Using digital technology to elevate customer engagement is a great way to enhance brand loyalty today. The rise of mobile customer engagement has been rapid and brands are trying to meet customer expectations in this area.

But, according to a new Accenture study, consumers prefer dealing with human beings as opposed to digital channels. In fact, the study shows that 83% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to solve customer services issues.

What’s more, the study revealed that 52% of consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service−with banks, retailers, and cable and satellite television providers being the worst offenders. In the U.S., the estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.

The Accenture Strategy report, ‘Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement’, is based on the company’s 11th annual Global Consumer Pulse Research, which gauges the experiences and attitudes of 24,489 consumers around the world about marketing, sales, and customer services; 2,003 U.S. consumers were included in the sample.

“Companies have lost sight of the importance of human interaction and often make it too difficult for consumers to get the right level of help and service that they need,” said Robert Wollan, senior managing director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture Strategy. “Companies wrongly assume that their digital-only customers are their most profitable, and that customer service is a cost. Consequently they over-invest in digital technologies and channels and lose their most profitable customers – multichannel customers – who want experiences that cover both digital and traditional channels.”

Human interaction remains a key element of customer satisfaction, the study notes. Nearly half (45%) of consumers said they are even willing to pay a higher price for goods and services if it ensures a better level of service.

Physical or in-store experiences are also highly valued among consumers as 65% agree that in-store service is the best channel for getting a tailored experience; and 46% say they are more willing to be sold new or upgraded products when receiving a face-to-face service compared to online.

According to the study, there is plenty of room for improvement in the delivery of today’s customer services:

81% of consumers admit that it is frustrating dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them

73% expect customer service to be easier and more convenient

61% want it to be faster

Complaining on social media about poor customer experience is the norm for 44% of consumers who admit taking to social channels in order to vent.

Once a provider loses a customer, 68% of consumers will not go back

80% of ‘switchers’ feel the company could have done something to retain them

83% say that if companies could provide customers with better live or in-person customer service, it would have impacted their decision to switch provider.

According to the study, companies that want to rebalance their digital and traditional customer service channels should consider the following:

1. Put the human and physical elements back into customer services: Rethink your investment strategy. The focus should be on delivering satisfying customer experiences – not methods of interaction. Ensure your channel management approach delivers integrated experiences.

2. Make it easy for customers to switch channels to get the experiences they want: Build customer service channels that enable consumers to fluidly move from digital to human interaction to get the outcomes they desire.

3. Root out toxicity: Define and address the most toxic customer experiences across all channels. These experiences can directly impact profitability. Identify the experiences that have the greatest potential downside and leverage those insights to guide an investment strategy.

4. Guarantee personal data security: 92% of consumers say it is extremely important that companies protect the privacy of their personal information. By not selling or sharing customer data with other companies, and guaranteeing that safeguards are in place to protect it, consumers will be more willing to hand over personal information which can be leveraged to deliver better experiences.

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