Man working on his laptop with headset and holding a coffee mug

Americans want better customer service — can remote and hybrid teams deliver?

Respondents to a recent Harvard Business poll agree that there's been a steady decline in the quality of customer service in the United States.¹

Whether it’s a frustrating call center interaction, inefficient online processes or even an unattended live chat, there’s a variety of reasons for customer satisfaction to be at an all-time low — including, but not limited to, the shift to remote and hybrid-first work models.

We set out to understand how Americans felt about their customer service interactions with remote and hybrid teams and what companies could do to improve their experiences. The study, commissioned by Ricoh and conducted online by The Harris Poll among 2,000 adults, revealed the following:

  • Nearly half of Americans (49%) say they’ve experienced a decline in the level of customer service they receive during online, phone call and chat interactions as more employees in industries such as retail, healthcare, and banking have shifted to hybrid or remote work.

  • Similarly, just under half of Americans (47%) believe that when employees are working in hybrid or remote jobs, they are less likely to provide excellent customer service to their customers.

  • More than half (54%) believe the shift to hybrid or remote work across various industries has resulted in an overall decline in the customer experience.

Hybrid work: A paradox for consumers?

Despite experiencing a decline in the level of customer service from remote and hybrid workers, almost 4/5 Americans (79%) agree that these models provide a better work-life balance for employees than working five days a week onsite. In fact, those who are employed are more likely to agree with this (82%) than those who aren’t (75%).

What does this suggest?

While almost half of consumers surveyed are disappointed with current levels of customer service affected by remote and hybrid work, they recognize the value and importance it has on the well-being of their peers and society as a whole.

In fact, 73% of Americans say that companies should do more to make it easier for their employees to work hybrid or remote.

Since hybrid work isn’t going anywhere, here are a few recommendations we are sharing with customers:

1. Have frameworks and processes in place to ensure the accuracy, custody and security of personal information.

Almost 9 out of 10 Americans (88%) agree that hybrid and remote working organizations should have frameworks and processed in place to ensure the accuracy, custody, and security of their personal information. Regardless of industry, customer data is being collected at every opportunity. Whether it’s updated mailing addresses, payment information, prescription details or even contact preferences — these data points can make or break personalized moments that shape a customer’s experience.

Keep remote and hybrid teams connected to customer information with the right content management solutions. These tools not only make it easy to digitally store, access and share documents from anywhere but can also offer advanced process and workflow automation capabilities and enforce strict records management practices.

What we recommend

Tools, such as content management solutions or applications like those featured on Ricoh’s Intelligent Business Platform, can streamline the flow of information between departments and empower front-line teams with easy, centralized access to critical data and core processes from anywhere.

Learn more about our portfolio of solutions to see what’s right for your business

2. Keep consumer data safe with security awareness training and cybersecurity prevention solutions.

With sectors like healthcare, finance, insurance and retail, the most common targets for cyber attacks, millions of consumers are not only at risk of being impacted but have already been impacted by data breaches. So, it comes as no surprise when 87% percent of Americans agree that hybrid and remote organizations should invest in cybersecurity training and prevention solutions. The customer service experience for many consumers now extends beyond just service-delivery moments or break-fix solutions — it involves building trust.

Obviously, a data breach that impacts customer data would be detrimental not just to a company’s reputation but to the customer experience and, subsequently, customer retention. The best way to establish trust with consumers is to do everything possible to shore up your human defenses with the most effective containment solutions. The best way to achieve that is with regular, ongoing security awareness training for employees and a safety net such as ransomware containment to stop data encryption within seconds of a breach.

What we recommend

Shore up your security posture with solutions that deliver complete protection for your data and your customers’ data too.

3. Invest in more collaboration tools such as virtual conferencing, interactive flat panel displays, and other software to keep people connected.

Human connection is still as important as ever when it comes to customer experiences and consumers recognize that technology as the great enabler. In our survey, 83% of Americans said they believed hybrid and remote working organizations should invest more in collaboration tools and other software to keep people connected.

Take, for example, a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams: this application can connect a contact center’s frontline agent in one city, to the middle and back-office teams in another, across huge organizations in insurance and banking all in the span of minutes, to help resolve an escalation, renewal or complicated inquiry.

What we recommend

Integrated solutions such as Ricoh's Work AnywhereTM keep employees working together, productively and securely — anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

The bottom line for CX in a hybrid world

To deliver a great customer experience, organizations must focus on empowering their frontline teams. Customers are noticing which brands are doing hybrid customer service right — and leaving the ones that aren’t.

Delight your customers with exceptional customer service from anywhere, with tech solutions that matter most to them. Ready to get started?

Recommended for you

Stay innovative by continuous service improvement
Stay innovative by continuous service improvement

Stay innovative by continuous service improvement

Continuous service improvement helps businesses improve their services and customer experience by staying innovative and evolving with the market.

Data velocity for a better customer experience
Data velocity for a better customer experience

Data velocity for a better customer experience

Find out why data velocity is important to business success, including three tips to improve customer experience by delivering data quickly. 

How NLP can differentiate your business and CX
How NLP can differentiate your business and CX

How NLP can differentiate your business and CX

Explore 6 areas of NLP and how three companies are utilizing it to improve customer, employee and patient experiences.

  1. 1HBR, Customer Experience is Everyone’s Responsibility. April 6, 2023