The race to superior customer service

The race to superior customer service

Just when we thought artificial intelligence (AI) and similar technologies were starting to bed in and gain acceptance by both employees and customers, we’re reminded of the importance of the human touch in a new international study.

According to professional services company PwC, two-thirds of consumers surveyed feel companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience and three-quarters request more human interaction in future, not less.

The Experience is Everything report surveyed 15,000 consumers across 12 countries including the UK, US, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Singapore. It found that price and quality remain top of mind when consumers make purchasing decisions, but three-quarters (73 per cent) of global respondents reckon that a positive experience is among the key drivers that influence their brand loyalties. In fact, the price premium for quality customer experience (CX) among consumers worldwide is up to 16 per cent on products and services.

The research also revealed that two-thirds (65 per cent) of US consumers find a positive brand experience to be more influential than great advertising.

“The ‘Experience Economy’ has ushered in a new customer experience mindset, steering brands beyond emphasising products and services to selling rich consumer experiences,” says David Clarke, principal and experience consulting leader, PWC. “Our findings quantify the potential return on investment on investments in providing a quality customer experience of, upwards of 16 per cent.”

Digital Transformation Consultation

The survey underlines how detrimental a bad customer can be with three-fifths of consumers saying they would stop doing business with a company due to unfriendly service, 46 per cent because of employees lack of knowledge and half because they don’t trust the company. One third (32 per cent) say they would walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. Seven in 10 respondents think a company’s employees have a significant impact on their experience. But only 44 per cent believe that employees understand their needs well.

Rialto considers that one of the big leadership challenges going forward is how to extract the efficiency and productivity gains that new technology brings with good old-fashioned high-quality customer service. And there is no escaping this challenge, even in sectors where customers are physically more distanced than, say, retail. The online environment brings all customers much closer and it gives them a channel to communicate directly with us and to review and rate us. Get the balance wrong with one customer and the rest of your client base will soon find out.

Yes, a challenge maybe but it is one that should be welcomed. Behind the scenes technology is empowering us to become customer-obsessed. We can map their journey like never before, identify and eliminate pain points and constantly re-evaluate what is important to them.

Businesses have everything they need to deliver rich front-end experiences and there is no excuse for not doing so. It is up to organisations to determine when and where this experience is best delivered by a human or a machine and occasionally it may be a bit of both.

In years past, “service with a smile” was an adage used to sum up the secret of delivering excellent service. The study suggests that this is equally as important today and perhaps the only real difference in the digital age will be that, potentially, there can be so much more behind the smile.


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