Businesses Need to Transform Customer Engagement For the New Era

By Tomas Gorny, co-founder and CEO, Nextiva

For several years, customer satisfaction in America has been on a downward slide. Surveys from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) show satisfaction levels falling from 77% in 2018 to just over 73% today. Although the pace of that decline has slowed recently, customer satisfaction is at its lowest in 17 years.

While there are numerous reasons people feel frustrated when dealing with businesses, one problem often causes the biggest headaches: having to repeat their information. Microsoft’s latest Global State of Customer Service report explains that this is a common gripe. And negative experiences are turning away customers. A whopping 58% “have stopped doing business with an organization due to poor service.”

The state of customer satisfaction has a profound impact on corporate bottom lines and share values. The ACSI analyzed companies that score highest in their industries for customer satisfaction. It found that if they were put into their own portfolio, “Over the period from 2006 through 2021, such a portfolio would have generated a cumulative return of 1,788%, compared to the S&P 500 return of 429%. This equates to an annualized return of 20.16% for the ACSI Leaders portfolio, while the S&P 500 had an annualized return of 10.97% over the same timeframe.”

So it isn’t just customers who have reason to push companies to vastly improve how they engage with customers -- it’s investors as well.

The source of confusion

To be fair, many companies are trying to address customer pain points. But problems with customer management continue. And ironically, these can be exacerbated by efforts to be as reachable as possible.

During the pandemic, organizations quickly updated their operations, and representatives became available across more platforms than ever. As Hootsuite reported, many businesses moved online and were soon “struggling to provide quality social media customer service.” Among the data the company reported: 70% of people expect to message businesses more for customer service, and 64% would rather message than call. But nearly half (45%) of brands took more than five days to respond to messages through their Facebook pages; 9% did not reply to comments on Instagram, and 16% did not respond to comments on Facebook.

With so many platforms operating at once, it can seem virtually impossible to keep track of all those interactions in a single, intuitive way. So it’s natural that when a customer reaches out on a different platform, whoever responds won’t have a comprehensive view of the customer’s entire experience.

Streamlining communications

Working with businesses across a wide variety of industries, I’ve come to see that a new era of communications is needed to revolutionize customer engagement. Modern tools should be implemented that turn all interactions into a single conversation thread.

That's why work hubs are now so important. As Aragon Research points out in a report, “a work hub can consolidate two or more functions found in standalone apps.” These hubs can integrate communications with customers and among staff, no matter where and how those communications happened -- by phone, video, apps, or any online channel. “The ideal platform will support communication and collaboration with the ecosystem partners, including suppliers and customers,” Aragon says.

With this in place, the entire company has information on the customer relationship, regardless of which functional area generated the information. From sales to service to the front line or the C-suite, everyone has the same context. This vastly improves customer engagement, showing people that the company knows them.

Needed amid the ‘great resignation’

The tight labor market and continued high pace of people quitting their jobs makes the need for a new work hub even more urgent. “We’re asking representatives to do more and work more to make up for the decrease in headcount,” one director of customer service and support told Gartner.

In addition, global supply chain issues are leading many customers to rely more heavily on customer service than ever. Successful businesses need to quickly adapt their customer communications systems to the new reality.

In communications with companies, from phone conferences to conversations with investor relations representatives, shareholders would do well to push companies in the right direction.

Tomas Gorny is co-founder and CEO of Nextiva, a Connected Communications company.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.