In today’s digital world, customers are faced with a plethora of choices when they want to get in touch with organizations. Powerful voice, text and image search capabilities mean that when customers want something, the information is always instantly available. Voice self-service and Natural Language Processing allow customers to make changes to their accounts or find answers to queries without ever speaking to an agent. But with all this exciting technology, do customers actually prefer to self-serve?
According to Gartner®, “by 2023 customers will prefer to use speech interfaces to initiate 70% of self-service customer interactions”. Content Guru research shows that customers are divided on whether they would prefer to speak to a customer service agent or self-serve. Digging deeper into the data however, there is a divide between simple interactions and more complex ones.
For simple interactions such as finding out the weather forecast, 63.2% of those surveyed said that they would rather search online as opposed to 35.1% that would rather use voice queries. We all recognize, “Alexa, what is the weather like today?” or, “Hey Siri, what time is the next train to Leeds?”. These quick searches make up the majority of customers’ interactions with organizations. Be it booking an appointment solely through interacting with an IVR, searching across Google using text and voice, or getting answers from a chatbot on the web, self-service reigns dominant for simple interactions.
With more complex interactions, it is a different story. Voice remains the most popular channel for addressing issues with multiple points, making complaints, or for situations with strong emotions or high stakes outcomes. In the survey, 62.3% of people said that they would rather complain to an organization on the phone, as opposed to 24.6% on email, and 11.5% on web chat.
As technology continues to evolve, contact centers need to be aware that customers are in a time of flux and shifting expectations. Voice is not only still extremely convenient, but is developing a new role – from the channel that was the most popular purely because it was the only one available, to one that has high priority uses. Talking to a real person will always retain a place in the contact center for those interactions that matter the most to customers.
The key is to get the balance right. Contact centers should have omni-channel capabilities so that customers can get in contact how they choose: matching their channel to both their preference, and increasingly, their type of interaction.
 Gartner, Critical Capabilities for Contact Center as a Service, Steve Blood, Drew Kraus, Simon Harrison, 16 October 2019
 Customer experience research by Content Guru, 2020
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