics and what were the results from that?
Tim: Yeah, this is again a good one. But I continue to hear this. And at the top of the list, if you interact with an organization, with a contact center, the one thing the customer said loud and clearly – if you transfer me, do not require me to repeat my information again. I absolutely hate that. And I will say that I hate that. And that is basically, what the customers were saying. They do not want that. That was at the top of the list.
Second place was they wanted the ability to provide feedback on the interaction once it was completed, which to me is a little bit of a surprise. I personally do not like giving feedback unless I had a poor experience. But it looks like consumers are not only aware that that is an option, they are starting to require it.
So those are the top two. Their other two options were they wanted the organization to offer self-service via the mobile applications. And they also wanted to offer speech recognition as well as touch tone for self-service. That last one still is a shock to me. I still do not think many organizations have their speech enabled IVRs correct or finely tuned or even flowing well enough to be able to provide a good customer experience. But what it is showing here is customers are starting to expect that and want to be able to communicate through speech recognition – speech enabled IVRs.
Jim: Moving on, one of the things that I look for when I am checking out a website is what kind of feedback can I find on the site. And I know your survey included some of the findings on how people dealt with both positive and negative feedback. Share that with us, please.
Tim: Yeah, I absolutely love that, too. Every time I go to purchase something online, I am looking for anybody who has said anything positive or negative about it to determine if I want to make that purchase. And our survey results showed similarly that if a customer has a positive or negative service or support experience, they are going to put something on social media. And I thought that was good. I mean it still shows that people are actively putting something out there. But I will say the numbers were a little bit of a shock. So while they are doing it, the vast majority still are not putting anything on social media. I think our survey results earlier showed that many of the people are actually just telling family and friends about it. And that is their chain of communication versus social media.
But for those who are, right? We do have people – one-third of respondents said that they would post either a positive or a negative experience on social media. But here is what is interesting. When you flip it over to how companies are handling those posts, these results kind of surprised me. First of all, if you post a positive experience in social media on that customer’s say Facebook site or Twitter handle, or something like that, 65 percent of the companies would respond back to that customer.
So we simply asked customers, if you posted something, did the company respond to your positive or negative posts? Sixty-five percent said yes they did, if I posted something positive. But only half of those customers received a response if they posted a negative response. Jim, I do not know about you, but that surprised me. If I am a company and I am receiving negative posts, I am going to handle that at the top of my list because I want that customer to be happy. Not that I am going to neglect my positive posts, I am going to interact with them as well. But boy, I am not going to let these single negative posts go by without me responding to it.
Jim: I’m with you. I don’t understand that. And one of the things that a good company will look at what was negative and try to fix it. And it would seem to me that would be a very, very easy way to respond with yes, we understood you had an issue and here is how we are dealing with that issue. And with maybe an apology, a public apology because people like to see that when they are looking do I want to do business with this type of a company. But Tim, you brought up the social media part. And the big question then is so what social media networks are people using?
Tim: Well, this comes as no surprise. Facebook is at the top of the list. So if you are a customer, you are going to Facebook first and foremost. And you are going to use that to interact with that company for customer service. Fifty-three percent of respondents put that as number one. But what is more interesting or more telling here was in second place. So we gave the audience several different social sites that they could choose from. But one of the choices that they had was to choose none, meaning look if I have got – if I want customer service, will I even choose social media for the channel that I want to use for customer service? And in second place at 36 percent of the respondents said no, I am not even going to use social media – I just don’t use it. So again, top was the Facebook if they are going to go there. But still one-third of them almost 40 percent of them said no, I am not going to go that route. But for the rest of the channels, Twitter was second or second of the social channels. Google+ was third.
Jim: Interesting information, a little bit surprising. But that number that didn’t do anything, I think was extremely telling and something that will evolve. And I think in some ways when you think about who is using social, the younger people, one thing that all of us are using are mobile devices. And so what are the capabilities that they are looking for when you are trying to do a customer service interaction with a mobile device?
Tim: Yeah, these were pretty commonsensical, I think. If I am on a mobile device, I have got my phone everywhere. No matter where I go, I’ve got it with me. And at the top of the list that customers wanted most was the ability for a callback when the agent does become available. So I picked up my cell phone, I made a phone call into the customer service contact center and could not get an agent right away. So I am on hold. I want the ability to have a callback so that I can just go about my business. And that simply makes a lot of sense. I’ve have got my cell phone everywhere. You can reach me just call me back. I do not want to continue waiting.
In second place was phone self-service. And then third place was automated proactive reminder notification. And I think that number – I don’t know how it was last year; I know they are pretty similar. But I expect the automated proactive reminder notification to start bubbling up towards the top. We are becoming a generation where we expect more proactive notifications to us. We receive texts from our family and friends all the time. So it’s not a big deal to receive a text from a company that we are expecting a text from that we do business with. So I think those proactive reminder notifications, appointment reminders, outage notifications, shipment information, whatever that might be… Those, I think, will become – bubble up more to the top of the survey within the next couple of years.
Jim: I have to agree. I think that as companies are responding in new ways, people are expecting responses in new ways. I agree with you. We are going to see those changes.
Well we have got one last question. And I think it’s the perfect one to end this conversation with, as well as to end the survey with. And that is making purchasing decision based solely on an organization’s customer service reputation. So what were the findings here?
Tim: Well, they were not surprising Jim. Basically, it says that (what you and I have already talked about) if a customer is going to purchase something from a store front, online store, a service that they want, one of the things that they are going to do is check out to see if that organization provides good customer service experience. The survey results were pretty adamant about that. It showed that 73 percent of them had some level of involvement in checking out to be sure that that organization – the business that they are going to buy that product or service from – provided an excellent experience. I think the telling message to any company that is a B-to-C organization is that you better make sure that one, you have good customer experience. And if you don’t, you need to fix it. You need to figure out how to make that better.
And two, you need to be sure that you give your customers the opportunities to post any good experience or bad experience necessarily, on a location that people can find it and review it. Because the more you have that information out there, the more likely it is your customers will do business with you. That’s the information that they’re looking for.
Jim: Yes, and we both discussed earlier we both fall in that high-end category, which is 45 percent is that they always look for service reputation or usually look for service reputation. So to me that is a big number as well, nearly 50 percent of the people are checking that out. And that kind of gets back to some of the earlier questions that we discussed and is part of the survey results is how people look at these things – whether the company is actually responding to negative feedback – all of this ties together to make an overall customer experience.
I thought the survey results, while many of them I thought were what I had expected or would have expected. I also think it is very telling, and I think that there are some trends that you could see. And also, the fact that you are comparing this year’s results to last year’s results, I think, can also help people as they are trying to figure out what’s the best way for them to manage their contact center services that they are offering to their customers.
Well Tim, thank you so much for your time today. I think this is fascinating. I encourage everybody to read the results from this survey because they are so telling and can help you figure out where you need to spend your time, energy, and money in making sure you are giving the right experience to the people that are coming and visiting your contact center.
Tim: I agree, Jim. Thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to spend some time sharing with this audience. I think they will find it very valuable. And we are excited to get into their hands to help them out.