Study: Aussie Customers Still Prefer Humans Over Machines

Study: Aussie Customers Still Prefer Humans Over Machines

A timely reminder from the team at digital strategy firm Accenture: lose sight of the value of human connections at your own peril.

Accenture’s research report titled, Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement, found even in the “digital age” human interaction remains a vital component of customer satisfaction; 81 per cent of Australian consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to solve customer service issues and for advice.

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Key findings of the Australian report included:

  • 81 per cent of consumers prefer dealing with a human over digital channels to solve customer service issues.
  • 55 per cent of consumers have switched providers due to poor customer service.
  • 81 per cent of consumers prefer dealing with humans over digital channels to get advice.
  • 48 per cent of consumers say they are willing to pay a higher price for goods and services if it ensures a better level of service.
  • 81 per cent of consumers admit it is frustrating or extremely frustrating dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them.
  • 61 per cent of consumers will not go back once they’ve left a provider.

Companies need to rebalance digital and traditional investments to drive growth, the report says, urging businesses to balance their digital exuberance with a human touch.

The conclusions were drawn from the 11th annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, which measured the experiences of 24,489 customers in 33 countries and across 11 industries to assess consumer attitudes toward marketing, sales and customer service practices.

Digital is not always win-win: only 36 per cent of customers believe digital channels are better than non-digital forms of interaction.

While digital has been used to reach and acquire new customers, too many promotions or communications blur together and consumers don’t feel special or unique. “Customers feel like companies have used digital not to tailor their experiences, but to commoditise them,” the report says.

At the same time digital has done little to boost loyalty, only one quarter of consumers were willing to recommend their providers to others. This lack of loyalty is particularly pronounced in retail, banking and internet service sectors where customers switch providers primarily due to poor service.

“Companies that rely too heavily on digital interactions might be extending their reach, but they’re alienating valuable customers and losing upsell and cross-sell opportunities due to the lack of personalisation customers want,” the report says. “Ironically, the savings brought about by digital efficiencies are increasingly offset by the promotions and discounts companies must now offer to win customers back.”

Accenture recommends companies identify their ‘digital tipping point’ by comparing the value they derive from digital with the costs associated with winning disenfranchised customers back.

“To make the most of their digital investments — and avoid the digital tipping point — companies need to personalise the experiences they deliver. That means making customer experiences they deliver more, not less, human.”

According to the research, the most profitable customers use multiple channels in a single transaction to get the outcome they want.

  • In retail, multichannel customers are responsible for 3.2 times the sales and 2.6 times the margin of store-only customers.
  • In banking, multichannel customers purchase 1.4 times the products and are 15 per cent more likely than digital-only customers to serve as advocates for their providers.
  • Consumers are more than twice as likely to be upsold (45 per cent versus 18 per cent) through a human interaction than through a digital channel.

Organisations need a strategic mix of digital and non-digital options which allow customers to pursue the experience the want at any time.

“When companies over invest in digital front-office capabilities or, conversely under invest in traditional capabilities, they fail to deliver the optimal channel mix that customers demand and deserve,” the report says.

Companies should continue to invest in digital capabilities to offer more convenient, lower-cost services to customer. “However, companies need to recognise that digital capabilities are just one facet of great customer experience. Profitability is not bound by particular channel. It resides is the digital/physical blur. Successful companies own this ‘high ground’ by optimising their investments across channels, while simultaneously delivering the outcomes their customers demand,” the report says.

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Advertising Standards Bureau BlisMedia einsights Joshua Spanier

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