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Human customer service still preferable in a digital world

Despite the rise in digital customer service channels and options, 79% of consumers prefer the human touch to remain a part of customer service when engaging with brands and service providers, according to a report from Verint Systems Inc and research and advisory firm IDC.

Most consumers prefer using the phone to interact with brands or service providers
Most consumers prefer using the phone to interact with brands or service providers

The results of a large-scale study of more than 24,000 consumers in 12 countries show that most consumers worldwide choose using the phone (24%) or going in-store (23%) as their primary way to interact with brands or service providers. 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 email, and 9% said they prefer to connect using mobile apps.

The report, The Digital Tipping Point: How Do Organisations Balance the Demands for Digital and Human Customer Service? also reveals that when consumers have a simple customer service request or enquiry, the phone is the most popular option for (22%), while email and SMS come in second place (19% each).

However, as customer service requests become complex, reliance on human interaction increases. More than a third of customers prefer to go in-store (34%) for complex enquiries, while another third prefer to connect by phone (33%). The closest digital channel for complex customer service situations is email, but only 7% of consumers opt for this channel.

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.

“This study represents a call-to-action for businesses to better understand their customers’ engagement preferences in order to better serve them,” Mary Wardley, vice president, enterprise applications and CRM software, IDC, said. “There continues to be much discussion about the rise of digital and proliferation of mobile. However, as this research shows, human contact is still critical for consumers, increasing the stakes for businesses to strike the right balance in order to effectively service and retain customers, influence sales, and heighten engagement and loyalty.”

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