Patience Factors and Customer Service

Patience is a virtue, or at least so we’re told. Virtue or not, patience is something we are asked to practice on a regular basis—especially when on the phone with customer support. But with advances in modern technology, humans have lost their patience as, according to some, our attention spans have decreased in recent years to less than that of the notoriously short-sighted goldfish.

The digital age has brought about an era in which people expect nearly instantaneous gratification. The fast pace of the modern world makes people even more loathsome of the times when they are forced to a standstill. However, studies have shown that the limit of human patience isn’t a fixed duration but instead adjusts according to various factors of the situation at hand.

Let’s examine some of the factors of patience and their link to customer service.

Patience Factor – Confidence

It turns out that expectation plays a large role in a person’s willingness to wait for a payoff. In fact, a correlation between the certainty level of receiving something and how long people can stand to wait has been reported in this study on serotonin’s link to patience. The basic idea supported by this study is that the act of waiting for something is made more bearable if the person waiting has a high degree of confidence (roughly 75%) in actually receiving the reward.

This is important information for those in the customer service business as it suggests that providing a strong customer service experience that results in the customer ultimately ending the interaction satisfied with the outcome will increase their willingness to wait a bit longer for that quality experience. The more confident a person is that a pot of gold really is at the end of the rainbow, the more likely they are to keep walking towards it.

Patience Factor – Quality

McDonald’s recently challenged the patience of its customers when they first began testing a new product: fresh beef patties made to order. As outlined in this article from Huffington Post, their initial rollout of the new product was done as a blind test in some regions where customers were not informed that they would have a longer wait time but ultimately receive a better product at the end of the wait. The immediate result was frustration as customers were unexpectedly told to pull into a parking spot to wait for burgers that just a week ago would have come out immediately.

However, once consumers were told ahead of time that wait times would be slightly longer (about a minute longer on average compared to the frozen, pre-cooked product) but result in a tastier, juicier product that was made from 100% fresh beef, they were much more willing to wait.

This shows that consumers are willing to wait as long as the end result is worth the extra time. Consistently providing a great customer experience that results in positive outcomes will generate positive word of mouth and result in greater brand loyalty. The better the experience you offer, the easier it will be to gain and retain customers.

That doesn’t mean you can expect people to sit on hold all day long until you eventually provide a great experience. However, this does show that customers are willing to wait longer for issues that are of greater importance to them. This suggests that using automation to quickly address common issues would be ideal while problems with more weight to them are better resolved with a human touch.

Patience Factor – Speed

According to a Zendesk survey, 66% of B2B customers switch to new vendors after having poor customer service experiences. The same survey reported that a customer’s satisfaction with the customer support staff is most often directly related to how long it takes for their issue to be resolved. 69% of Zendesk survey respondents said that the speedy resolution of their complaints was an important factor in their overall satisfaction with customer service interactions.

Anyone who has ever been on the phone with customer support knows how tedious and frustrating the experience can be. General feelings towards customer service calls are so negative that they have been the subject of numerous stand-up comedy routines and rants over the years. Further exacerbating the negative association that people have with calling into support lines is the fact that people generally only speak with customer service when something is going wrong. This creates a sort of perfect storm of negative emotions where customers are already on edge and expecting to have a bad time right from the start.

Providing quick resolution times is no easy task for customer service call centers. Scaling up a call center to deal with customer traffic is expensive and doing so on the fly is nearly impossible using traditional staffing methods. One of the primary tools that is utilized to reduce the average resolution time is an interactive voice response (IVR) system. The promise of the IVR is the ability to answer every call as it comes in and begin the process of addressing customer issues.

IVRs: The Imperfect Solution

IVRs attempt to resolve simple issues quickly but are generally ill-suited for tackling issues with even the slightest bit of nuance. Traditional IVR solutions are more about creating the illusion of quickly addressing a customer concern rather than actually solving the problem. In an ideal world, these systems would scale to sudden influxes of customer concerns and reduce the overall response time of a call center by resolving simple issues without requiring a human agent to intervene.

However, these systems have earned the ire of customers across the world with their slow response times, poor voice recognition, and grating robotic voices. According to a survey conducted by Vonage in the UK, 54% of consumers believe IVR makes for a poor customer service experience. The most common emotion respondents associated with using IVR systems was frustration. 37% of respondents cited unnecessarily long IVR menus as a primary point of consternation while 35% felt like the systems wasted their time.

Clearly, speed is an important factor for keeping customers happy. Unfortunately, IVRs don’t actually reduce the time it takes to resolve a customer complaint. Instead, they essentially act as an arguably more aggravating method for putting customers on hold. This is why we made it our mission at Replicant to craft real conversations that go far beyond what a standard IVR can do.

We use the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide next-generation, Conversational AI on the phone (AKA virtual agent) that is capable of holding real and complex conversations that do not waste the customer’s time or place a strain on their patience. Our service uses natural-sounding text-to-speech technology combined with machine learning to provide an unrivaled customer service experience. Since we deploy machines to answer those transactional calls, customers benefit from no wait time and a much shorter call compared to a call with an agent.

Replicant is capable of addressing common customer issues while gathering pertinent information for more complex issues which is then passed onto human agents. This saves customers time and frustration by never requiring them to repeat themselves while also saving customer service agent’s time by giving them access to the information they need to quickly get to the bottom of the problem. Replicant provides your organization with the ability to increase the quality of your customer service interactions while drastically reducing resolution time—saving you resources and improving brand loyalty in one stroke.

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