Report: Don't forgo human element for digital in customer service

New Accenture report shows more than half of Australian consumers surveyed have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service

More than half of Australian consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service, a new Accenture report claims.

The 11th annual global Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement report, which included responses from more than 1350 Australians, found 81 per cent of local consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to solve customer service issues. The report also found 55 per cent had switched provider in the past year due to poor customer service, with retailers, banks and Internet service providers the worst offenders.

According to Accenture, the estimated cost of these switching activities is $122 billion.

In addition, 48 per cent said they are willing to pay a higher price for goods and services if it ensures a better level of service. Eighty-one per cent also prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to get advice.

Just over four in five Aussie consumers admitted they find it ‘frustrating’ or extremely frustrating’ dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them, and 61 per cent will not go back once they have left a provider. Just over 40 per cent globally also said they will turn to social media to complain about poor customer experiences.

Accenture Strategy managing director for A/NZ, Luca Martini, said the problem was that there was too much reliance on digital technologies by organisations, which had led to ‘human-less’ customer services.

“Companies have lost sight of the importance of human interaction and often make it too difficult for consumers to get the right level of help and service that they need,” she said. “The beauty of the possibilities offered by today’s technology is that the human touch can be blended into the digital experience [and vice versa], allowing companies to deliver amazing customer service across all channels, while removing the usual pain points.”

The global report was based on a survey of 24,489 consumers globally.

Accenture offered up several key pieces of advice for those organisations based of the results. The first is to put the human and physical elements back into customer services and think about service in terms of experience, rather than methods of interaction.

Companies should also make it easy for customers to switch channels to get the experiences they need. Accenture also advised rooting out the most toxic customer experiences across channels to support their service investment strategies, while also guaranteeing personal data security.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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