The customer of the future: flexible, demanding, yet essentially still the same
Today’s customers are confident, multichannel-oriented and have new expectations when it comes to the quality of the customer support services offered by companies. This is one key result of the "Omni Channel Monitor 2015" survey carried out by leading international technology services provider Arvato and CSC, a leading global provider of next-generation IT services. It was presented today on the occasion of the Call Center World exhibition and congress. Over the past few months, the two companies interviewed over 1,000 consumers and 40 CRM executives from the automotive, e-commerce, healthcare, tourism/transport, telecommunications, utilities, banking and insurance industries, within the scope of the survey.
“The Omni Channel Monitor 2015 survey has for the first time given us representative and meaningful insights into channel preferences of consumers in direct contrast to the way leading German B2C firms see things,” said Daniel Welzer, CEO of Arvato CRM Solutions Germany, who presented the results in Berlin together with his executive colleagues Thorsten Hanisch and Hans-J. Agnischock, Head of Enterprise Customer Performance/CRM at CSC. The latter added: “The survey provided us with a number of detailed insights into what customers expect, especially with regard to the channels offered and service quality.”
The study also offers some interesting results in terms of consumer behavior. Despite the fact that large parts of the population have access to smartphones, tablets and laptops and use these frequently, over 80 percent of German consumers prefer to use the classic channels such as telephone, branch visits and e-mails for contacting a company. Apps, live chat, communities and social media are still at the bottom of the table when it comes to frequency of use (2.4 percent), but are experiencing strong growth. Letters and faxes, on the other hand, are increasingly no longer used. “When push comes to shove, consumers continue to prefer personal contact,” says Hanisch. However, according to the Arvato executive, this does not mean that companies can simply ignore the modern touch points of apps, live chat, communities and social media in future. Hanisch: “The number of contact channels continues to grow. Accordingly, the convergence and interlinking of service channels represents the main challenge for B2C businesses over the next few years.”
Yet another survey result: the level of customer satisfaction with the quality of the contact options offered is only in mid-range for the digital channels social media, video interaction and live chat. However, this does not seem to motivate companies much to take action. Shifting the contact volume toward these digital channels will not happen automatically without improvements to the offerings and integration into a comprehensive service concept. Overall, 87.5 percent of those interviewed stated that they would choose the channel they selected to contact a company again. In this respect, the most popular channel is still the telephone, followed by branch visits in second place. “Over half of all consumers continue to swear by personal dialogue,” says Hans-J. Agnischock. Although an increasing acceptance of modern channels is also clearly apparent: for example, a quarter of those interviewed stated that they were interested in the option of being able to contact a company via video telephony. Agnischock: “Overall, this shows that, when it comes to the inherent value of a contact, personal contact is systematically perceived as an added value and is undergoing a veritable renaissance, alongside the introduction of self-services, portals and self-help communities. Customer services provided on the digital channels must also become more personal in future. This results in new challenges for tomorrow’s customer support representatives.”
Asking both the companies and the consumers what they imagined the customer services of the future to look like returned largely identical answers. For both groups, a desire for central customer portals was way at the top of the agenda, which proves the important role of self-service offers in modern customer support services. However, while companies intend to focus even more on mobile apps with service offers and the realization of VIP services in the future, the consumers would above all like a personal customer support employee assigned to them – and this, of course, still free of charge. Only a small proportion of the customers interviewed would be prepared to pay for special added value or individual VIP services.
Thorsten Hanisch and Hans-J. Agnischock are of the same opinion: overall, the growing number of contact options, the increasing complexity and the resulting organizational changes will initially be associated with major challenges for companies. The businesses that will profit from this situation will be companies that actively meet these challenges with the right technical and organizational support. In summary: “If a customer services transformation towards a well-balanced mix of cost efficiency, service quality and sales-orientation is successful, it will provide that company with excellent opportunities for developing an omnichannel customer support service that gives it a competitive edge.”