What’s It Like to Call Customer Service in 2024

5 Real-Life Customer Experience Stories

It’s no wonder that, according to a Microsoft survey, 96% of people say a good customer service experience is important to their brand loyalty. Getting it right is crucial. But with evolving customer expectations, it’s not an easy thing to do. With all the automation and AI advances, the opportunity to delight customers with smooth and intuitive answers to their questions has never been greater. But anyone who’s gone in circles with an automated voice on a support call knows there’s still an important role for knowledgeable agents. How can you get it right?

It starts by understanding what we’re dealing with. What is the actual experience that customers have when they reach out and how does it shape their expectations? Here are 5 examples of real-life stories of customers reaching out for support that show how these interactions, good and bad, can leave a lasting impression.

Story #1 — Julia

I’m the type of person who likes to get ahold of an actual person on the phone when I reach out to customer service. Would it be nice to not have to get on the phone and wait on hold before getting help? Sure, but the AI stuff just ends up taking me in circles and I prefer to just avoid that type of frustration. Recently, my Amazon order was delayed and I was starting to worry why I hadn’t received it. I went to the website to find a number I could call. I had to dig around for a while, but I found the number. After a surprisingly short wait, a robot answered. It was a maze of prompts before I was finally able to talk to a live person. While it was great that they were able to verify my identity from the number I was calling from, I had to start over from the beginning explaining why I called. What should have been a simple interaction became actually quite difficult, because the person trying to help me had a very difficult-to-understand accent. We went back and forth quite a few times, but eventually, they were able to help me out. I walked away feeling like there has to be a better way. I mean, tracking a missing order has to be something Amazon deals with all the time, right?

A track record of negative experiences has made customers pretty apprehensive of AI. According to a SurveyMonkey report, Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are 72 points higher for human agents vs automated attendants. Too many less-than-stellar experiences—getting bad information or being led in circles with no easy way to get ahold of a human—have left a bad taste in the mouths of today’s customers. Just the sound of the automated voice attendant can raise the blood temperature a couple of degrees. While this might make you want to avoid the technology altogether, there are ways to use it better—and help change customer’s opinions over time. Done well, these technologies have the opportunity to delight customers AND help you cut agent costs. The key is to be smart with the way you use it.

Story #2 — Greg

I hate talking on the phone; I try to avoid it at all costs. That means when I have a problem with a company, I go straight to the website and hope for a chat option. Luckily, when I needed to make some changes to my T-Mobile account, they had a chat system built into their app. I typed in a short explanation of what I was trying to do and it spit out a few automated responses. As soon as it uncovered what I was trying to do, it immediately put me in the queue to talk to a person. I was actually pretty impressed with how seamless it worked for me. Often when I’m using these chat features to talk to customer service, chatting with an actual human isn’t an option, or at least not an easy one. When the person hopped onto my chat they were able to see the whole thread, meaning I didn’t have to start over explaining what I was trying to do, so the interaction was actually pretty quick. I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but I really love using the chat options. I especially like that I don’t have to sit on hold forever or “leave my place in line” and wait for them to call me back. It’s a really good system!

Every customer has a unique preference when it comes to their favorite channel. Some people prefer talking with an agent on the phone. Other people prefer browsing a knowledge base or chatting on the website. Some are big social media users and others like the simplicity of e-mail. Regardless of the channel, if customers can’t reach you in the way they desire, you’re creating the opportunity for frustration. The best way to seamlessly integrate all of these is with an omnichannel set-up that coordinates and integrates multiple departments and technologies into a single interface for your agents.

Story #3 — Amanda

I work in an industry that has tight regulations around licensing and certifications for being able to provide services to my clients. Getting your license renewed can be a bit confusing, which led me to recently reach out to the agency responsible for licensing in my state. I typically like to start with those little chatbots on the company website. Unfortunately, chat wasn’t an option in this case and I had to find a number to call. I’m typically pretty busy and I just hate being placed on hold—I’ve hung up multiple times when the wait is just too long. In this case, I had to call a couple of different numbers because the first one led me to the wrong department. I really wish they would have made it much clearer on their website. Everything was cluttered and confusing. The voice-activated prompts finally led me to a live person, since my questions weren’t one of the 4-5 options in their system. It was good to finally talk to a person—I could make sure they understood exactly what I was looking for and they were able to give me a clear, trustworthy answer.

It’s not just about finding a resolution for customers… it’s also about how you made them feel. Customers love quick resolutions to their problems and questions. But not every question is simple and not every interaction is transactional. More than anything, customers want to have their frustrations understood and addressed, their needs and desires anticipated, and a feel-good ending to the interaction. Sure, your agents have to be patient and friendly, but they also need the tools and the bandwidth to always keep their focus on delighting customers. We recommend choosing a Customer Experience (CX) partner that you can rely on to make sure you get it right.

Story #4 — Becky

A few weeks ago I purchased some wine glasses while on vacation. I got a little nervous having them go through the airport security machine on my way home, but the TSA agent assured me it’d be fine. Well, it wasn’t—they broke. The agent gave me a card so I could file a claim. I was hoping for an e-mail address since I find that’s the easiest way for me to get support, but the card directed me to a contact form on the TSA website. The form was quite difficult because a bunch of the questions were really confusing. If I made any mistakes, the form got thrown out and I had to start all over again. I ended up filling it out three times! And then, when I got to the end, I couldn’t figure out how to sign. I ended up printing out the web page and mailing it in. Like with a stamp! I was shocked when they called a few days later to let me know they received my letter and were following up with some questions. I was a little annoyed that they were asking some of the same questions I had put in the form, but it was nice to know that my claim was moving along. Shortly after the phone call, I got a letter that they were working on it. It was nice to have this communication, but I can’t believe some organizations are still unable to handle these things electronically!

People love it when technology allows them to get quick answers to their common questions (think checking account balances through an automated voice system). As great as that experience is, it turns sour quickly when the answer isn’t in the system, the question is complicated, or there isn’t a simple answer to the inquiry. The place for AI and automation in this environment is empowering your human agents with integrations and note-taking that create a quicker and more seamless conversation with the customer. For a good example of this, look at 8×8’s Conversation IQ.

Story #5 — Dave

I’m a big skier and have been looking to replace my old skis. Getting the right skis can be a bit complicated and it’s typically one of those things you want to do in person. But the best deals are always online! Luckily, I came across a unique shop called Curated.com. It was able to use technology to give me the same type of in-person service but through a web portal. The site started with a short form to find out what kind of skier I am and what kind of equipment I was looking for. Then I got funneled into a chat. Even at 10pm on a Saturday, a live verified expert got on with some follow-up questions. It wasn’t too long before I was presented with options. They even posted a personalized video in the chat going through the different choices and explaining the pros and cons of each! When I finished the chat, they let me know I could come back to the website at any time and we could pick up the conversation right where we left off. I immediately got a text and e-mail from the same person. It was amazing to see that level of service and I walked away wishing more companies could be so innovative.

Looking toward the future of customer service, the best experiences will often be created when the emerging possibilities of technology drive unique interactions. Yet even the best technology is enhanced with the warmth and empathy of a real human who can deliver a personal touch! When your goal is to provide opportunities for smooth, frictionless encounters every time someone interacts with your organization, you’ll build loyal customers that can’t stop raving about your service and product. And in the end, that’s really what great customer experiences are all about.

Finding the Right Partner

You don’t have to figure it out on your own! Vertical has the experience and expertise you need. Our lifetime Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 83 means we know what we’re talking about when it comes to customer service. The Vertical Difference is all about our customer-first approach. As your strategic partner, we’re right there with you as you build out your communications. Our experts work with you to design and implement innovative technology and solutions that will grow your bottom line. Our technicians and project managers are on-site for the white-glove installation and implementation. And, crucially, we stay with you for ongoing service and support. We’ll make sure your system is always up-to-date, meeting your needs, and future-forward. It’s the surefire way to ensure that when customers tell the story of your Customer Experience, it’s a great one.