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Human interaction still vital in customer service

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Businesses that consider more cost-effective, digitally-driven channels need to ensure they understand customers' channel preferences, says Verints' Dave Capuano.
Businesses that consider more cost-effective, digitally-driven channels need to ensure they understand customers' channel preferences, says Verints' Dave Capuano.

Despite the rise in digital customer service channels and options, 79% of consumers prefer that the human touch remains a part of customer service when engaging with brands and service providers.

This is according to a report conducted by Verint Systems, in partnership with Opinium Research and International Data Corporation, titled: "The Digital Tipping Point: How do organisations balance the demands for digital and human customer service?" The study identifies a tipping point between digital and traditional customer service, with more than four in five (83%) consumers saying they believe that speaking with a person will always be an important part of the customer service equation.

The study noted that although businesses are responding to the increasing digital world by offering their customers new ways of engaging with them, most consumers worldwide choose using the phone (24%) or going in-store (23%) as their primary way to interact with brands or service providers.

The research, commissioned by Verint from 23 June to 20 July 2016, was the result of an online questionnaire sent to more than 24 000 consumers from12 countries, including S A.

In terms of digital interaction, speed, insight and desired outcomes are the biggest factors for consumers. Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents state that customer service online and via mobile devices should be faster, more intuitive and better able to serve their needs.

"As consumers become more digitally savvy, organisations are considering and even implementing more cost-effective digital channels as part of their evolving customer engagement strategies. However, the message from consumers is clear. They still want human touch as an option in many customer service scenarios," explains Dave Capuano, global vice president, integrated marketing at Verint.

"This dynamic means that businesses considering more cost-effective, digitally-driven channels need to ensure they understand customers' channel preferences and the influence they have on customer behaviour and engagement. Those organisations that tip the balance in favour of digital at the expense of traditional service may risk not keeping their customers happy in the long run."

In terms of preferred digital customer service channels, 22% of consumers want access to an online account, 14% want the ability to communicate with a customer service agent via e-mail, and 9% cited that they prefer to connect using mobile apps.

The study further reveals that consumers engage with brands and service providers for multiple reasons, and their channels of choice, whether digital or traditional, are quite often determined by the complexity of their requests. In fact, this Digital Tipping Point research reveals that when consumers have a simple customer service request or enquiry, the phone is the most popular option for (22%), while e-mail and SMS come in second place (19% each).

Businesses perspective

Alongside the consumer research, Verint also ran comparative research with businesses, asking 1019 organisations worldwide about the digital and traditional customer service channels they are prioritising and investing in. In contrast to customers' preferred options, these businesses reported they are investing least in traditional channels, such as the phone or in-store.

When exploring attitudes towards service channels, almost seven in 10 consumers (68%) believe that they are more likely to negotiate a better deal in person rather than online. However, only 47% of businesses surveyed offer the availability to speak to someone in-store, relying on other methods of communication with customers such as Web chat and e-mail.

Businesses, says the report, also acknowledged that digital customer service needs to improve, with 91% agreeing that customer service online and via mobile devices should be faster, more intuitive and better able to serve customer needs.

Rachel Lane, director of customer analytics EMEA, Verint, adds: "This research across a dozen countries points to some misalignment of priorities in terms of which channels businesses plan to focus on in the future and how customers prefer to engage. The organisations that understand the needs and wants of their customers, along the entire customer journey, will be well-positioned to meet customers where they wish to engage, whether in-person or via digital channels."

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