As purchase preferences continue to morph during the resurging COVID era, brands and businesses need to get on board with the fact that their customer service communications are emerging as the key factor for customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Consumers across generations and geographies are now flocking to digital self-service channels when engaging with brands, but they’re getting frustrated when their needs aren’t met—and this frustration has led to 73 percent of consumers questioning why they’re doing business with the brand.
New research from the CMO Council, with research partner Precisely, covers critical channels of exploration and engagement, the rise of digital channels such as interactive and personalized video, the influential role of traditional channels, problems that cause consumer frustration and brand abandonment, and how different generations prefer to engage with brands.
Key findings from the new study, How Covid has Changed the Channels of Engagement, include:
- Top five channels of engagement that consumers expect from brands include: email, website, voice call, live person and SMS text
- 65 percent of consumers say digital engagements with brands during the global pandemic is not exceeding expectations
- 87 percent find it frustrating when needing to engage in multiple channels and having to repeat themselves in every new channel
- 50 percent cite the ability to escalate to a live person when needed is the most important trait when engaging with a brand, followed by personalized communication based on previous interactions (44 percent) and the ability to digitally self-serve to get to answers quickly (30 percent)
- 21 percent chose digital-only when asked to identify their ideal communication preferences, up from 10 percent last year
COVID catalyzes need for brand communications improvements
The urgency to deliver a seamless digital experience across the key channels of engagement has only increased as the current pandemic continues to push consumers online. The research shows how this has exposed brands’ digital shortcomings.
Problems include consumers lacking an escalation path to a live person, receiving non-personalized or out-of-context messages, having to repeat themselves in different channels, and being unable to pivot to channels of their choosing.
“For years, brands have touted robust digital transformations, that is, their ability to engage with customers digitally,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, in a news release. “The pandemic accelerated this by forcing consumers to turn to digital channels, thus putting a brand’s digital transformation to the test. The result was that many brands’ digital channels were lacking in some way.”
The research also found differences among generations in their channel-engagement preferences
Gen Zers, for instance, are more likely to exhaust digital self-service channels before reaching out to a live person. Younger generations were also more willing to share personal data in exchange for better, faster and more personalized service.
“Seamless, personalized and digital self-service experiences across the key channels of engagement are what’s driving the customer experience of tomorrow,” explains Greg Van den Heuvel, EVP and GM at Precisely for EngageOne, in the release. “When customers are moving between channels, don’t make them reintroduce themselves each time. The experience has to be frictionless and must take into account the previous engagement they’ve had with your organization. Those that fail to embrace the ‘new normal’ and deliver seamless digital experiences will fall further behind their competition.”
The report is based on a survey conducted in October of over 2,000 consumers spanning five generations (i.e., Generation Z, Millennial, Generation X, Baby Boomer and Silent Generation) and six countries (i.e., United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand).