Business

Human customer service interactions preferred: Verint

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Marije Gould, Verint vice president of Marketing EMEA.
Marije Gould, Verint vice president of Marketing EMEA.

Digital channels such as Web sites, e-mail and self-service portals are almost as prominent as telephonic conversations to resolve simple enquiries. But once a fairly or outright complex query is involved, around 86% of consumers in SA want direct person contact to remain part of customer service.

This is according to a study from Verint and Opinium Research which reveals that customer experience is considerably more nuanced than many businesses realise, and South African customers are in favour of personal interactions. Around 1 019 organisations and just over 24 000 consumers from various parts of the world, including SA, responded to an online survey.

The research found 83% of local consumers don't like dealing with companies that don't provide a phone number on their Web site, and 80% of consumers in SA prefer human customer service interactions to digital alternatives.

Marije Gould, Verint vice president of Marketing EMEA, urges companies not to forget the human touch:

"Some of the key findings in our research show that while cost is certainly an incentive for brands looking to adopt digital methods and automate elements of their customer service, it may come at a price. Organisations that rely too much on digital channels risk missing out on ongoing and meaningful relationships with customers. Overall, our research highlights that consumers want a human element to remain part of customer service, the complexity of the request heavily influences whether a customer will choose a digital or traditional channel, organisations are aware of the importance of the human touch in customer service, yet most business leaders are planning to implement more digital service options."

Digital disruption is changing business, explains Gould, the rise of smartphones and the mobile Web has helped organisations reach customers and audience segments they never thought possible. Yet, while digital services may have created new opportunities for organisations, it is not without its challenges.

"The organisations that embrace digital may be on the pathway to success, but those who do so at the expense of traditional customer service risk falling behind. Digital channels bring the business world closer to audiences and eight out of 10 customers want more personalised touches to their services, a number that has grown substantially since the year previous. The vast majority also noted that they would use digital channels more often if the systems were intuitive and faster. South Africans choosing the phone instead of the Web may be doing so in response to poor online interfaces," explains Gould.

According to Gould, there is universal support across all ages for telephonic and person-to-person interactions. But this is not a case of choosing one over the other. Customers are not shying away from digital channels. Self-service portals rival phone calls when someone seeks to investigate new products, manage their account or give positive feedback. There is also a generational distinction: people under the age of 50 are more drawn toward self-service portals and apps than older customers.

"When asked how they would interact with their service providers in a fairly simple customer service request, 64% of consumers will choose digital channels. While the phone is the most popular option (22%), e-mail comes a close second (19%), while online account management (13%) and Web self-service (12%) round out the most popular channels for simple requests. As the requests become more complicated, the reliance on human interaction becomes even greater;" she continues. "For fairly complex enquiries, 60% of consumers will choose human interaction. Phone is the most popular (36%), while going in store ranks second (24%), still way ahead of the leading digital channel is the e-mail - with 10%. When the request is considered complicated, more than two third (67%) of consumers prefer human customer service. More than a third (34%) go in store, while the phone comes next (33%). The nearest digital channel is e-mail at 7%. However, when we look at very specific customer service situations, we start to see digital tools become more prominent, and the relationship between complexity and dependence on human interaction becomes clearer."

According to new research published by Dimension Data in the Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, organisations around the world are failing to implement effective digital strategies. As a result their CX solutions are becoming disjointed.

"Less than 10% of organisations polled globally said that they had an optimised strategy for digital business in place, while over half reported they don't have a plan at all, or are at best, in the process of developing one. Furthermore the research reveals digital is not displacing traditional phone interactions at the speed that their customers are demanding," reveals Dimension Data.

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