Are we digitally overloaded?

We hear a lot about digital engagement as a means to enhance our customer service. About how everyone is using digital means to engage with everyone.  But Im delighted to know that my gut feel that this trend is overblown, is correct.

The 11th annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey measured the experiences of 24,489 customers in 33 countries and across 11 industries to assess consumer attitudes toward marketing, sales and customer service practices, primarily focused at digitising customer services.

Our results show that even in the “digital age,” human interaction remains a vital component of customer satisfaction. Eighty-three percent of US consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels. especially as those digital channels are less than sophisticated in dealing with customer engagement.

Furthermore, 52 percent of consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service, typically “digitally enhanced”. In the United States, the estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.

Reliance on digital technologies has resulted in “human-less” customer services:

  • 83% of US consumers prefer dealing with human beings.
  • 52% have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service.
  • In the United States the estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.

Human interaction is vital to customer satisfaction:

  • 77% of US consumers prefer dealing with human beings for advice.
  • 45%t are willing to pay more for better customer service.
  • 65% agree in-store service is the best channel for tailored experiences.

Room for improvement in customer services delivery:

  • 73% expect customer service to be easier and more convenient; 61%, faster.
  • Having switched, 68% of consumers will not go back.
  • 80% of “switchers” feel the company could have done something to retain them—83% said better live/in-person customer service would have impacted their decision.

The most profitable customers navigate multiple paths to get the outcomes they want. To catch and keep those consumers, companies need to offer digital and traditional interactions that customers value, appreciate and can’t do without.  The base level of customer engagement can be digitised; but more engaged communication needs a human front, and maybe that human front can be digitally enabled. For example Human operators can use chatbots to engage with customers. The chatbot suggests and answer to a customer query which the Human operator can either send or amend. The chat bot then can learn to improve its answer next time. This enabled more focused human enabled engagement.

To optimize their growth potential and deliver the experiences customers demand, companies need to balance their digital exuberance with a human touch. What’s needed is a strategic mix of digital and non-digital options that allows customers to engage with providers in multiple, highly satisfying ways. And a means whereby businesses can tell what style of communication is needed, simple transactional activities can be simply automated- finding out if a plane is landing on time can be digitised, while trying to identify on which flight you can use your airmails to upgrade in three months may need a human interface.

Intensely digital customers are also intensely impatient. They’re also not as wedded to digital experiences as we would like to believe. To keep this fickle and fast-moving group engaged, companies simply can’t give them a reason to leave. That means they need to focus less on luring customers with digital marketing and sales and more on dazzling them with superior service across all channels of interaction when services is needed.

To re-balance digital and traditional customer service channels, companies should:

  1. Put the human and physical elements back into customer services by rethinking strategies to focus on delivering satisfying, integrated customer experiences across all channels.
  2. Make it easy for customers to fluidly (seamlessly, unnoticeably?) move from digital to human interactions to get the experiences they want.
  3. Identify the customer experiences that have the greatest potential downside and leverage those insights to guide actions.
  4. Guarantee personal data security so that customers will be more willing to hand over personal information which can be leveraged to deliver better experiences.