Steve Sullivan

Are the customer service shelves bare?

Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance, Contact Centre Panel

Ambition and a desire for continuous improvement are all very well, but paranoia and curiosity are great motivators, too! Maybe that’s why there’s often something especially intriguing about the opportunity to look at how you’re performing in comparison with your peers and how your customer proposition stacks up next to your competitors.

Unfortunately, mystery shopping and benchmarking can be quite tedious and a lengthy undertaking. But recently a colleague and I carried out a mystery shopping assessment for a client operating in a competitive financial service environment.

So equipped with Neville Doughty’s recent article ‘The Triple Threat: 3 key challenges facing contact centres’, which highlighted ‘staff attraction and retention, channel shift and automation’ as major current challenges to contact centres, I’ve mused on what my bit of mystery shop benchmarking might tell us.

1. Bots still aren’t that common and often just don’t work

  • Surprisingly, only 2 of the 12 companies use webchat and none of the others actively promote any social media messaging apps as customer service channels. Both of those companies also had a Bot. But neither Bot recognised any standard terms or phrases related to their proposition or service that we used, so consequently none of our contacts were ‘contained’ and managed by the Bots

2. Other elements of best practice or useful technologies are under-represented

  • Despite long call wait times, only 2 companies offered ‘queue buster’ opportunities for customers to stop queuing and automatically book a call-back
  • 4 companies presented customers with standard customer service queries with 6 or more IVR options
  • Only 2 companies offered voice recognition IVR

3. Service levels are all over the place

  • Across the 12 companies the average call answer time varied by a factor of 26 to 1 (41 seconds was the shortest average, 1075 – that’s nearly 18 minutes – was the longest)

4. There’s no ‘settled view’ about acceptable, live-agent opening hours

  • Some companies were only available to customers Monday to Friday, and some also open on Saturdays. A few opened on Sundays, too and one – surprisingly an ‘app-first’ online challenger brand – was available 24 hours per day, across all contact channels. This results in their having total weekly open hours 4 times the number of its least accessible competitor

These are challenging times for brands and their contact centres, but options and possibilities to do things differently and better abound. If you’d like to discuss how different technologies, resourcing and customer propositions might help your hard-pressed contact centre operation, just get in touch.