Still reeling from the dramatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations see a future of constant change and continued challenges in their efforts to connect with customers.
On top of reorienting operations and building a sustainable remote workforce, businesses face new difficulties, including widespread disruption in the global supply chain and significant staffing shortages amid the Great Resignation.
Three-quarters of companies (76%) expect customer engagement challenges to increase in 2022
As a result, organizations find it more difficult than ever to deliver the desired customer experience (CX) as they enter the third year of post-COVID operations.
Three-quarters of companies (76%) expect customer engagement challenges to increase in 2022 – this, according to new research from Verint based on a worldwide survey of more than 2,700 global business leaders.
The Engagement Capacity Gap
Our research pinpoints the latest pressures affecting businesses as they aspire to support new workforce dynamics, ever-expanding customer engagement channels, and exponentially more consumer interactions – all with limited budget and resources.
These factors create an Engagement Capacity Gap, which impacts organizations as digital disruption increases.
The critical work to close the gap starts with organizations leaning into customer service technology to support digital-first engagement and more empathic connections to level up the customer and employee experiences.
The State of Customer Engagement
According to our research, organizations improved the state of customer engagement and experience this past year by implementing and expanding key customer engagement solutions.
Tools to support remote working have become integral over the past two years, and with hybrid working models here to stay, organizations are now working to optimize and fine-tune these solutions for improved quality and performance.
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%) of companies saw obtaining a unified view of CX while much of their customer interaction data sits in multiple data silos as a key challenge. Clearly, eliminating these silos to connect customer data, behavior, and results is a work-in-progress to improve the omnichannel CX.
Outside influences also continue to put strain on delivering excellent CX. More than half (52%) have customer engagement difficulties stemming from supply chain issues and an even larger majority (71%) find retaining talented workers to be moderately or highly challenging.
While growing revenue – the top priority in last year’s study – remains important, acquiring new customers and improving CXs top the list of priorities.
Organizations are also placing greater emphasis on quality and performance solutions. This will be a top expenditure as companies invest in new technologies to move beyond traditional approaches.
In addition to balancing customer engagement with employee satisfaction, customer acquisition, improving CX, and employee recruitment and wellness are top priorities.
Last year’s study showed the magnitude of customer behavior shifts. Digital-first engagement, which was a necessity for consumers in the early days of the pandemic, is becoming the preferential means of communicating with brands.
As a result, 41% increased budgets in 2021 for voice of the customer and experience management, 40% for chatbots and intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs), 39% for social messaging for customer service, and 35% for communities.
Correspondingly, budgets for digital-first engagement have also risen – a trend that continues in 2022 as companies plan to boost their spending on digital solutions.
Other key expenditures are focused on agent augmentation and empowering the remote workforce (see Tacking Talent Management Challenges box).
Tackling Talent Management Challenges
Organizations are facing an unprecedented upheaval in the workforce, due in part to the Great Resignation.
While last year’s Verint’s Engagement Capacity Gap survey showed many organizations had pulled back on hiring plans, this year’s survey shows a marked change – 60% plan to increase staffing levels to support customer engagement in 2022 (up 9% from last year).
Moreover, challenges continue in developing sustainable work-from-home strategies. Nearly half of respondents (47%) in this year’s survey say half or more of their workforce will remain working remotely or in a hybrid manner in the year ahead. But only 62% believe they are highly prepared to handle the challenges of distributed workers.
At the same time, digital work environments create more silos, and overburdened employees struggle to find the information they need to serve customers effectively. Many workers report feelings of burnout and isolation trying to manage their jobs remotely.
Employee engagement has immediate ramifications for the customer experience, and organizations must prioritize employee wellness, engagement, and productivity to retain, enable and engage the remote workforce. As such, 60% prioritize technology to support improved agent experience and well-being for 2022.
Moving forward in 2022, 35% plan to increase their budgets for chatbots and IVAs to help beleaguered agents improve efficiency and decisioning.
Moreover, 37% 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.
Knowing that happier workers leads to more engaged customers, this year organizations plan to improve self-service options for consumers and ease the burden on already-overworked employees by leaning into digital channels and automation. Intelligent automation can be employed to handle the rising number of digital-first interactions and provide more personalized experiences for customers. Simple interactions are handled promptly by self-service solutions, which frees up workers to handle more complex and emotionally charged cases on an individual basis.
Putting Empathy into Action
Businesses are embracing the means to support kinder, gentler, more human-centric engagement, with technology-infused strategies to safeguard both employee wellness and the delivery of empathic customer engagement.
Key technology initiatives are geared toward improving the human experience. 91% of respondents have adopted technology and strategies to support greater empathy in their customer engagement efforts for 2022 and 60% plan to leverage technology to support improved agent experience and well-being.
To enable exceptional customer interactions at scale requires organizations to strike the right balance between automation and human interaction.
Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to drive intelligent engagement. 78% said that expanding AI and automation are top priorities and 84% plan to invest in technology to support the right mix of self-service and human-enabled engagement in 2022.
Racing to Resolve the Gap
Navigating the challenges of the Great Resignation and supply chain disruptions, organizations are struggling with a reduced workforce and limited resources to keep up with evolving and growing consumer demands.
While consumers have come to expect these issues, they also want companies to overcome them and provide excellent experiences.
As organizations face obstacles with hiring and retaining talented employees, they must provide engaging and meaningful work experiences, the opportunity to succeed in a remote or hybrid environment, and the tools to create personalized, productive interactions with customers.
Prioritizing investments in customer engagement and experience; choosing automated, scalable solutions; and implementing systems that foster seamless interactions are all ways that organizations can act to close the Engagement Capacity Gap.