Gartner says customer service and support leaders are accelerating self-service initiatives to mitigate the potential negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40% of customer service and support leaders have experienced increased service contact volumes compared to original 2020 projections due to the COVID-19 pandemic (see Figure 1.).
A Gartner poll of 106 customer service and support leaders in October 2020 found some differences between organization types in how service contact volumes deviated from original 2020 projections. For example, B2C organizations most frequently reported an increase in contact volumes compared to B2B organizations. Among leaders who reported a contact volume increase,
Forty-six per cent of leaders who reported contact volume increase said the increase was equal across self-service and live service. Another 39% of respondents said it was mostly in live service.
“An increase in assisted channel contact volumes has a wide-ranging impact on the service function – declines in customer experience, higher cost-to-serve and rep burnout,” said Devin Poole, senior director analyst in the Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice.
He cautioned that the silver lining has been customers’ increased willingness to self-serve. “Service leaders need to take this opportunity to change customer behaviour to mitigate the near-term impacts on experience and cost,” he suggested.
Figure 1: Impact of COVID-19 on Customer Service Contact Volumes
Source: Gartner (March 2021)
Many customer service and support leaders alter the company’s website and mobile apps to prominently display customer support content and/or investing in new digital channels.
Pool commented that migrating customers to self-service is long overdue and will alleviate cost and employee pressures, but simply adding more channels or functionality will have the opposite effect.
“Instead, service leaders should focus their attention and investments on the end-to-end resolution journey and migrate key contact types to self-service channels. This has proven to drive more cost-effective customer behaviours while maintaining the service experience,” concluded Poole.