Artificial intelligence and ChatGPT promise to revolutionize customer service automation, but is that what customers really want? What if AI in the CRM stack leads to dissatisfied B2B customers fleeing for better treatment?
A recent study by Fusion Connect, a global managed communication service provider, revealed that 90% of businesses are willing to pay more for better customer service. However, they will pay more elsewhere if satisfaction takes too long.
This new data gleaned from business executives highlights what they value most when it comes to customer service — exploring topics such as budget, the preferred method of interaction, problem-solving, and accessibility.
Fusion Connect, in late February, announced the significant impact even a single negative customer experience could have on businesses. Conducted in partnership with Gartner Peer Insights, the research revealed that business customers are willing to spend big money in exchange for better service and will take drastic measures if they do not receive it.
According to the report, which surveyed 300 executives and directors across the information security and information technology industries, 91% would pay more annually to receive better customer service. A majority (52%) would pay 6% to 15% extra. About a quarter (24%) are willing to pay whatever it takes to receive a better experience.
“Businesses that disregard the value of quality customer service are making a grave mistake,” Rod Brownridge, senior vice president for customer support at Fusion Connect, told CRM Buyer.
“Customer service is the cornerstone of any successful business, yet too many companies overlook its significance, thinking of it as an expense rather than an investment. With outstanding support, businesses can attract and keep customers and discover countless new opportunities for growth.”
Unhappy Customers Hurt Bottom Line
Not prioritizing the customer experience leads to severe business distress. Nearly half of the respondents (45%) said they would file a complaint or respond negatively to a survey after one negative experience with a supplier.
Others take more drastic action. For instance, 21% said they would never do business with that supplier again, while 15% said they would reduce their spending with that supplier, and 6% would change suppliers.
Other highlights from the study include the following:
- Interactions cannot be complicated. The most essential element of customer service is a seamless experience (37%), with no technical glitches or difficulty connecting with the provider and quickly resolving the issue.
- Reliability goes a long way. Customers value reaching the provider when and how they want (25%) and connecting with someone who knows them and can help resolve their issue (16%).
- Relationships blossom from accessibility and care. Over half (55%) of those surveyed feel emotionally connected with a business when they can reach customer care via multiple channels, and 31% experience that emotional connection when they feel the company cares about their needs.
“A negative customer service experience does not end as soon as the interaction does,” Brownridge said. “It can turn customers away forever, leaving lasting damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line.”
Irritating Factors a Return Turnoff
Among the most significant findings is that a frustrating contact center experience will cause a drastic loss of customers. Nobody wants to reach out to customer service. When they must continually raise their issue, their solution is to go elsewhere fast.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed would consider changing providers if they are continually making requests for the same support need. Fast solutions matter. More than half (52%) listed being passed to multiple agents as a big reason for switching.
Other factors that push customers to consider switching are being unable to speak to an agent (44%), being put on hold for too long (43%), and waiting too long for a result 31%.
Survey results also revealed how much multi-channel service options matter. Fifty-five percent of respondents said the ability to reach customer care via multiple channels is why they feel emotionally connected to a business.
More than a third (37%) said a seamless interaction without technical glitches was the most important part of the customer experience. A quarter of the respondents (25%) want to reach the provider when and how they want.
Meanwhile, 16% want to connect with someone who knows them and can help resolve their issue. Last, 14% want the provider to reach out to discuss likely problems and offer solutions proactively.
Careful Deployment Required
While this was Fusion Connect’s first research dive on CX, some trends its researchers noted in the results have also been seen across the industry, according to Brownridge. The overall takeaway is that price is becoming less relevant when customers get a better experience and feel they are being cared for properly.
“CRMs are essential for businesses to navigate customer data quickly and properly so they can create loyalty and retain customers. One of the major barriers to CRM success is the budget,” he noted.
To make the most of their CRM, companies need to invest upfront. According to a Smart Office survey, only 44% of respondents will increase their investment to improve their customer experience initiatives, Brownridge offered.
“Some companies have had negative experiences with CRM technology when it is not used correctly, or employees are not trained properly to use it,” he noted.
Uphill Battle Winning Customers Back
It is hard to get a customer back after a negative interaction. The goal of every business should be to do their best not to wrong a customer, suggested Brownridge.
Some negative reactions are harder to control, especially when a customer thinks the problem is not being addressed effectively. Businesses will suffer if they fail to do everything to satisfy their customers.
He offered some tips for repairing customer damage. Active listening helps customers feel they are being heard. Do not interrupt them while they are trying to speak.
Agents must display empathy and assure customers that their issue will be resolved, then work to understand the root of that issue. Asking questions can also help customers clearly communicate their needs and empower the provider to create that desired emotional connection.
Agents must be able to handle all types of situations, especially when a customer reaches out in frustration over unresolved issues. All businesses should implement ongoing communications training to help CX teams identify pain points and solution options.
Overcoming Subpar CRM a Critical Mission
The will is often there to overcome the negative impact of an ineffective CRM system, but the challenges are vast. They include limited resources and conflicting priorities, according to Brownridge.
“Inadequate understanding and incorrectly implementing a new CRM is what really holds it back. Most organizations use it to drive sales, but CRM is more of a relationship-building tool,” he noted.
Companies need to understand the role of CRM better. By treating CRM as another piece of software to optimize, most organizations throw away an opportunity to develop their network of relationships, he added.
“Some companies may not fully understand the benefits of having an effective CRM system. They may not realize how important it is to have a centralized customer information database and how it can help them make informed business decisions,” he said.
Resistance to change is another part of the battle companies must overcome to defeat adverse customer reactions. He explained that some companies might resist change and prefer to continue using their existing processes, even if they are outdated or inefficient.
“This can make it challenging to implement a new CRM system or update an existing one,” he noted.
So can a lack of focus. Some companies may focus more on short-term goals, such as increasing sales, rather than building long-term customer relationships.
“This can lead to a neglect of CRM issues,” he warned.