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The Replicant 2021 Contact Center Survey

Written by Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer at Replicant

The Effects of Bad Customer Service and How Brands Can Fix It

There are a lot of tough jobs out there. A lot of us would probably rank a call center agent as one of these. Politely answering questions from cranky customers all day? Wow. But I’d say that one job that might actually be tougher, is being the contact center leader who has to hire, train and retain these agents. 

The pandemic, and post pandemic (or whatever period we’re in), only made this job more difficult. Contact centers are under enormous pressure, and they are starting to buckle. And consumers are noticing. Recently, Replicant partnered with Dynata to conduct a survey on contact centers, how they’re performing, and what other solutions consumers are willing to engage with to improve their experience. The results were fascinating – some of the data confirmed issues we’ve all seen in the market. Other data was more surprising. You can link to these findings to get the full rundown, but here are some of the more important findings. 

Poor Customer Service is Pervasive…and the Pandemic Didn’t Help

First, some not too surprising data. Customer service has been sliding. It started during the pandemic, and kept going. 70% of respondents indicated it is harder to reach someone (in customer service) than before the pandemic. And 91% said they have experienced poor customer service in the past 6 months. 

We know this. We’ve experienced this. But the alarming point for brands is that 75% of respondents also indicated that poor customer service gives a negative impression of a brand. And, while no industry was immune to poor customer service, the travel industry saw a significant impact on consumer behavior with 25% of travelers saying they’ve rethought future travel plans because of poor service. Yikes. 

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Thinking back over all experiences with customer service over the past six months, respondents noted long wait times, needing to re-explain issues several times and being transferred between agents as the top challenges they’ve experienced.

The length of hold time matters when it comes to the emotions of customers. The research shows 44% of people report being annoyed, irritated or angry with a 5 – 15 minute wait time.

Long Hold Times Are Driving Consumers to Consider Other Options

The good news is that consumers are becoming more aware of alternatives to poor customer service and long hold times. Conversational voice AI – machines speaking to humans to solve customer service issues, is something that consumers are becoming more comfortable with, as 71% of people would rather speak to a machine than endure 15 minutes on hold. But, while avoiding long hold times is the primary interest in speaking with a conversational AI solution, it’s not the only benefit:

  • Don’t have to wait on hold
  • Faster resolution to my problems
  • Avoid being transferred to multiple agents

Leveraging AI for Multiple Customer Service Scenarios.

A majority of consumers are willing to talk with a conversational machine instead of a real person when making typical customer service requests like scheduling an appointment, starting or stopping a service, or making a reservation.

And, 28% of American consumers have no hesitancy around talking with an automated system instead of a real person when making a customer service request.

The pandemic has changed so many things for businesses. For customer service, it created an almost impossible convergence of call volume spikes, not enough agents, and high turnover. Because of this, machine based AI solutions are now viewed by most as opportunities to help consumers more quickly while taking some of the load off overworked agents, and over-stressed contact center leaders. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, the future looks bright for contact center leaders with the right technology applied.

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