Not only do most U.S. consumers prefer dealing with humans than digital channels to resolve service issues, but almost half—45 percent—say they will pay more for goods and services if it ensures a better level of service.

Those are two of the key findings of a new research study by Accenture that urges American companies to put the human and physical elements back into customer service. The findings are based on the 11th annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, which measured the experiences of 24,489 customers in 33 countries and across 11 industries. Just over 2,000 customers from the U.S. were included in the sample. While property/casualty insurance is one of the industries listed, Accenture’s report on survey findings titled, “Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement,” does not break out the respondent views on insurance industry interaction separately.

Geographic breakdowns are available, however, and Accenture highlighted the U.S. results in a media statement last week. In addition to revealing that 83 percent of U.S. consumers in various industries would opt for human interaction over digital channels to resolve service issues and that 77 percent prefer human interactions for advice, other findings for the United States include these:

  • Fifty-two percent of U.S. respondents have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service
  • Having switched, 67 percent will not go back.
  • Eighty percent of U.S. “switchers” feel the company could have done something to retain them; 83 percent said better live/in-person customer service would have impacted their decision.

“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 in a media statement.

“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—multi-channel customers—who want experiences that cover both digital and traditional channels.”

What to Do

Along with the survey findings by country, visitors to the Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey page of Accenture’s website will also find links to two related reports, “Digital Disconnect In Customer Engagement: The high price of obsession has digital reached its tipping point?” and “Disconnect In Customer Engagement: Why do you think your digital customers are the most profitable?”

In the first report, authors Tom Jacobson, Tiago Salvador and Tiffany Gilbert note that “too much digital interaction is an annoyance” for a growing number of customers—and that it may be a deterrent to sales. “Customers feel like companies have used digital not to tailor their experiences, but to commoditize them,” they write.

Separately, at the Insurance Analytics USA Summit held in Chicago earlier this month, speakers from the P/C insurance and life reinsurance sectors detailed customer-centric strategies that build on analytics to learn about customers in order to deliver personalized advice through multiple channels, including digital platforms. Speakers there stressed that digital strategies need to focus on the advice aspect of customer experiences above insurance product sales throughout the first day of the Summit. (Article from the Summit will publish later this week.)

In its media statement about the Global Consumer Pulse Survey, Accenture offers these tips to leaders of all types of consumer-oriented companies about how leaders can improve responses to customer service issues:

  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, allowing them to fluidly move from digital to human interaction.
  3. Root out toxicity: Address the most toxic customer experiences across all channels. These experiences can directly impact profitability. Identify experiences that have the greatest potential downside and leverage those insights to guide an investment strategy.
  4. Guarantee personal data security: 92 percent 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, consumers will be more willing to sharer personal information which can be leveraged to deliver better experiences.

About the research

Accenture Strategy’s Global Consumer Pulse Research is an annual online research project that assess customer attitudes towards marketing, sales and customer service practices and customers’ behaviors in response to companies’ practices.

The 2015 survey includes online responses from 24,489 consumers in 33 countries: Denmark, Finland, Sweden, UAE, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Norway, Mexico, Malaysia, Ireland, South Africa, Russia, Argentina, Turkey, Poland, Philippines, Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, France, Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Australia, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States.

Respondents were asked to evaluate their experiences of up to four industries out of 11 industry sectors: retail banking and financial services, wireless services providers, consumer goods retailers, gas and electric utility providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, property and casualty insurance providers, fixed service providers (excluding cable and satellite), healthcare providers, hotels and lodging, life insurance, and cable and satellite service providers.

The survey was fielded in August and September 2015.

Source: Accenture

Topics USA Property Casualty