According to ACSI, the national customer satisfaction index held steady in 2022 at 73.2 after closing the previous year only a tenth of a point higher. Accomplishing this feat wasn’t easy. Contact centers had to battle through unprecedented challenges to maintain service continuity and keep customers satisfied throughout the year.
But despite the obstacles, there remains plenty to be optimistic about. CX leaders built momentum across operations, strategy and technology in 2022. This prevailing trend of innovation stands out as we look back on an up-and-down year in CX:
😠 Hostile customers
The Institute of Customer Service found that over a six month stretch in 2022, 45% of frontline service staff experienced hostility from customers, up 10% from the start of the year. At one point, almost all agents (96%) felt acutely stressed at least once a week with ‘too many calls’ being their biggest challenge.
✈️ Air travel turbulence
Airlines were in the spotlight for the wrong reasons when a massive summer rebound in travel led to lost luggage and angry travelers. Rising fuel prices and staff shortages created long delays, high fares, and soaring customer expectations that proved difficult to meet.
📈 Hold times skyrocketed
In almost every industry, wait times skyrocketed as the economy opened back up and pandemic restrictions were lifted. Some customers were given the impression they were being turned away from service as contact centers saw unprecedented and unpredictable spikes in demand.
👋 The Great Resignation
The Great Resignation squeezed contact centers around the world and compounded on the economic challenges of 2022. A record 4.5+ million people voluntarily left their jobs in late 2021, and the hiring pool never fully recovered. Contact centers had to get creative to make sure inbound calls were getting answered.
“The biggest challenges tend to always be things we can’t plan for. Things like system outages, weather events, and most recently, the pandemic,” said Vanessa Hardy-Bowen, Director of Guest Care & Contact Centers at Spirit Airlines. “This will generally result in five to ten times the call volume you would have normally – you just can’t plan for that. Being able to flex up or down using technology allows a smooth experience for the customers and helps to mitigate the impacts of the unpredictable.”
👨💻 Agents were prioritized
Despite a rocky year for contact center agents, the long-term forecast looks promising. A big reason for that is due to the retention and hiring challenges CX leaders dealt with, which have made improving the agent experience a top priority heading into 2023.
“We really focused on how to provide more internal promotion opportunities and advance [agent] skill sets.” said Matt Woody, First Vice President, Contact Center, First Financial Bank. “That’s led to a really engaged workforce and a reduction in attrition rates and greater success attracting more talent to the organization and we feel like that’s a recipe for success going forward.”
🗣 Customers took to AI
Replicant automated millions of customer service calls for some of the world’s most trusted brands in 2022. One of the most telling trends we saw was the rapid adoption of advanced conversational AI by customers.
“We never got positive comments about our bots with our previous solution in our NPS surveys,” said Tanya Weigelt Director, Club Operations at CAA. “I fell off my chair when I heard people leaving compliments on the Replicant Thinking Machine™️.”
📊 Analytics drove business value
Contact center analytics vastly improved to allow contact center leaders to understand why their customers are contacting support and take action immediately to continuously improve the customer experience.
“A big part of what we do today involves using the business intelligence component of our conversational AI technology to understand, at a much deeper level, our callers’ behavior,” said Mike Bowman, Senior Director of Operations, ECSI. “With things like predictive analytics we can know when we will have a busy day, why it’s going to be busy, which customers will be calling, and then decide what we need to do internally to prepare and handle it.”
🏆 Customers are still the focus
Customer expectations remain at all-time highs and their satisfaction has never been a higher priority for contact centers than it is now, according to the 2022 Benchmark Report.
“What has not changed is the fact that customer service is just being a genuine human to people and helping them resolve whatever concerns they have,” said Michelle Deese, OCCC Learning and Development Manager at Orkin. “My perspective is that if you are kind to people and help them, no matter what changes happen within the industry you will be successful.