The decision to use traditional or digital channels to interact with a brand is influenced by the complexity of their request, according to a new Verint white paper.

Despite an overall preference for human interactions, customers will turn to digital for less complex needs, the authors said.

The whitepaper, The Digital Tipping Point: How do organizations balance the demands for digital and human customer service? is based on interviews from 24 thousand consumers and found that while the human contact is “still extremely important” overall, digital channels were valuable for simpler and/or very specific tasks.

“Interacting with a brand or service provider can be complicated, and it requires empathy, emotional intelligence and an ability to process information with a broad set of parameters,” the authors said.

Download The Digital Tipping Point White paper now

“When we take into account the complexity of a request, we start to see more scenarios where digital customer service becomes the preference.”

According to the research 64 per cent of consumers will choose digital channels for interacting with service providers for “fairly simple customer service requests”.

Phone is the top preference at 22 per cent, but digital channels including email (19 per cent), online account management (13 per cent) and web self-service (12 per cent) round out the most popular channels for straightforward requests.

“As the requests become more complicated, the reliance on human interaction becomes even greater,” according to the report.

6 out of ten consumers will turn to human interaction when its a complex issue, the authors said. Most will pick up the phone 36 per cent) or go to store (24 per cent). The leading digital channel for complex issues is email, at just 10 per cent.

When the request moves to a complicated level two-thirds of consumers prefer human customer service. In-store visits (34 per cent) surpass phone calls (33 per cent). Again digital favour reduces as complexity increases. The leading digital channel is email at seven per cent.

“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,” the authors said.

For example, closing accounts and investigating products or services see digital and human channels on relatively even footing. Ultimately the research suggests a good balance of digital and non-digital channels is required.

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

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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