Research from the CCMA, supported by Odigo, shows contact centres are imperative in building strong brand loyalty

In April 2021, the CCMA released the findings from the Voice of the Contact Centre Consumer 2021 study. The research reveals the latest insights on the attitudes, trends and innovations shaping the contact centre industry. The study confirmed that contact centres, a vital point of contact between consumers and brands, are key to driving brand perception and loyalty – an essential differentiator in today’s competitive environment.

The pandemic put unprecedented demand on contact centres and customer service operations; both had to adapt quickly in order to provide the appropriate level of service for consumers. Whilst these new ways of working have challenged the industry, consumers believe that the quality of customer service has not decreased, and in fact improved throughout the pandemic.

The last year has also seen a change in the way’s consumers access customer service. A rise in self-service for simpler journeys and an increase in consumers accessing more digital methods such as web chat are just some of the important takeaways.

The CCMA represents the UKs largest community of contact centre professionals. CEO, Leigh Hopwood, commented on the research: “The contact centre is truly the front line of customer experience and brand perception, as what happens in the contact centre is routinely shared for others to see. This is clear evidence that the contact centre is not only an operational function but a strategic one, performing not just a service role, but one of brand building.”

Personalisation that drives brand promise

Call centres and the customer experience journey are key drivers in securing strong brand recognition and positive perceptions. 65% of consumers surveyed cite having told someone about a good experience they have had following an interaction with a contact centre. Similarly, 69% have done the same if the experience was bad. Social media and review sites were also signposted as ways for consumers to relay their experiences.

Personalisation goes hand in hand with driving the customer engagement that leads to rave reviews. Organisations must understand the needs of their customers and know that one size does not fit all. By investing in transformational technology across the board, businesses can ensure consumers are able to access customer service in ways that suit them and their lifestyles; this will subsequently improve their overall experience and in turn, drive strong brand recognition.

Consumers access customer experience via different channels, and this is often dependant on generational preferences. For instance, the study showed that individuals aged 55+ are 15% more likely than those aged 18-34 to access customer service over the phone. In addition, 18-34-year olds are more likely than those aged 55+ to use a chatbot.

Neil Titcomb, Managing Director UKI at Odigo said: “The last twelve months have been unprecedented for the customer experience industry. Agents have been dealing with a huge increase in call volume amid a very complex backdrop. Despite this, CCMA’s research shows promising progress; customers believe service has improved, the phone remains the preferred channel of choice and self-service is on the rise.

It is great to see some recognition for workers throughout the industry and that technology is helping them deliver these results. We know customer service is key to driving brand recognition and this shows how imperative it is for organisations to invest in their CX offerings- it could be what sets them apart from their competitors.”

Phone remains dominant

It is important to note that whilst the study found omnichannel solutions and self-service are on the rise, phone remains the main channel by which consumers access customer experience. The study revealed that phone is used by 71% of people and comprises 31% of interactions. Additionally, one in three (33%) people expect to use the phone more in the future for customer service.

This shows that the demand for human interaction is still high and has remained so during the pandemic. Additional methods of customer service are seen to be complementary to the phone, and are adopted at different speeds by different age groups

Self Service is on the rise

While the phone continues to be the top choice for consumers accessing customer service, there is evidence that self-service is becoming more popular. Compared with September 2020, there has been a measurable increase in self-service propensity, particularly for relatively straightforward customer service interactions such as placing orders or getting delivery updates. Consumers’ preference for self-service delivery queries has jumped six percentage points (from 40% to 46%) in just six months. As more consumers become adept in these new technologies, and developers continue to improve and innovate these offerings, it is likely this trend will continue.

Widespread self-service deployments that have happened during lockdowns have clearly led to this growing consumer acceptance. Unsurprising, for more complex requirements such as refunds, billing and complaints, most people still prefer to be assisted by a qualified, empathetic agent.

Turning cost centres into value centres

This research clearly demonstrates how important the contact centre is, and the essential role it continues to play as society moves out of the pandemic and economies begin to open up. Whilst businesses have traditionally viewed contact centres as a cost burden, it is imperative for these attitudes to change. Organisations must continue to invest in their CX offerings; the dynamic pace of consumer behaviour means the expectations for rapid and easy-to-find answers has never been higher. Consumers will continue to demand more from CX and it is only through investment that organisations will get ahead.