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Businesses investing in digital channels that customers don't want: survey

Businesses investing in digital channels that customers don't want: survey

Disparity between consumer preference for human touch and business pressure to embrace latest digital platforms

Australian businesses are overestimating their customers’ preference to communicate via digital channels, says a survey, which found even millennials would rather pick up the phone when they contact a company.

The Verint backed research surveyed 4,000 local consumers and 40 business leaders and discovered disparity between people’s favoured customer service channels and those companies were planning to implement.

“Customers value the human side of customer service over digital interaction,” said Michael Stelzer, Verint vice-president for ANZ. “Yet there remains disparity between customer demand for human touch points and pressure for business leaders to embrace the latest and greatest digital platforms.”

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of customers preferred picking up the phone when given the choice of how to interact with a company, while 19 per cent favoured going in store. More than a fifth (22 per cent) liked to communicate via their online account and email was the next most popular digital channel, preferred by 10 per cent of respondents.

Three quarters of respondents said they didn’t like dealing with companies that don’t provide a phone number for them to contact and half believed their enquiry was likely to get lost or ignored when they contacted a provider by email. Just under half (49 per cent) of customers believed they got better service, and were more likely to negotiate a better deal, when speaking to a real person.

Change the channel

Customer channel preference was at odds with what those brands were planning to invest in: live chat (31 per cent) and mobile apps (36 per cent) score highest among business leaders.

Nearly 9 in 10 (87 per cent) businesses in the region think customers prefer to use mobile apps, email or SMS because it allows for contact ‘on the move,’ whereas only a third of customers said the same. Only nine per cent of consumers said they preferred to get in touch via mobile apps.

“Businesses appear to be overestimating their customers’ preference for digital channels,” added Stelzer. “Customers want more choice in how they contact service providers, but while digital opens the door to new customers and allows organisations to automate elements of the customer experience, a human touch and personalised service is key to loyal and ongoing customer relationships.”

It’s complicated

Although younger customers were more likely to prefer using digital channels to contact companies, more than a fifth (22 per cent) still preferred to phone, the most popular channel choice.

More significant than the channel preference by age was whether the inquiry was considered simple or complex. When asked how they would interact with their service providers in a fairly simple customer service request, 59 per cent of customers in the region said they would choose digital channels. When the request is considered complicated, 82 per cent of customers in the region prefer human customer service.

Part of the problem, the research suggested, was in the current shortcomings of digital channels.

When asked, 58 per cent of customers believed service online and via mobile devices should be “faster, more intuitive and better able” to serve their needs. Nearly 6 in 10 (58 percent) wished password and authentication processes could be easier and faster.

“Human touch points can make or break business success and determine the level of engagement with a brand,” said Stelzer. “Organisations that rely too much upon digital channels risk missing out on strong and meaningful relationships with their customers.”

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