Personal customer service still preferred in the digital age – Study Personal customer service still preferred in the digital age – Study
Phone and in-person options remain more popular than digital when it comes to interacting with businesses. Personal customer service still preferred in the digital age – Study

A huge international study published last year has concluded that despite all of the digital tools businesses have available to them to provide customer service, people still prefer human interaction to digital.

The study was carried out by Opinium Research, with insights and commentary from analyst firm IDC and published by Verint Systems Inc. Over 24 000 consumers from 12 countries, including 2 000 from South Africa, and businesses from 12 countries were polled in the study.

Key findings included that 80% of respondents prefer interacting with humans, the phone is still the most popular method of contacting businesses followed closely by visiting a storefront, and 83% believe that talking to a real person will always be an important part of the customer service experience.

This is despite a rise in the digital customer service options available today.

These are the preferred digital customer service channels as indicated by the study’s results:

  • An online account (22%)
  • Direct email support with a service agent (14%)
  • Via a mobile app (9%)

67% of respondents indicated that online service via PCs and mobile devices “needs to be faster and more intuitive”.

According to the study, people lean more towards human interaction when their service requests are quite complex. When their requests are simpler, that’s when customers reach for the phone (22%) or opt for email- or SMS-based interactions (19%).

When people have complicated queries, 34% of those surveyed said they prefer in-store interactions, while 33% of them pick up the phone.  The most popular digital medium for complex service requests is email, but only 7% of respondents chose it.

Good customer service by non-digital means has benefits, the study said: respondents indicated that their opinions of the brands they interact with in-store or by phone go up when they get good service through those channels. Positive reviews (25%) and renewed products and services even if they weren’t cheapest (18%) are direct results of positive interactions. That’s better than positive results via digital means, the study says, which inspires 21% good reviews and 13% product renewals.

And there are more social considerations, too: almost 70% of those surveyed said they believe they can negotiate better in-person than they can online, a prime consideration when deciding how to interact with businesses. Yet only 47% of businesses surveyed said they have someone available in-store for people to speak to, preferring to rely instead on web chat and email for that function.

Despite this clear preference of human-on-human interaction, the 1 019 businesses from across the globe included in the study indicated that they are investing the least in phone and in-store customer service channels.

IDC’s vice president of enterprise applications and CRM software, Mary Wardley, said that “This study represents a call-to-action for businesses to better understand their customers’ engagement preferences in order to better serve them. 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.”

[Source – Verint, Image – CC BY SA 3.0]

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