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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Most consumers opt for online customer service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Automated customer service interactions are changing the role of contact centers, and how retailers are solving customer issues.

As companies include more help options via their websites, mobile apps, or other digital tools and resources, 80% of consumers try to resolve their issue somewhere online before contacting customer service, according to a new report from CFI Group and Radial.

Advances in digital technology and artificial intelligence are broadening the role of contact centers by providing customer service across the customer service journey. As a result, 60% of customers try visiting the retail company website before contacting customer service. Another 34% visit the retailer site with a mobile device. Only 21% said the company website is “not at all helpful.”

Those who find website tools helpful have a satisfaction score of 86 (on a 0-100 scale), compared to 40 for those who see the site as not at all helpful.

When it comes to offering more automated interactions, retailers are adding more chatbots or IVR self-serve tools to customers. There is also increased attention being given to visual IVR tools. Currently, 18% of customers are familiar with visual IVR, and 55% said they are likely to use visual IVR if given the option.

Despite these digital enhancements, the role of the service agent is not going away. In fact, retail contact centers that integrate agents within the rest of the company can expect dividends through greater customer lifetime value (CLV).

However, this requires agents that are well-integrated with the company (38%), have experience (38%), are well-trained (49%), and have the tools needed to help (55%). Customers who interact with these well-integrated professional agents have higher customer satisfaction (+19%) than the average customer, according to the report.

“Contact centers play a critical role in a retailer’s success. Professional agents who are well integrated with the company have a significant impact on sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty,” the report explained.

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