contact center employee

How Consumer Preference and CX Have Changed since 2019

Two years ago, I’d get a lot of pushback if I’d said that the previous 18 months had been unique in nearly every aspect. You’d be perfectly justified in asking me, “Oh really, how?” Today, there’s no point to argue.   

And in the business environment, it’s difficult to identify areas that haven’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, contact centers and customer-service functions had to quickly—and significantly—adapt as more of our daily lives moved to remote and online models. So, how did consumers rate their experiences?   

Five9 partnered with Zogby Analytics to find out. We surveyed more than 2,000 consumers in North America and Western Europe ranging in age from 18 to 70+ to explore the current state of customer service and support. No surprise: Customer service is more important than ever in the COVID-19 era.  

In fact, the percentage of U.S. respondents who are very likely to continue doing business after a negative customer-service experience decreased from 18% to 11% between 2020 and 2021. Add to that the respondents who say that they are very unlikely to do business with an organization after a bad experience increased from 31% to 35%. The importance of good customer experience is clear. Expectations are up. Patience is down. All while organizations face brand-new challenges. It’s a tough mix.  

The Five9 Customer Service Index 2021: Consumer Report digs into the details to give you the information you need to better meet the changing needs of your customers. One thing that’s not changing: You need to keep your focus on creating positive customer experiences and focusing on customer satisfaction to support long-term loyalty.  

Overall, consumers are split about whether contact center experiences have changed since the start of the pandemic:   

  • 44% report that their experiences have stayed the same 

  • 23% say they have slightly or greatly improved 

  • 25% feel that things have become slightly or much worse  

Prior to the pandemic, in our 2019 survey, consumers felt there was a higher level (37%) of experience improvement over the previous year. The lower number this year shouldn’t be a surprise: In 2019, organizations were in business-as-usual mode and could put greater focus on improvement over survival.  

But given the increased reliance on contact centers when organizations were also transitioning to work-from-home models, it’s significant that 23% of consumers report improved experiences. With online commerce replacing in-store experiences, contact centers had to handle more inquiries, especially related to damaged or delayed orders.  

JP Morgan analysts expect the shift to online to continue even as in-person retail returns. Digital activity clearly spiked at the start of the pandemic. According to JP Morgan, “The pandemic pushed more shoppers online, with e-commerce now accounting for 16.1% of all U.S. sales, up from 11.8% in the first quarter.” Likewise, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. consumers increased e–commerce spending 31.8% from the first to the second quarter, spending $211.5 billion online in the second quarter alone.  

To learn more about trends surrounding customer service preferences and perceptions, download the Five9 Customer Service Index 2021 report 

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