To say the least, 2022 was a turbulent year for businesses. The global economy was wrecked by supply chain issues, skyrocketing inflation, continued COVID-19 lockdowns in different parts of the world, the war in Ukraine, soaring fuel prices, and a tightening labor market that's seen layoffs hit numerous markets.

The air travel industry faced total chaos throughout the summer as traveler complaints to the Transportation Department soared, along with flight disruptions. "Skimpflation" impacted everything from food quality to hotel service.

It’s safe to say customers were frequently frustrated and the current economic climate has everyone taking a hard look at where they spend their money. These conditions put a magnifying glass on customer service as businesses become laser-focused on winning consumer loyalty.

Customer Satisfaction Remains Flat

According to Qualtrics research, the results for the customer service industry were mixed at best in 2022. Qualtrics XM Institute surveyed more than 33,000 consumers across 29 countries to understand what is driving the current consumer mindset as the economy pushes people to make tough decisions on where and how they spend their money. Globally, our data for the past year shows that customer satisfaction remains relatively flat. There’s a similar pattern for other outcomes including consumer trust and likelihood to recommend:

  • Nearly 1 in 2 customers (43%) still aren’t satisfied with the service experience they receive, despite global digital transformation over the past few years.
  • More than half (55%) of consumers say they’ve had customer service issues go unresolved.
  • 42% are unhappy with the empathy they received from a customer service agent.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers say companies need to do a better job of listening to them — unchanged from last year, showing that there is still room for improvement.

Related Article: 4 New Ways to Use Customer Satisfaction Results

Your Customer Service Agents Aren't Happy

On the other side of the coin, customer service agents are also unhappy. Earlier this year Qualtrics surveyed over 300 call center agents and over 140 call center managers to get their thoughts on the state of customer service and their individual experience:

  • 60% of customer service agents said customers became more rude and aggressive during the pandemic.
  • One in five (20%) think about quitting every week.
  • 80% of agents indicated they are struggling to keep up with the cost of living.
  • Nearly half (46%) of call center agents do not believe their leadership invests in their team or function, and over a quarter (27%) do not think they are provided with the tools or training needed to be successful.
  • In turn, 38% of customer service agents believe they are not set up for success in their role.
  • 33% of customer service agents felt their performance was not fairly evaluated and only 41% said they were incentivized to offer personalized, empathetic experiences to customers — two key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

These numbers paint a bleak picture of the service industry and things obviously need to change, but how? As budgets tighten in 2023, companies can’t afford to make a poor investment. So what changes should call center teams make to maximize their impact in 2023?

Make Empathy a Priority in the Call Center

Here is one: make Empathy a top priority. Our research shows that a genuine, human connection between customers and agents has a more significant impact on customer satisfaction than pure efficiency. Accommodating, empathetic agents are about twice as likely to make customers happy than shorter wait times. The way forward is to combine operational data like average handle time with measurements that can quantify the human parts of the customer experience.

Learning Opportunities

Invest in Health of Call Center Teams

Additionally, companies will have to invest in the health of their call center teams. Invest in better coaching, better pay and incentives, and better tools. A poor agent experience will ultimately impact the customer experience, and it is costly to replace and retrain agents when a high-performing agent leaves.

Related Article: How to Improve the Call Center Customer Experience

Listen to Customers

Listen to customers, wherever they are sharing feedback. Call centers that tap into the huge swathes of solicited and unsolicited customer feedback — across calls, chats, emails, surveys, and social with intelligent, omnichannel listening — can develop an unparalleled understanding of customers that the whole business can benefit from.

Follow Through for a Healthy CSAT Score

Finally, follow through. If a customer has to call more than once, CSAT drops 22%. When customers are left unsure if their issue is resolved, CSAT drops by 26%. Companies need to find ways to funnel customer feedback data directly into the hands of their agents and provide enough context to empower agents to handle issues with greater understanding.

Customer service can and must be better in 2023. Companies that make the right changes will keep customers happy and loyal as we navigate the months ahead.

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