With imposed lockdowns sending people into isolation during the last year of COVID, new research from cloud CX and contact center solutions firm Genesys reveals a declining state of human connectivity, with 2 in 5 people feeling less connected to others than before the pandemic. Notably, the deficit is driving people to connect in surprising ways—1 in 6 consumers confessed to calling customer service just to hear another voice.
The firm’s newly released report, Human Connections in Crisis, examines the effect of the pandemic on the human condition as the world has turned to virtual methods to work, live and play. Yet, as “digitally connected” as people are now, with respondents spending an average of six hours per day interacting with others via social media, email, text, phone and video, etc. at work alone, the connection deficit has grown.
The report underscores Forrester’s prediction that customer service will serve as a lifeline for consumers in 2021. As a result of COVID-19, consumers are seeking relief from anxiety, challenges and the need for human connection everywhere. According to the report, companies’ customer service has a growing role to play.
“At a time where physical distancing is causing many to feel isolated, consumers are attempting to reclaim some of sense of themselves through unorthodox behaviors,” said Tony Bates, CEO and chair of Genesys, in a news release. “The erosion of human connection has changed the relationship between consumers and the companies in their lives. Businesses that lead with empathy in these moments will deliver meaningful experiences that build lasting relationships with their customers.”
The findings reveal a correlation between consumers’ sense of connection and their behaviors engaging with customer service departments, with those who feel more connected (20 percent) more regularly contacting customer service. While businesses have a role to play in helping bridge the connection gap, they must first overcome the negative perception held by 40 percent of respondents who believe customer service is always a hassle. By understanding consumer expectations for engagement and enabling representatives with the right technology, businesses can deliver better overall customer service experiences and become loyalty leaders.
Bridging the consumer connection gap
In a digital first landscape our connections are at risk. To build loyal relationships, companies must evolve their customer experience by:
- Finding empathy in the balance between people and technology: Companies have spent years optimizing for more efficient customer interactions. Yet in the rush to digitally transform, experiences have become less human. According to the survey, 67 percent of consumers rate empathetic customer service experiences over speedy resolutions. This finding challenges the customer service industry’s widely held measurement standard that quick resolution is paramount. Additionally, characteristics of empathy were rated the highest for customer service interactions, with consumers wanting customer service representatives to: listen to them (88 percent), understand their needs (86 percent), and value their time (85 percent).
- Communicating for more successful experiences: Companies must focus on fostering the genuine feeling of human connection. Forty three percent said that they want to interact with companies that listen to their needs and avoid up-selling via customer service channels. By understanding the appropriate times for sales communications, companies will provide better experiences and in turn have higher instances of customer happiness.
- Ensuring fluid experiences from start to finish: Consumers today expect their engagement with companies to be tailored to their needs and consistent across all channels and touchpoints. To do this, companies must leverage data and AI to create a fluid end-to-end experience. Almost half (46 percent) of consumers would feel more connected to a company that remembers them, while 66 percent believe that it improves their experiences.
Additional key findings from the report showcased that:
- Social media dominates workday engagement channels: Overall consumers are engaging with one another at work at high levels, with an average of six hours a day spent on interactive tools including IMs, video and phone calls, and email. Social media is the most frequently used method, with people spending an average of 1.7 hours on the platforms at work daily.
- Interactive applications play a vital role in connection: Those experiencing an increased feeling of connection despite the pandemic are leveraging interactive digital methods such as social media and video at a higher rate vs. applications where there is no two-way interaction between humans, like checking the weather or online shopping.
- Trust in big brands is back: Big brands made a comeback from 2019 sentiment, increasing representation as organizations with excellent customer service from 27 percent to 71 percent.
Genesys commissioned Savanta Research to conduct an online survey to 2,000 adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. between Dec. 10-21, 2020.