Businesses Turn to Newer Technologies for Customer Support

A recent study found that 60 percent of customers said they use the Web to look for information always or most of the time before contacting customer service.

logmein and call centers

There is a significant disconnect between what today's mobile, always-connected customers have come to expect from customer service and what contact centers are delivering, according to a report from remote connectivity provider LogMeIn and research firm Ovum.

Six in 10 customers said they use the Web to look for information always or most of the time before contacting customer service, according to the study, which was based on a survey of 315 contact center managers and 400 customers across North America, Europe and Australia and New Zealand. However, only 9 percent of managers believe that their customers frequently use the Web before calling.

More than three-quarters (76 percent) of customers claimed to have stopped doing business with a brand following a bad experience, the study found.

"It's unfortunate that contact centers are often seen as nothing more than cost centers rather than value-generators for the firm," Ross Haskell, senior director of BoldChat product for LogMeIn, told eWEEK. "As such, it is harder for them to secure funding for new initiatives, including upgraded technologies. That fact, coupled with the reality that consumers adopt technology very quickly, has created a huge technology gap for support centers."

Almost 50 percent of customers believe that the ability to reach the right representative has worsened over the last two years, and long hold times and automated service menus continue to irritate customers who are keen to get fast resolutions to their problems.

Over the last two years, the number of customers using a mobile phone for support calls doubled to 42 percent, the use of mobile apps has more than doubled to 20 percent from 8 percent, and the number of customers using live chat also doubled to 28 percent.

"Whether generational or simply technology-driven, there is a shift. Consumers don't think about technologies or channels—they think about problems and solutions," Haskell said. "Consumers use whatever channel on whatever device is the most convenient for them—and they expect whatever they've chosen to work—the first time."

With the number of customers using live chat and email doubling over the last two years—and this number expected to increase further—contact centers must be ready to handle interactions in non-voice channels and to provide quick resolution, as resolution rates are lower for support inquiries across non-voice channels, the report said.

"Mobile has shifted the balance of power squarely to the consumer; they are quite literally in control of the engagement. They determine when it occurs, how it occurs, and if it goes badly, they have all manner of ways to broadcast the failure," Haskell said. "Mobile is the next frontier of customer support. Smart companies will come to realize that creating exceptional mobile experiences can be a significant competitive advantage. But it doesn't come easily—doing mobile right requires an intentioned set of people, processes and technologies."