A Verint Systems Inc. study of 36,000 consumers finds that an increasing percentage put a premium on the human touch and organizational ethics, and that there is a rapid decline in customer loyalty, especially among Millennials.
Robots and Artificial Intelligence are not about to replace the human touch. So says an extensive study of consumers conducted by Opinium Research LLP on behalf of Verint Systems Inc., a NASDAQ-listed firm that call its itself “The Customer Engagement Company.”
Verint is the analytics and professional services company behind the frequently heard recording: “This call may be monitored for quality and training purposes.” The company commissioned Opinium to conduct detailed online surveys with consumers selected from 18 countries around the world. The study found that “while technology will continue to influence how customers engage with organizations, more than three quarters (76%) said they want human contact to remain part of customer service. Nearly two-thirds (63%) stated that they are happy to be served by a chatbot if they have the option to escalate the conversation to a human when needed. Yet 41% said they could not tell the difference between being served by a chatbot and being helped by a human behind a screen.”
According to Verint, the research was conducted online in the local language of each country, and respondents were given incentives to participate. Sectors included banking, brick-and-mortar retailers, credit card, insurance, mobile phone providers, online retailers, telecommunications, travel and utilities.
According to a company synopsis of the study, over two-thirds (69%) of respondents said that ethics are a major deciding factor selecting a company to do business with, and almost half (49%) said they would switch providers for ethical reasons.
The study also found that there is “a fine line between personalization and collecting data for customer engagement purposes. While more than two-thirds of consumers (68%) like their customer experiences to be tailored to their interests…consumers are growing more aware of the value of their personal data, and trust remains a key issue. Fully 71% of consumers are worried about the amount of personal data organizations have about them. Only 37% said they were happy to provide their personal information in exchange for a discount or special offer, a figure that dropped to 29% if their information would be passed on to third parties for a discount. Just over half (51%) of consumers said they trust organizations to use their data ethically.”
The study found a significant decrease in customer loyalty. Across all sectors, only 49% of consumers have been with their service providers for more than three years, compared with 61% from a similar study conducted in 2015. One in 10 have been with their service provider for less than a year, compared with 7% in 2015. While retention rates have fallen sharply across all age groups, the study found just 28% of customers aged 18-25 have been with their service providers for more than three years, and 14% have been with their service provider for less than a year.
Of the findings, Professor James Woudhuysen, Visiting Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at London South Bank University, says: “Technology will do a lot for people in the future. We can be confident that by 2030 clever chatbots and online channels will make it tougher than ever for customers to distinguish online dialogues and machine operators from human ones. Advanced automation will make self-service and information access easier than ever before. On the other hand, its limitations will ensure that customers, especially older ones, continue to value the human touch delivered by real people. The balance between technology-assisted human service and fully-automated service will certainly go on shifting toward the latter, but that balance will vary in different scenarios, and both ways of engaging with customers will remain vital to getting things done.”
Advises Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing: “The message for organizations based on input from more than 36,000 consumers globally is clear. To succeed into the future, companies must be honest and transparent, both key qualities that must come through in every element of the customer experience. Today’s visionary organizations are declaring customer engagement a sustainable competitive advantage, essential to their future success. To excel, they need to ensure they have the right mix of digital and human engagement options to offer speed, convenience and the personal touch.”
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