Eng Tan and Daniel Rodriguez, the CEO and CMO of Simplr, respectively, have a theory. In their 2021 book: Experience is Everything, they say that customer neglect is on the rise and has been for several years.
They believe that neglect happens when customers feel ignored when seeking help. This could take the form of long wait times for an email response, inability to connect live with an agent via a phone number or a live chat facility, long hold times, unanswered social media messages, and so on.
Moreover, they say that this feeling of neglect has been fueled by the rise of brands like Amazon Prime, Uber, Netflix and DoorDash with their promise of on-demand services and super-fast delivery.
They argue that these brands have changed customers’ expectations and that we have been conditioned into wanting everything now or on-demand.
According to Simplr’s research, if brands want to lead their markets and get top marks for their service from consumers, they must answer emails in less than 15 minutes and respond to live chat requests in under 30 seconds.
That’s a frighteningly high bar.
It becomes an even higher bar when you marry that level of expectation to online consumer behavior. According to SaleCycle, evenings are prime time for e-commerce sites, with the peak purchase time from Monday to Friday lying between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. However, those peak times are generally long after most customer service teams have signed off and gone home for the day.
Self-service options, like chat-bots, have been used to try and fill this gap. But, many of the bots on offer are not geared up to deal with more than simple customer queries. Tan and Rodriguez’s research suggests that, in reality, chat-bots only ever answer somewhere between 10-20% of all customer enquiries, and that leaves more than 80% of all customers with queries feeling neglected.
Tan and Rodriguez believe this gap can be filled by deploying a flexible, freelance and connected network of experts, enabled by intelligent technology, to help customers at peak times, outside of regular business hours and on weekends.
This is not surprising coming from two leaders of a technology company aiming to do precisely that and simultaneously disrupt the Contact Center space and the traditional model of service.
But, I think they are right.
They are right that adding a distributed network of experts, enabled by intelligent technology, to your service and experience mix comes with all sorts of benefits, including being able to better respond to changing customer behavior and demand patterns. This will, in turn, help drive better customer and business outcomes.
However, one thing about their theory troubles me, and that is the idea that brands have no control over their customer’s expectations.
That’s not strictly true.
Customers will indeed transfer their expectations onto a brand from elsewhere. But, they will only do this if they are not set up front by the brand and then subsequently managed.
For example, if a brand says that it will respond to messages within 2 hours, then that’s the reference point that their customers will use when measuring their performance. It’s also the service offer they make to the customer vis-à-vis their enquiry.
What’s troubling, however, is the number of brands that don’t set customer expectations. Hence, the burgeoning neglect, I guess.
That mistake doesn’t help the brand and leaves many customers set up for disappointment.