Consumers still crave human engagement in customer service meaning an over reliance on digital channels can jeopardise customer relationships, according to a Verint White Paper, The Digital Tipping Point.

Our research found a customer’s channel preference is contextual and there are several instances where digital doesn’t stack up.

“Ultimately, all channels need to be present. It will not be a landslide to digital or back to voice but a waterfall effect,” according to Mary Wardley, vice president, enterprise applications and CRM software, IDC, who wrote the forward in the whitepaper.


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“These options actually represent a symbiotic relationship; understanding the subtlety involved will yield the right solution for the organisation and its customers,” she said.

The white paper attempts to shed light on the issue of digital versus traditional service options. Ultimately, it found the issue is not binary and organisations need a healthy balance of service options.

“Organisations that rely too much on digital channels risk missing out on ongoing and meaningful relationships with customers,” the authors said.

Digital is a big part of customers, according to the research, email and brand websites are now considered “basic level service channels.” But when given the option customers still lean towards traditional channels.

“Picking up the phone (24 per cent) or going in store (23 per cent) are the most popular options,” according to the authors.

The Human Investment

The cost savings of digital channels may be mitigated by the additional benefits of traditional service channels, according to the white paper.

“The research reveals there is a discernible difference in terms of positive customer behaviours between digital and human customer service channels. People are far more likely to respond positively towards a brand after engaging on the phone or in store,” the authors wrote.

While positive digital experience trigger considerably less consumer reactions. According to the authors, “Consumers are 57 per cent more likely to do nothing following a positive customer experience on digital channels than in person.”

Man Vs Machine

Whether a customer chooses human service options or digital is determined by the complexity of the request. According to the white paper, digital is more popular (64 per cent) for simpler requests. But for more complex issues consumers prefer human interaction.

“When the request is considered complicated, more than two third (67 per cent) of consumers prefer human customer service. More than a third (34 per cent) go in store, while the phone comes next (33 per cent).”

The leading digital channel for complicated service issues is email, at just seven per cent.

Digital Persists

Despite organisations being aware of “the importance of the human touch in customer service” most of them are planning to increase digital service options, according to the white paper.

“Businesses appear to be overestimating their customers’ preference for digital channels,” the authors said. There is a disparity in what customers say digital service provides versus what businesses say, according to the research.

For example, 70 per cent of businesses believe customers digital technology because it allows them to contact them on the move, while only 44 per cent of customers surveyed said the same thing.

Generation Next

Younger generations are driving the demand for digital service channels and as the long term customers of the future it makes sense for companies to cater to them, according to the authors.

“While on average, the most popular first preference across generations is to pick up the phone or to go in store, digital channels rank much higher in second and third preference for Millennials and Generation X.”

However, like their older counterparts, younger consumers still turn to human device for complex issues, according to the research.

About the author

Michael Stelzer is Vice President, Australia & NZ Verint-Systems. OpinionLab (A Verint Company) is a member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members contribute their expertise and insights for the benefit of our readers. Membership fees apply.

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