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Will Customer Service via Phone Ever Go Extinct? Contact Center Agents Say No!

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Firstsource Solution’s Contact Agent Experience Index finds phone interactions as most effective despite the rise of web chat.

While 26 percent of contact center agents find web chat to be an effective channel for customer service, nearly half (47%) still find talking on the phone to be the most effective channel, according to an index released today by Firstsource Solutions. The Contact Agent Experience Index surveyed 253 of Firstsource Solutions’ contact center agents across the United States about key issues on the customer experience as the industry evolves alongside the fast growth of digital media.

With digital communication channels continuing to grow, many wonder how relevant calling contact centers will be within the next few years. In fact, according to the 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, digital interactions currently account for over 35% of all interactions and, at the current rate, will overtake voice in two years’ time.

But 90% of Firstsource’s contact center agents disagree, saying the option for customers to speak directly with an agent will always remain necessary.

“As technology innovates the customer experience by providing others service options like web chat, most consumers will still at least want the option to speak with a representative via phone to talk through more complicated issues that can’t be resolved as easily online”,said Kathy Aman, SVP, US Sales and CRM at Firstsource Solutions

It’s also common for customers to assume contact center agents don’t care about resolving customer issues. Despite the fact that many agents are not directly employed for the Fortune 500 companies they represent online and via phone, almost all (98%) of the agents indicated they feel a sense of duty to the end client to provide a positive customer experience.

One agent remarked that, without a doubt, their first priority is to make sure the customer is happy with the brand they are representing, noting that,“I feel more of a sense of duty to the customer. Without them our business would not exist.”

When customers call a brand’s help line, many are hoping the call goes as fast as possible. Firstsource’s contact center agents argue that often the longer call times actually lead to a better customer experience. Thirty-nine percent of agents try to close inquires in 5-10 minutes, while 32 percent said 10-15 minutes is often needed in order to effectively solve issues and close the inquiry.

Another technology innovation that’s helped the customer experience in recent years is virtual queuing, an option that offers to call a customer back when a contact center agent is available rather than making the customer wait on hold. Eighty-one percent of agents polled said they do believe this is more pleasing for customers, but expressed concerns that sometimes customers miss the calls and have to start the process over again. Still, they believe it does create a better rapport with the customer at the start of the call.

Technology is also creating opportunities in the industry for contact centers to offer agents the opportunity to work from home. Eighty-five percent of agents said they do believe this option will increase in the coming years, but one agent noted,“My concern is that the experience would not be controlled and there would be serious inconsistencies for our customers.” Another concern is security for the companies these agents represent.

“While working from home is becoming a popular option for contact centers, there is a large concern among companies about security for internal files and classified information,”said Aman.“There’s news of high-profile data breaches almost every month. As a vendor of customer service, the security of our clients and their information is a top priority.”

Note to Editors:

Firstsource Solution’s Contact Agent Experience Index, powered by SurveyMonkeyTM is an index measuring contact agent’s sentiment about the customer experience that they provide on behalf of the brands they represent.

Firstsource conducted an online study of their US contact center employees in Eugene, OR and Louisville, KY between September 21 and October 3, 2015. Percentages are based on 253 responses.

About Firstsource:

Firstsource employs nearly 27,000 worldwide at 46 centers in the U.S., United Kingdom, India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, serving more than 100 clients in the banking, insurance, health care, media and telecommunications industries, including 21 companies in the Fortune 500.

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