A new survey show US consumers overwhelmingly prefer to use voice over every other medium when contacting a company’s contact centre. The results,  say the company behind the survey, underscore a growing need for innovative voice-enabled automation software and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that can eliminate the need to put customers on hold.

Further, advanced technology can also help businesses streamline the customer service experience by predicting customer intent and help to resolve issues quicker – especially during the current coronavirus pandemic.

As businesses and society work through the current realities and unknowns, Uniphore wanted to better understand the types of experiences people are having with contact centres and some of the challenges that both consumers and businesses are facing during this pandemic. In addition to the finding that nearly 80% of people polled want to speak with an agent as opposed to a chatbot, the following key themes emerged and was supported by the data represented below:

Contact Centres are overwhelmed by the wave of inquiries currently pouring in:

  • On top of routine contact centre traffic, over 42% of the respondents have recently reached out to a contact centre to resolve COVID-related issues around travel, employment, insurance, medical or financial issues.
  • Over 33% of callers waited more than 30 minutes on hold (with 5% saying they waited more than 2 hours).
  • 37% of the respondents had to wait for a call back or ended up calling 2 times or more to connect with an agent.
  • When finally connected with an agent, more than 25% of the respondents spent more than 20 minutes with an agent to get needed information or resolve an issue.
  • Over 18% of recent callers have been disconnected from a call into a contact centre and had to call back at least once and in some cases multiple times to be connected.

Customer patience is reaching a breaking point:

  • 72% said they have ended the call while still waiting to speak with a live person.
  • Of those who got through 43% said they felt angry, annoyed or frustrated as a result of being put on hold.
  • 68% said they would stop patronizing companies with which they have had a bad customer experience.
  • After their recent contact centre experience, people have been underwhelmed and apathetic: 40% of respondents reported they would neither recommend nor not recommend the company they just interacted with.
  • On the lighter side, 30% of respondents said they would prefer to deep clean the bathroom than be put on hold.

It’s not all bad: Organisations and agents can be effective:

  • Once they connected with an agent, nearly 60% found the agent prepared with useful information.
  • Despite current conditions, nearly 65% of respondents have NOT had a negative experience with company representatives.
  • When asked if their interaction with agents yielded timely and relevant information, 2/3 of the respondents replied “yes”.
  • On the lighter side, people are able to burn calories while on hold. The number one activity people report doing while on hold is walking around the house or apartment (45%).
  • 74% said they would prefer that a call centre have a historical record of their past interactions.
  • 50% of respondents fully expect the organization to have some clue as to why they are calling (intent detection).

“This data shows we are in the middle of a perfect storm. People are reaching out to organisations in record numbers using their voice as a primary means of communicating and they expect to be heard and not put on hold,” said Umesh Sachdev, CEO and Co-founder of Uniphore. “The fact remains that technical innovations can absolutely solve these issues and do it in a cost-effective way by leveraging conversational service automation. This can help ensure every voice is heard by using machine learning and natural language processing to understand intent and automate processes.”

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