Businesses need to move carefully when outsourcing customer service operations, the research also suggested, because there are big differences depending on how familiar reps are with the local language, how close they reside, and whether the customer can figure out the company's relationship to the service provider in a short amount of time.
The firm conducted a survey of 468 people who had called a business or medical facility within the last month, and the results showed that 77 percent of people who thought they got through directly to the business were completely satisfied with their experience. Only 45 percent of those who said they got through to a call center were satisfied with the results.
"The largest number of respondents said 'our priority is to speak to a person,'" said Elizabeth Ballou, content developer at Clutch.
Study participants did not want to speak to a voice prompt response system, but to an actual customer service representative who could listen to their concerns and answer their questions or act on them, she told CRM Buyer.
About 54 percent of respondents said they were calling to schedule an appointment for a fitness- or beauty-related service, or for a medical or work-related visit, according to the report. About 12 percent were trying to handle a billing issue, and 6 percent were dealing with a technology-related problem.
About 57 percent said they dealt only with a human, while 22 percent dealt only with an automated call menu. Twelve percent dealt with a combination of a human and automated call menu.
Companies should determine how much time their employees spend on the phone, Clutch recommended. If they decide they need a voice services provider, they also should determine just how far away they want that provider to be located.
Businesses should attempt a trial run before making a decision to bring a call services provider on board, Clutch recommended.
One of the key issues that companies face when considering the right mix of customer service options is balancing the expense of running a customer service infrastructure with the cost of staffing with live agents, said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst for digital marketing transformation and sales effectiveness at Constellation Research.
For example, companies should have metrics on whether there are chat features on the website and mobile application, and whether response times in those areas are fast enough, she told CRM Buyer.
If a company has a natural voice response system on the front end of customer service, it can provide hours of operation and mailing addresses via the automated system, thus freeing up human resources for more complicated customer service needs, Zhou pointed out.
Beyond automating low-level customer service tasks so that people can handle more sophisticated customer service priorities, companies should consider whether to invest in a system that is good enough for customers to believe they are talking to a live operator, or at least coming close to talking to a live person, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
"This is where AI technology comes in," he told CRM Buyer. It "can not only make the organization more efficient, but improve the customer experience."
New technologies using AI are becoming capable of very sophisticated customer interactions, said Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
They may use sentiment analysis, speech recognition, advanced voice synthesis and video animation to deliver results similar to those obtained through direct human intervention, he told CRM Buyer."When we talk about AI Inference as a Service," he said, "this is one of the near-term potential applications."