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Consumers want better customer service — can remote and hybrid teams deliver?

Respondents to a recent Harvard Business poll agree that there's been a steady decline in the quality of customer service.¹

Whether it’s a frustrating call centre interaction, inefficient online processes or even an unattended live chat, there’s a variety of reasons for customer satisfaction to be at an all-time low — including, but not limited to, the shift to remote and hybrid-first work models.

So, we set out to understand how consumers felt about their customer service interactions with remote and hybrid teams and what companies could do to improve their experiences. The study, commissioned by Ricoh and conducted online by The Harris Poll among 2,000 adults, revealed the following:

  • Nearly half of those surveyed (49%) say they’ve experienced a decline in the level of customer service they receive during online, phone call and chat interactions as more employees in industries such as retail, healthcare, and banking have shifted to hybrid or remote work.

  • Similarly, just under half of those surveyed (47%) believe that when employees are working in hybrid or remote jobs, they are less likely to provide excellent customer service to their customers.

  • And more than half (54%) believe the shift to hybrid work across various industries has resulted in an overall decline in the customer experience.

Hybrid work: A paradox for consumers?

Despite experiencing a decline in the level of customer service from remote and hybrid workers, almost 4/5 respondents agree that these models provide a better work-life balance for employees. In fact, those who are employed are more likely to agree with this statement (82%) than those who aren’t (75%).

So, what does this suggest?

While almost half of consumers surveyed are disappointed with current levels of customer service affected by remote and hybrid work, they recognize the value and importance it has on the well-being of their peers and society as a whole.

In fact, 73% of those surveyed said that companies should do more to make it easier for their employees to work hybrid or remote.

And since hybrid work isn’t going anywhere, here were their other recommendations:

1. Have frameworks and processes in place to ensure the accuracy, custody and security of personal information.

Almost 9 out of 10 consumers agree that organizations need to have better control over the accuracy, custody and security of their personal information. Regardless of industry, customer data is being collected at every opportunity. Whether it’s updated mailing addresses, payment information, prescription details or even contact preferences — these data points can make or break personalized moments that shape a customer’s experience.

Keep remote and hybrid teams connected to customer information with the right intelligent content management solutions. These tools not only make it easy to digitally store, access and share documents from anywhere but can also offer advanced process and workflow automation capabilities and enforce strict records management practices.

What we recommend

Tools, such as intelligent content management solutions or Ricoh’s Intelligent Business Platform, streamline the flow of information between departments and empower front-line teams with easy, centralized access to critical data and core processes from anywhere.

Learn more about our portfolio of solutions to see what’s right for your business

2. Invest in more security awareness training and cybersecurity prevention solutions to keep consumer data safe.

With sectors like healthcare, finance, insurance and retail, the most common targets for cyber attacks, millions of consumers are not only at risk of being impacted but have already been impacted by data breaches. So, it comes as no surprise when 87% percent of those surveyed agree that hybrid and remote organizations should invest in cybersecurity training and prevention solutions. The customer service experience for many consumers now extends beyond just service-delivery moments or break-fix solutions — it must involve building trust.

A data breach that impacts customer data would be detrimental not just to a company’s reputation but to the customer experience and, subsequently, customer retention. The best way to establish trust with consumers is to do everything possible to shore up your human defenses with the most effective containment solutions. The best way to achieve that is with regular, ongoing security awareness training for employees and a safety net such as ransomware containment to stop data encryption within seconds of a breach.

What we recommend

Shore up your security posture with solutions that deliver complete protection for your data and your customers’ data too.

3. Invest in more collaboration tools such as virtual conferencing, interactive flat panel displays, and other software to keep people connected.

Human connection is still as important as ever when it comes to customer experiences and consumers recognize that technology as the great enabler. In our survey, 83% of respondents said they believed hybrid and remote working organizations should invest more in collaboration tools and other software to keep people connected.

Take, for example, a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams: this application can connect a contact centre’s frontline agent in one city, to the middle and back-office teams in another, across huge organizations in insurance and banking all in the span of minutes, to help resolve an escalation, renewal or complicated inquiry.

What we recommend

Integrated solutions such as Ricoh's Work AnywhereTM keep employees working together, productively and securely — anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

The bottom line for CX in a hybrid world

To deliver a great customer experience, organizations must focus on empowering their frontline teams. Customers are noticing which brands are doing hybrid customer service right — and leaving the ones that aren’t.

Delight your customers with exceptional customer service from anywhere, with tech solutions that matter most to them. Ready to get started?

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  1. 1HBR, Customer Experience is Everyone’s Responsibility. April 6, 2023