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How COVID-19 has exposed the flaws in CX delivery

frustrated customer on cell phone talking to customer service agent
Doc S.
Written By
Doc S.

It’s been over a year since the pandemic transformed our daily lives and we underwent seismic shifts, both personally and professionally.

As a CEO, I’ve shared the challenges that many business leaders have faced over the last year...

      • the challenge of maintaining good communication and a strong culture outside an office,
      • the scrutiny given to every incremental dollar spent, and
      • the weight of leading a team through the uncertainty.

It took us a few months to get there, but we’ve now hit our stride in this new normal and are operating as well as - maybe better than -  we did before we had to work remotely.  When every minute and every penny really counts businesses get really good at making them last.


As a consumer, I’m still hearing one consistent message when reaching out for support - just as often as in the early days of the pandemic: “Thank you for your patience.  We are experiencing unusually high call volume...” How is it possible that so little progress has been made, over the course of an entire year, to react to the increased support volumes?

I was baffled and had to get my head around this.

I worked with our team to develop and execute a survey in which we asked consumers to share their views on customer service generally, describe their experiences with customer service over the past 12 months, and detail changes in their shopping habits.

Unpacking the results.

Unsurprisingly, 81% of consumers said they have experienced messages about “higher than normal call volume” more during the pandemic than before. So, I am clearly not alone there.

Yet, one of the statistics really stood out to me:

Almost half (47%) of respondents believe recordings about “higher than normal call volume” could be or definitely is a lie. 

This indicates an even bigger issue in my mind than long wait times. It highlights the severe lack of trust consumers have in the brands with which they’re doing business. If distrust is the cornerstone of a consumer-brand relationship, it sadly seems safe to say that many of these customer interactions are doomed from the start.

Discovering a broad distaste for customer service.

circle graph showing customer hold times


It’s hard to defend the reputation for customer service these days when almost half of the respondents in our survey waited over ten minutes to speak with an agent on their most recent customer service interaction and respondents aged 18-34 would much rather have to go to the dentist for a cleaning (55%) than deal with a customer service issue (21%).

bar chart showing how millenials and gen z would rather go to the dentist than work with a customer service agent

While not overly surprising given millennial and Gen Z’s preference for self-solve over agent assistance, it does shine light on the need for brands to adapt to meet the demands and preferences of the younger generations (or, possibly, some impressive advances in modern dentistry). 

I have said this before, but it bears repeating: customer service should not be viewed as a cost center within an organization; it is the lifeblood keeping your customers tied to your business. Investments made to improve the quality of your customer service will reap benefits of increased customer retention, and therefore, revenue.

circle 69% of the way filled in demonstrating brand abandonment

I can even prove it: 69% of respondents between the ages of 35-44 reported that they’d be willing to pay more for a product or service if it guaranteed outstanding customer support.

While I am sure there is some inflation in that statistic and the true number may be lower when consumers are actually asked to pony up for better service, it is still an alarmingly high figure.

If the perception of customer service is so bad that 50% of consumers would actually pay more if it ensured better service, doesn’t that mean businesses need to be doing better?

As brands, it is our responsibility to build trusting relationships with our customers that they can depend on.  We have to meet customers where they are and when they need us - which means it’s not okay to keep them on hold longer just because our call volumes are higher.  Customers are paying the same amount but now getting worse service.

The future of customer service.

Businesses are facing a strain on resources – expected to do more with the same budget or do the same with less budget. 

So, how do brands deliver better customer service when they have less to work with?

The answer is to evolve the way the support function is usually run: replace long-term fixed headcount arrangements with access to flexible capacity, swap hourly rates with costs tied directly to work product, and take performance from just a managerial duty and ingrain it into the DNA of the operation.

The pandemic forced businesses to make budgeting decisions that left many CX teams short-staffed and their once robust support operation struggling to keep up. Brands have to think differently in order to get the resources they need at a cost they can afford. 

Our solution.

At ArenaCX, we believe that brands should have complete control over their customer support budgets and should be able to dial up or down capacity (and spending) as needs change – something that is extremely common in other parts of the business like Marketing.

The way to do that is by operating a flexible staffing model, combining an internal team with a portfolio of overlapping outsourced contact centers, allowing brands to be more agile, cost effective, and dynamic than one that relies on internal headcount or engages a single BPO. 

Our solution helps businesses scale quickly and easily, so consumers don’t have to suffer through “higher than usual call volume” and “longer wait times”. 

We’re on a mission to stamp out the notion of customer service as a cost center and to help brands deliver exceptional experiences that result in loyal customers.  And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll live in a world where people would rather speak to customer support than get their teeth cleaned.  I’m a dreamer.

Interested in more results? Download the infographic for more eye-opening CX statistics.

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