When I first joined Forrester, I looked at the results from our annual Customer Experience Benchmark Surveys and saw that three customer service drivers kept coming up as some of the most influential drivers in a customer’s perception of CX quality:
- Did the agent answer all of my questions?
- Did the company resolve my problems on the first contact?
- Do agents have the authority to solve problems without their supervisor?
Now, it’s no secret that customer service gets a bad rap. It’s usually seen as a cost center, a necessary evil for handling customer questions and complaints. But our data told a much different story: The contact center plays an important role in creating happier, more loyal customers.
How important? We dug in to find out. We did a deep-dive analysis of Forrester’s Customer Experience Benchmark Survey, US Consumers, 2022, results (fielded to over 96,000 US consumers) to see if there was a connection between good customer service and increased topline revenue. The answer? Big time!
Let’s look at one of the three drivers to give you a taste. (We dig into all three in our new report, Money On The Table: Proof That Customer Service Drives Revenue.)
Empowering Your Front Line Could Unlock Billions
Nearly 100,000 consumers have spoken: They expect customer service agents to have the authority to solve problems without supervisor approval. While this might not sound like a major revelation, far too many customer service leaders simply don’t trust their agents — a sentiment that their customers inherit, leading to earlier and more frequent escalations. But it’s not all about cost-to-serve — there are enormous revenue implications here. For example, our analysis found that home and auto insurers that empower their agents to solve problems themselves could see a whopping $1 billion in incremental revenue. Airlines that do the same could see an $833 million revenue boost. The other two drivers show similar revenue potential across industries, compelling evidence of the contact center’s untapped potential.
So what can customer service leaders do about it? Two places to start:
- Go off script. It’s time to stop micromanaging your agents’ language. To have true authority, agents need to be able to speak in their own voice. By restricting agents to a script, you’re not only limiting their capacity to connect with customers on a deeper level and build trust but also stifling their ability to find unique solutions to customer problems. This negatively impacts both your customer’s experience and the agent’s experience. Empower your agents to speak authentically, and you’ll see more productive and satisfying customer outcomes, as well as higher engagement levels among your employees.
- Focus on accountability. Let’s be real: When customers reach out for help, they’re not looking to hear hollow empathy phrases. They expect your agent to take accountability for finding a solution to their problems. Empathy statements are a fixture of most quality monitoring programs, but the reality is that true empathy cannot be scripted or canned. Most customer service leaders we interviewed admit that these empathy statements have very little correlation to CX outcomes, as most contact center interactions are transactional in nature. Instead, customer service leaders should measure agents on displaying accountability and ownership of the resolution to prove their commitment to better CX outcomes.
Read the full report to see the impact across all three customer service drivers along with guidance on how to unlock these revenue streams.
If you’re a Forrester client and want to discuss how you can make these changes to your service operations, schedule an inquiry with me.