As the pandemic continues to impact brands and businesses, organizations are racing to resolve the Engagement Capacity Gap (ECG), leaning into customer service technology to support digital-first engagement and more empathic connections with customers, and scrambling to deal with a litany of other trials and tribulations, new research from CX firm Verint.
Last year, the firm introduced its seminal research on the ECG brought about by new workforce dynamics, ever-expanding customer engagement channels, and exponentially more consumer interactions—all which must be managed with limited budget and resources. This year’s research shows new pressures are impacting the ECG, creating new challenges for brands, and 76 percent of respondents believe these challenges will increase in 2022.
Respondents cited their top technology-led customer engagement initiatives are supporting improved agent experience and well-being (60 percent), digital-first customer engagement (59%), and supporting agent guidance for expressing empathy (58 percent).
Still reeling from the dramatic effects of the pandemic, businesses are facing new challenges, including supply chain issues and staffing shortages. Fifty-two percent have customer engagement difficulties stemming from supply chain issues, while 71 percent find retaining talented workers to be moderately or highly challenging. While last year’s survey showed many organizations had throttled back on hiring plans, this year’s survey shows a marked change—60 percent plan to increase staffing levels to support customer engagement in 2022 (up 9 percent from last year.)
“Two years into the pandemic, organizations see a future of constant change and continued challenges – particularly while facing significant staffing issues amid the ‘Great Resignation’ and widespread disruption in the global supply chain—issues that seemingly have no resolution in sight,” said Celia Fleischaker, Verint’s chief marketing officer, in a news release. “While brands have gotten over the initial shock and disruption of the pandemic, they now are operating in a state of ‘disruption as usual,’ needing to respond to ongoing rapid change.”
Fleischaker continues, “Brands are moving beyond reorienting operations for remote work; in 2022 the focus is on improving performance and leading with empathy to uplevel the customer and employee experience for the long-term.”
Zeroing in on critical needs and capabilities
In 2021, organizations upped budgets for digital-first initiatives/channels; 41 percent increased budgets for voice of the customer and experience management, 40 percent for chatbots and intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs), 39 percent for social messaging for customer service, and 35 percent for communities.
Moving forward, 35 percent plan to increase their budgets for chatbots and IVAs to help beleaguered agents improve efficiency and decisioning, and 37 percent plan to bolster investments in knowledge management, as “the ability to quickly find information to better serve customers” was noted as a top workforce goal in 2022.
Quality and performance solutions were the most implemented and expanded solutions last year, and respondents say they will continue to be a top budget expenditure in 2022. Other top focus areas in 2021 were workforce management and compliance, security and fraud.
Understanding and acting on consumer behaviors and building enduring customer relationships were the top two challenges noted in last year’s research and remain the top two challenges in the year ahead. Nearly half (47 percent) saw obtaining a unified view of customer experience as a key challenge while much of their customer interaction data sits in multiple data silos.
Respondents are embracing the means to support kinder, gentler, more human-centric engagement—and companies are devising technology-infused strategies to safeguard both employee wellness and the delivery of empathic customer engagement. Ninety-one percent have adopted technology and strategies to support greater empathy in their customer engagement efforts for 2022.
An independent research firm collected the data between Dec. 2 – Dec. 23, 2021, via a customized online survey. The survey group consisted of 2,742 individuals who are decision-makers/recommenders/influencers for customer engagement and experience solutions for their organizations operating across 13 different countries and regions worldwide.