A lack of customer control is one of the biggest gripes people have when interacting with companies. Endless call queues, long wait times for answers and confusing online information all impact their experience. The message they take away is that their time or query isn’t important to the business.

This lack of control intensifies dissatisfaction and annoyance. It leads to complaints, churn, and a poor corporate reputation. It also pushes up costs, as customers have to make contact multiple times to get answers.

Customers want to feel in control

Essentially if customers feel empowered, it improves their experience and positively impacts brand perception. Providing this control is a key trend identified in BT’s Autonomous Customer 2023 study. As part of this, the research recommends that companies should be more proactive about notifying their customers. For example, many complain that businesses don’t tell them if they could be getting a better deal or if their contract is about to expire.

Customers also want greater transparency about call waiting times, and less frustrating hold messages. Over four in ten (42%) didn’t believe messages claiming that there was a particularly high volume of calls at the moment.

To overcome customer concerns, businesses can increase feelings of control in five key ways:

1. Remove pain points

Companies should better understand (and fix) the biggest customer pain points that cause unnecessary contact. Often, giving customers greater control will prevent them from needing to make contact. For example, analyse how you can redesign processes, send out proactive messages or just make website information clearer and more accessible.

2. Improve your call queuing

Start by being transparent about call queue times. This includes removing hold messages that annoy customers. Provide more detailed information to queuing customers so they feel more in control. For example, outline how long they are likely to need to wait, their position in the queue and offer call-back options. This empowers customers, letting them choose whether to wait or request a call-back.

You can also use queueing time to improve the call experience. Companies can automate the security process, enabling customers to identify themselves while they wait and provide more details about their query.

3. Be proactive

Enhance proactivity by using AI to analyse and automate processes. This ensures you are delivering the right message through the right channel at the right time. Remember that this could include using channels such as WhatsApp if it meets the needs of your audience. Learn what works best by running A/B tests on different approaches.

Companies should also aim to send more proactive notifications to increase customer control. However, be mindful that people worry about fake messages and scams, so design your notifications to reassure them that they are genuine.

4. Increase self-service options

Self-service gives customers greater control, allowing them to resolve their queries when it suits them. Most organisations currently offer some sort of self-service. However, extend this to increase customer choice. For example, deploy AI-driven chatbots that can answer more complex queries, or offer secure chatbots to logged-in customers. These can access customer account information to answer specific queries, rather than just giving generic responses.

5. Reduce customer effort

Look at frameworks such as Gartner’s Dynamic Customer Engagement (DCE) to help proactively deliver the next best action. So, rather than an ecommerce customer having to call to see where their package is, automatically message them with an update and a tracking link.

All these approaches will increase control, improving the customer experience, while at the same time reducing incoming interactions, thus increasing efficiency. Putting the customer in control helps them and the business, driving greater loyalty, retention, and revenues.