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Customer experience for many brands has taken a backseat.
That’s not a hypothesis.
Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, 2022 found out that overall CX (Customer Experience) quality in the US has fallen back to early-2020 levels, reversing gains made in 2021.
We also observed that poor working conditions and disappointing remuneration led to over 4.4 million Americans leaving their jobs in September 2021. The World Economic Forum called this mass exodus The Great Resignation.
While it’s clear as day that CX has taken a hit due to the big exit, what’s left to understand is how.
A quick search on the impact of The Great Resignation on employers and employees will yield millions of results. Yet, understanding its net impact on customer experience hasn’t been widely studied.
Here’s what we think are some immediate and gradual ramifications of the Great Resignation on customer experience:
1. Customers have to put up with undertrained agents
It’s understandable that the ‘Big Quit’ is stressing you out. But it’s also taking a toll on your existing employees as they’re having to cover for their ex-colleagues.
Most of them might have to work extra hours to compensate for the resource drain.
A lot of your employees could even be taking up tasks that are outside their roles and comfort zones. Responsibilities have become vague as they are thrust into unknown territories.
This also means that your team might not have the time or energy to train new frontline agents thoroughly. And their lack of training will inevitably result in poor customer experience.
Let’s assume your company sells printers and an existing customer is asking one of your newly hired agents why specific error messages keep appearing. Your agent can’t figure out what it means but continues to provide vague, unhelpful responses that only add to the customer’s frustration.
It’s not your agent’s fault that he isn’t thoroughly trained with the basics, nor should the customer face the brunt for not knowing any better.
If situations like these are allowed to prolong, it will eventually lead to customer attrition.
One effective solution would be setting up a knowledge base to help customers get answers to their queries without your support team’s active interference. Think of it as customer service on autopilot. More importantly, this is something many customers prefer – close to 45% of customers are more likely to use the self-service option now than they did before the pandemic.
2. High agent attrition leads to longer wait times
Have you recently experienced longer wait times for a resolution?
- Refunds are taking longer to be issued.
- Answers to questions about products are coming off as vague.
- You’re being transferred to multiple agents to attend to your problem.
- You’re posting questions on online forums because the agents don’t seem to know any better.
And it’s all the more peculiar because these companies weren’t this bad in the past. They’ve delivered prompt responses before. What happened?
As pointed out previously, CX becomes the biggest casualty when there’s a high employee turnover because there are fewer people left to attend to more customer calls. In fact, customer support teams working in retail saw a massive 70% spike in calls.
Andit’s not just turnover in customer-facing jobs that are creating issues.
A few people quitting your supply chain department could lead to longer shipping times. This could, consequently, result in customers switching to competitors that promise faster deliveries.
We also observed the dramatic shift in lifestyles and buying habits of consumers during the pandemic which has added an additional layer of stress on customer support teams.
3. Customers are less patient, more stressed
The last two years saw a surge in purchasing home office furniture, deploying new electronics, shopping for loungewear instead of suits, preferring home delivery of groceries, learning new courses, among countless other utilities.
Coupled with a change in lifestyle, there’s also an observed change in customer behavior. In fact, 93% of customer service teams say that customers have higher expectations than before.
People don’t have the time they used to have. They are stressed and impatient.
In fact, 75% of consumers state that customer service has worsened during the pandemic. A minor increase in wait time adds to their already stressed situation of adapting and working in new environments.
Frontline agents are facing the brunt of all this. Close to 70% of agents said that they were dealing with more emotionally charged customers.
Therefore, the need of the hour is for service leaders to focus on ways to improve agent retention.
4. New technology is hindering customer experience…for now
The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella noted back in 2020, “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
To help soften the blow of employees leaving, most companies are investing in large-scale digitization initiatives.
They are investing in workflow solutions to help teams collaborate efficiently. They’re also upgrading their CRMs and increasing their dependencies on AI, in the hopes that these technologies could help improve customer experience.
And while these investments in technology can drive productivity, adapting to them takes time. In fact, a McKinsey report stated that 70% of digital transformations fail due to low user-adoption.
Unlike Hiver, which is an incredibly easy-to-use helpdesk, many solutions would require agents to take part in extensive training before they can start using it. And there’s a huge downside to this: responding to customers while working within a new, complicated interface leads to delayed support.
5. More automations might result in less empathy
As mentioned previously, companies are proactively embracing automations. They are leaning towards being process-dependent rather than people-dependent.
That said, customers might feel disengaged due to a lack of personalization and empathy from the chatbots.
Imagine losing your credit card and dialing your bank’s toll-free number only to hear an IVR taking you through a long, drawn-out process to block it, or worse, receiving an automated email stating that the issue will be resolved in 48 hours.
Keep in mind that automations are very effective for expediting internal tasks and routine processes (see how) but might not always work when handling customer interactions.
6. Frequent agent churn leads to inconsistent customer experience
Have you been loyal to a business because of one person?
Have you stuck to calling the same plumber from the agency because he’s always been reliable during emergencies?
Or visited a restaurant regularly because there’s one server who’s extra cheerful and gives you the best table?
Or because a particular doctor at a clinic makes your annual checkup more fun with free gummy bears?
Agents, being a common point-of-contact for your regular customers, help sustain customer loyalty.
Let’s say you have an agent called Ashley who is often reached out to by an important customer. Over time they got used to Ashley’s way of solving their issues and found her very reliable.
But then Ashley quits one fine day, and you decide to put Noah in charge of the account. Your customer now has to adjust to Noah’s way of fixing their bugs. Noah sticks around for 6 months, only to be replaced by Kevin.
Transitions like these can keep breaking up the experience for the customer and add to their frustration, especially if you are working with a shoddy knowledge transfer plan. Why? Because it’s frustrating for your customers to repeat their queries multiple times to multiple agents.
New frontline agents must be provided with all the available context about customers in order to maintain the quality of customer service.
7. Customers are paying the price, quite literally
Eventually and gradually, companies will decide to hire more staff, pay them higher salaries, spend more resources on their training and onboarding, and think of innovative perks and compensation methods to get them to stay.
But who ultimately ends up paying for these increased labor costs? No prizes for guessing, it’s the customer.
To keep steady profits, while experiencing rising labor costs triggered by the Great Resignation, companies have to resort to increasing the price tag on the goods and services.
Companies like Nestle, McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme, among others have been forced to offset the effect of handing out bigger paychecks and rising costs with subsequent increases in prices.
“But our CSAT scores have never been better!”
You might notice that your customer satisfaction scores have remained steady or even seen an improvement during the last 2 years despite the employee attrition in your company. Does this mean that you could do with just 5 people in your customer support team instead of 10?
Tempting and beautiful as those conclusions seem, we’d recommend that you take a look at your CES (customer effort score). While CSAT asks customers if their query has been resolved satisfactorily, CES asks customers how easy was it for them to get their issue resolved. Your agents might be resolving queries effectively, but how difficult is it for the customer to get hold of them in the first place?
Sure their issue was resolved, but they also had to be transferred to multiple agents or wait on an endless virtual queue to get it fixed.
Your CSAT will look fine until the effort to reach out to your customer support team finally takes a toll on your customers.
Can Hiver help?
Let’s face it. Your agents are quitting.
And at a time when customer queries are on a rise, it’s important to invest in tech that empowers agents to effectively tackle these queries at scale, in a timely manner. Something that is intuitive, easy-to-use, requires minimal training, and allows for seamless knowledge transfer.
A solution that ticks all these boxes is Hiver – a multi-channel customer support solution that works within Gmail.
Try Hiver for your support team