Study: U.S. consumers demand more human interaction

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By: RickFerguson |

Posted on March 30, 2016

Customer-facing businesses often assume that creating efficiency in an omnichannel world means removing the human touch from the customer experience. Not so fast: according to new research from Accenture, 83% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to solve customer services issues. They prefer the human element so much, in fact, that they're willing to switch providers to get it.

The Accenture Strategy report, "Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement," also found that 52% of consumers have switched provider in the past year due to poor customer service, with banks, retailers, and cable and satellite television providers being the worst offenders. In the U.S., the estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.

Even in the digital age, human interaction remains a vital component of customer satisfaction. According to the Accenture study, 83% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to solve customer services issues and get advice (77%). Almost half (45%) of consumers say they are even willing to pay a higher price for goods and services if it ensures a better level of service.

Physical or in-store experiences are also highly valued amongst consumers. 65% agree that in-store service is the best channel for getting a tailored experience, and 46% say they are more willing to be sold new or upgraded products when receiving a face-to-face service compared to online.

Other findings from the survey:

  • 81% of consumers admit that it is frustrating dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them.
  • 73% expect customer service to be easier and more convenient, and 61% want it to be faster.
  • Complaining on social media about poor customer experience is the norm for 44% of consumers who admit taking to social channels in order to vent.
  • Once a provider loses a customer, 68% of consumers will not go back.
  • 80% of �switchers� feel the company could have done something to retain them.
  • 83% report that if companies could provide customers with better live or in-person customer service, it would have impacted their decision to switch provider.

The Bullet point: Often lost in the discussion of when and how to balance the human element with digital service channels is the importance of customer value segmentation. If your segmentation approach allows you to identify high current-value and high potential-value customers, then you can funnel those customers into your high-touch customer service lanes replete with friendly, well-trained staff.

Meanwhile, you can incentivise your lower-value customers to avail themselves of efficient, lower-cost self-service channels. That way, you can deploy your customer service resources where they can do they most good: building stronger, more profitable relationships with your best customers.

You can download the Accenture report here.

-Rick Ferguson

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