Consumers are interacting with customer service more often across more channels than ever before. They consider empathic, speedy interactions and first-contact resolution to be table stakes. During 2021, as organizations recovered from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on their businesses, many began to see the payoff for investments they made in technology and new ways of working. Yet, as leaders begin customer experience (CX) planning and budget for the next year, pressures remain.
The Genesys report “The state of customer experience” reveals the top two challenges businesses face today: maintaining quality of service while operating aging technology and maintaining staff engagement and service quality. At the same time, CX leaders polled are focusing on building new capabilities, such as leveraging data and artificial intelligence (AI) for customer understanding and personalization, as well as enhancing data capabilities for real-time analytics, insights and reporting.
Against this backdrop, it’s customer experience planning and budgeting time. More than 70% of surveyed CX executives reported they’ll see a budget hike from 2021 to 2022; only 18% will see a reduction in budgets and 11% said budgets will remain flat. One in five will receive a whopping 50–100% additional budget, as compared with 2020. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of CX executives said their headcounts will increase over the next 12 months.
Budget Shifts Align with Digital Growth
Consumers still consider voice their most popular channel for contacting customer service. So, CX leaders are investing in improving self-service capabilities to reduce call queues; they’re also investing in in-queue technology like callback options to prevent customers from experiencing long wait times. And they’re deploying predictive analytics and agent-assist technologies to improve call resolution rates.
Digital channels are also growing rapidly. Nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed for the report have interacted with companies via email— and nearly half have used live webchat. The number of consumers interacting with customer service through messaging, mobile apps, chatbots, social media and even video calling more than doubled between 2017 and 2021. And more than one in 10 consumers globally has used a virtual home assistant, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, in the past year to interact with customer service. Journey mapping and exploring new digital channels will continue to be a big focus area in 2022.
While consumers expect to be met in their channel of choice, and at their preferred time, they also have high expectations for a first-contact resolution. More than half of consumers globally say they value FCR most in a service interaction, while only 33% of CX leaders consider it their top priority. Only 41% said they’re highly effective at providing FCR today. Instead, nearly half of CX leader cite agents’ professionalism and friendliness as what they believe consumers’ value most when interacting with customer service. Increasing capabilities around self-service, conversational AI and real-time support to agents will help close this gap — and should be important priorities for 2022.
At the same time, the research shows a growing ROI for businesses that are investing in personalization. About 80% of consumers said they’ll buy more often from companies that consistently personalize their experience — and they’ll refer those companies to others. Research also found that businesses are investing in analytics and AI capabilities that enable customer understanding and personalization across channels.
This investment in contact center resources isn’t just about customers; it’s also about improving the agent experience. Several of the top challenges companies face today relate to frontline CX staff: maintaining agent engagement and service quality, keeping staff trained on new technologies and protocols, and hiring and onboarding.
So, CX leaders also are investing in workforce engagement and training to manage the shift to remote work. They’re also shifting technologies to the cloud to gain benefits such as providing better access to data and a single user interface.
Current Successes Hint at Future Investments
The survey found CX leaders are positive about how their recent contact center investments are paying off. Those polled expressed confidence that digital channels, such as video calling, email and webchat, are meeting customer expectations. Additionally, the ability to provide a fast response has improved.
In 2022, CX leaders will continue with their strategies around digital transformation, personalization and empowering employees through an improved agent experience. As you plan your budget for the coming year, examine whether you’ve earmarked enough to stay ahead of customers’ shifting channel preferences, as well as their needs to feel heard and understood, met on their journeys, and supported quickly and efficiently by engaged people — and through best-in-class technology. With a majority of organizations investing in CX and underlying contact center operations , those that don’t will find themselves at a significant competitive disadvantage.