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Heightened Expectations in Today's Hyper-Connected World: 3 Key Findings From New Customer Journey Research

As we know, customers want it all: infinite choice, immediate access, personalized service. And, they expect your contact center to deliver it at every step. At inContact we continue to look at what’s happening in the customer service marketplace, and early this year we fielded some exciting research with Harris Poll. We talked to a broad set of consumers just after the holiday season to take a look at how they experienced their journey (the study sample was 2,028 U.S. adults). Here are three key findings.

3 Key Findings from New Customer Journey Research

1. Customers Will Pay More for Good Service, But Will More Readily Switch After a Bad Experience

It’s not too surprising that 70% of U.S. adults recently surveyed said they’d be willing to pay more for a brand with a good customer service reputation. What may come as a surprise is that even more, or 86%, said they would be very likely to switch brands after a bad customer service experience. Brand switching came up in our 2013 Harris research when over half, or 56%, of those surveyed said they’d switch if a brand offered more channel choices. Younger consumers ages 18 to 44 were even more likely to switch if given more ways to connect, at 64%.

The consumer’s willingness to move on from a bad experience, pay more for great service, and switch for channel convenience reflect heightened customer expectations. For this we can thank some of our favorite brands: Apple, Starbucks, Google and Amazon. I know they are my personal go-to’s. Take Apple, I have many of their devices and truly believe in the expectation of everything being easy. Then there’s Starbucks. Every day they give me something custom made for me. With Google we can get answers instantly, and, speaking for my family, we are hard-core Amazon Prime people. Effortless.

And so, I want every interaction that I have with every company to actually be those things: easy, personalized, instant and effortless. That is really hard to do, especially with aging technology in environments that are tough to scale, that are not agile.

2. Consumers Think at Least 6 Methods of Communication With Companies Are Important

The Harris research found that the majority of U.S. consumers think at least six ways to communicate are important to have when making a purchase online, in the following order:

  1. Email
  2. Online self-service for order tracking
  3. 1-800 to live reps
  4. Online chat
  5. 1-800 to self-service
  6. Apps for mobile devices

That’s a lot of options. The chart below shows even more, like SMS/Text, social and online video chat - each expected by at least three out of ten consumers.


This is not just about multichannel, which we’ve been talking about for a while. It’s about the consumer’s broader need, desire, and use of a variety of channels across their journey. With the advent of new channels, including self-service options, channel use is spreading across the customer journey. Three of the top six expected channels are agent-assisted. The consumer’s direct interaction with contact center agents is still critical.

3. Contact Center Agents (Still) Play a Vital Role Throughout the Customer Journey

Contrary to popular opinion related to the adoption of automated service channels, the contact center agent is not dead. In fact, they are alive and well and continue to play a vital role throughout the customer journey. Certainly, a critical point in the customer journey is when a customer is dissatisfied. The Harris study found that 81% of U.S. adults prefer a live agent when they are dissatisfied. They want to communicate via phone or online chat – not email or online self-service.

Customers continue to interact directly with contact center agents. 43% of U.S. adults surveyed interacted with a company representative when making purchases online of over $25 during the past six months. And, when making their most expensive purchase, consumers who interacted with a company representative did so all along their journey: 72% interacted with a company representative during various stages before placing and receiving their order, 29% did so at various times after receiving their order.

Customers are interacting with agents all across their journey, and the top channels they are choosing to use involve agents. This flies in the face of conventional thinking, which is: The more we proliferate channels, the less we are going to need agents in the mix. The answer to this is: Absolutely not.