Customer loyalty is on the decline–a 7 percent drop since last year with higher attrition among digital customers, according to a new global study by Verint.

Research conducted by Verint shows that digital customer engagement is driving a decline in customer loyalty. Consumers who prefer to engage with organizations digitally are more prone to switching providers. Just under half (49 percent) of those who prefer to engage with organizations via digital channels have been with providers for more than three years, compared with 58% who prefer to pick up the phone and 57 percent who prefer to go in-store.

Loyalty360 caught up with Rachel Lane, director of customer analytics, EMEA, Verint, to learn more about this intriguing study.

How surprising is the takeaway about digital consumers and higher attrition rates?

Lane: The takeaways from Verint’s latest Digital Tipping Point research shouldn’t be surprising to any business that understands why customers choose to engage on certain channels. Customers believe communicating via digital platforms is inherently faster to secure a response. For a simple transaction, there is little to be gained from human interaction—except the warm feeling that can be left by a great service agent or in-store employee, and that is exactly the point.

What’s interesting is that human service has a high rating in our emotional intelligence and takes a higher weight in our mindset. Therefore, the clear winners in the digital world are the organizations that can offer an unequivocally better platform in terms of personalization to the customer. Providing the fastest fulfillment and ease of use are features that will always take the lead. And, for many companies, this is still a huge undertaking and requires the mobilization of siloed customer data and seamless background processes to create that perfect engagement. There will be times when things go wrong, and when they do this is when digital efforts can combine with human interactions to succeed in a moment of truth.

With our Digital Tipping Point research, we learned that 74 percent of consumers don’t like dealing with companies that don’t have a phone number listed on their website. It’s truly imperative to provide customers with the option to call if that digital “moment of truth” doesn’t live up to expectations. It’s your organization’s opportunity to prove that you provide the best of best of both worlds by extending that human connection to a digital engagement.

What can brands take from this?

Lane: Brands need to gear up for the best possible online personalized experience so that customers feel a connection and not just a one-too-many experience. It’s important to have a human touch wrapper available so customers can easily reach out if they need something additional. Don’t make online customers search for telephone numbers or live chat sessions. Instead, have a tab available to pop-up contact choices and if the customer has signed in, use this data to recognize the customer when they contact. It’s about keeping it simple, friendly and personal.

Just when digital seems to be the keenest form of customer engagement, now there seems to be a push back toward the human touch. What do you make of this?
 
Lane: I wouldn’t say it's a wholesale push back. What this research is telling us is that there is a tipping point at which digital is most effective. It's really about learning what that point is. We know that different demographics have different channel preferences, which are also task driven. So, if you have a simple account query, then digital has high demand, but if the task is more complex or critical, a human touch is needed. This is an absolute wake-up call for companies to make sure they are journey mapping their customers, understanding their persona groups and providing the channels and tools to enable that seamless, personal service that customers now expect.

For every company, the tipping point will vary, but this research is of great value to help a business understand what customers today expect. We must also keep in mind that we’re educating customers as we go. Some won't understand the benefits of new channels until they use them. Therefore, it’s also key to making sure that these digital platforms are really going to add value to the customer, so they feel quickly engaged and comfortable. This way, if things aren’t what they expect and they can't complete their task there is that human wrapper available to assist.

What are brands being challenged by to achieve this delicate balance?

Lane: There are many challenges to getting this right for the traditional business. The biggest is that companies are desperate to cut service costs and they see digital as the absolute panacea. They go all out to deliver a digital platform that is often process driven rather than customer driven, and this causes customer confusion, drives higher calls into the contact center than ever before, as well as subsequent dissatisfaction and potential customer defection.

Those that are succeeding are developing digital alongside other service channels, including artificial intelligence (AI) and gradually migrating customers along the path. I mention artificial intelligence here, because this is the next big challenge and some of the greatest use cases for AI are not just digital but in the contact center. Let’s not push all our customer away from using a phone just yet. In terms of service calls, this has the potential to be at least as impactful as the current digital revolution, but again, a delicate balance can only be achieved by knowing your customer.

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