At the beginning of May NICE inContact released its second annual, global research study that investigated the changing attitudes of contact center leaders and customers regarding customer experience. The report called the 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark, surveyed more than 900 contact center decision makers in the US, UK, and Australia.
Like many other studies that have gone before it, the NICE inContact study highlighted the existence of a perception gap between how businesses think they are doing regarding the delivery of a great customer experience and how customers perceive the performance of brands.
Here are some of the main findings that stood out for me around that perception gap:
- Businesses continually under-estimate how satisfied their customers are with agent-assisted service methods i.e. email and phone. Their under-estimation is particularly pronounced when it comes to their assessment of the phone as a service channel.
- Businesses overestimate customer satisfaction with self-service methods like automated assistants/chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
- Businesses overestimate their own performance in delivering a great customer experience, particularly when it comes to helping customers resolve issues in their preferred channels and also how they perform delivering a consistent experience.
- Businesses overestimate customers desire to use AI for customer service as well as it’s ability to help customers resolve service issues.
Knowledge of the perception gap between businesses and their customers has been around for a while, particularly when it comes to customer experience. Take, for example, the famous finding from Bain in 2005 which found that 80% of businesses believe that they deliver a superior experience. However, when customers were asked only 8% of them agreed.
The NICE inContact study suggests that while there has been some improvement in the gap over time, the gap persists.
I talked to Chris Bauserman, VP of segment and product marketing at NICE inContact, to find out more about what is behind this persistent gap and what how it could be hindering a company’s ability to deliver a great customer experience.
Bauserman told me that he believes there are a number of reasons that go some way towards explaining the gap.
The first is that businesses are just like people and that everyone would like to think that they’re above average. This is compounded by the fact that customer experience is acknowledged as being important and businesses, again like people, will routinely inflate their own scores about how well they are doing in areas that they consider important.
This is backed up by academic research by Cornell University professor (now retired) David Dunning and others who found that people tend to perceive their competence in self-serving ways.
Moreover, Dunning’s findings could explain why businesses are attributing more importance to things like automated assistants, chat bots and self-service tools over channels like the phone. Their desire to deliver a great customer experience is tempered and biased by the need to do so at the lowest possible cost and this leads them to over-emphasise the role of new technology.
What’s clear about this research and the persistent perception gap is that businesses and executives need to work hard to be more objective about their own performance and to be more aware of their self serving biases.
Interestingly, Dunning also found, through his research, that the least competent performers in any situation are more prone to over-estimate their performance than others. However, the reason behind this is not arrogance but ignorance.
Bauserman suggests that the lack of objectivity regarding performance, could be down to both the quality and quantity of data they have at their disposal and, therefore, their ability to consistently and effectively measure how they are really doing.
I agree with this insight but would add the observation that the best performers often don’t talk about doing a great job. They just get on and do a great job.