2022 - Chatbot fatigue, service agent recognition and social engagement

Colin Crowley Profile picture for user Colin Crowley January 19, 2022
Is it time to retire the chatbot and prioritize human customer service engagement? Colin Crowley of Freshworks considers what we've learned about customer satisfaction in the pandemic - and what makes consumers happy.

  Customer support illustration set. Characters using online helpdesk platform. People asking a questions and receiving answers from helpdesk operator or chatbot © Irina Strelnikova - Shutterstock
(© Irina Strelnikova - Shutterstock)

Having closed the book on 2021 (which for most of the world was a step forward from 2020), it’s worth taking note of some of the trends that took place around us, and how they’ve shaped what we can expect to see in 2022. For an industry that’s been on the sharp end of disruption, customer service avoided a black eye over recent months thanks to automation and technology. Below are three customer service technology trends we can expect to see this year.

The year of ‘return to human’ as we hit the chatbot ceiling

The pandemic pushed businesses online overnight, whether they liked it or not. Globally, most companies scaled as quickly as they could, embracing automation and self-service technology, including chatbots, and rapidly scrambled FAQs in an effort to deflect and resolve customer issues. And for most organizations it worked. Brands report a 7% increase in CSAT scores as a result of these successful bot implementations.

However, it also served as a lesson on customer engagement. First, brands now realize just how hard it actually is to effectively reach and engage with customers across any channel. And second, they recognize that customer service interactions offer a golden opportunity to not only resolve customer problems but also foster a delightful exchange that deepens relationships and loyalty. This type of connection is only possible through human interaction.

The same report citing that bot increased CSAT scores, also uncovered that while customers assign more value to quick responses than the time taken to resolve a query, they also don’t mind waiting longer if it means a better quality of interaction. With that said, look for more and more companies to rethink customer service as a branding opportunity in 2022, which means rethinking the bot deflection – even for the simplest conversations – and exceeding delight with a more human touch.

The year of customer service agent recognition

The time has arrived – 2022 has been hailed as the year we will see customer service agent empowerment. It was a rising trend pre-COVID, but now it’s front and center. Whether it has been fueled by the pandemic or advances in dedicated technology and tools that have driven industry maturity, or both, agent recognition (finally) matters.

Expect to see companies applying the ‘oxygen mask’ principle by putting customer service agents on the front line to retain customers. Management and organizational cultures are recognizing that happy employees equate to happy customers, particularly in the customer service arena.

With the ‘Great Resignation’ making it even harder to staff customer service roles, companies will spend more time investing in the agent experience. This investment will help reduce burnout and retain agents, while enabling agents to handle more customers with less stress.

It’s been said that great customer experience is a leading indicator of success, and the proof is in the numbers. Better agent experience is correlated to higher CSATs and vice versa. In fact, Freshworks research reveals that just 100 extra monthly tickets per agent can lead to a 1% drop in customer satisfaction scores.

Small gestures go a long way with agent happiness. For example, letting agents take off key holidays or not pushing too hard in times of intense customer contact volume. Likewise, by deflecting simpler, boring conversations from human beings, agents are left with more complex, specialized tasks, which are more rewarding and meaningful.

Technology can play a key role here, as efficiency features like AI-based ticket classification, automatic routing of incoming customer contacts to the right agent and increasingly complex agent assist technologies, which provide real-time conversational guidance to agents, can save agents up to 1.2 hours a day. Another example is using technology to keep better track of agent sentiment and culture through engagement surveys, gamification technology, and incentive/recognition systems.

The year we turn to WhatsApp for brand engagement

With all the hubbub over multi-channel interactions with companies, it’s time to declare a few winners who are standing out. The unsuspecting winner for global brands will be WhatsApp. A whopping 68% of WhatsApp users users report it’s the most convenient way to engage with brands.

For consumers, it’s not a surprise. In an age of rising customer expectations, low patience and a digitally fluent consumer base, the rise of WhatsApp follows a larger global trend that shows messaging channels, such as Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Google Business Messaging, dominate and result in high CSAT rates due to speed, convenience and affordability.

Of course, chat is still a main channel alongside messaging, not only on the web, but also built into app experiences and especially so for app-heavy companies. However, as social media (rather than conventional methods, such as email) increases, expect the rise of social IT to continue.

The ability to integrate social media platforms with service agent technology to communicate, resolve and respond to your customers will become a game changer for delivering seamless experience and customer delight.

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