By 2026, 75% of customers who call customer service and support organizations will do so out of loneliness, not because they have a customer service issue, according to Gartner, Inc. This will affect service and support leaders’ priority of migrating customers to self-service and ensuring rep well-being.
“Lonely customers looking to fulfill their interpersonal needs through service organizations are unlikely to use self-service to resolve their issues, regardless of how well-designed the functionality is,” said Emily Potosky, senior research principal in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “To ensure they are not investing in suboptimal solutions, leaders must account for customer loneliness when attempting to diagnose why customers are still choosing assisted-service channels over self-service.”
Gartner research shows this trend will also impact customer service reps. For example, reps may experience longer handle times as a result of customers trying to socialize, impacting organizations’ coaching and performance management efforts. Additionally, dealing with emotional customers is challenging and could lead to reduced rep well-being.
“Service and support leaders have long discussed the importance of emotional intelligence in the role and the need for reps to display soft skills,” said Potosky. “However, it will be difficult for reps to understand where to draw the line, and leaders may even see increased attrition from service reps who are already stretched thin from the normal emotional effort they must perform when resolving issues for customers.”
Gartner predicts that by 2024 the top cited reason customer service reps leave the service organization will be the unofficial emotional effort they need to perform with customers outside their official job duties. Service and support leaders looking to mitigate the effect of lonely customers should consider the following:
- Use speech analytics and sentiment analysis to identify customers who are calling because they are lonely.
- Coach reps on how to identify customers who are using the service interaction for emotional support and socialization rather than true issue resolution.
- Protect reps and their relationships with customers by empowering reps to empathetically exit conversations with these customers.
- For extreme circumstances, ensure reps have the necessary mental health or suicide prevention resources to get customers to appropriate support.
- Ensure the analysis of self-service failure points includes this trend; these customers will be difficult to migrate to self-service.
Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders can learn more about this prediction as well as others in the report “Predicts 2022: Customer Service and Support Strategy and Leadership.”
About Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders
The customer service and support function is vital to maintaining customer loyalty and influencing brand perceptions. Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders provides indispensable insights, advice and tools needed to achieve service and support leaders’ mission-critical priorities, specifically improving the customer experience while managing costs. Gartner’s research, advice and best practices equip customer service and support leaders to design an optimal service channel strategy; measure and reduce customer effort; and hire, develop and retain high-potential frontline talent.