A newly published survey of 11,000 consumers worldwide finds that experience is the greatest brand differentiator for companies today. Some 70% of respondents globally say that a company is only as good as its customer service.
Many businesses might think they’re on the right track. The past year has seen an unprecedented rate of customer experience (CX) innovation, with an exponential increase in demand for — and adoption of — digital channels. Live web chat is the second most popular channel for consumers to interact with businesses. And chatbots, voicebots, messaging and video are more popular now than before the pandemic.
Small businesses aren’t the only ones who can — and should — offer great customer service. A 2019 Genesys consumer study found that customers ranked small businesses most highly for the quality of their service. This trend is reversing. Nearly 72% of companies that were recognized as having great service are large, national businesses. Big brands have made a comeback.
But there’s still a gap to close and consumer insights show it’s time for companies to truly listen to their customers. Despite the advances in digital innovation and self-service, one in three survey respondents say that dealing with customer service is always a hassle. Half of respondents say they’ve mostly experienced good service from companies during COVID-19.
Adjusting to Pandemic Life
“The connected customer experience” report explores how pandemic life has affected consumers’ health, happiness and sense of connection with others. It found that respondents in the US and Latin America have had the most difficult experiences during the pandemic. Within Latin America, those in Brazil and Chile have felt this the most.
The survey was conducted while intensive care units in more than half of Brazil’s 27 states were at over 90% capacity and supplies of oxygen and medication were reportedly running low. Chile, meanwhile, was in lockdown with local media voicing citizen frustration at the rising infections.
In Asia-Pacific, the impact of COVID-19 was felt most severely in India (61% have found the pandemic to be hard), followed by Singapore (41%). The poll was conducted while India was on the cusp of a full-scale public health crisis, which is likely reflected in the data.
Meanwhile, in April 2021, Singapore topped the Bloomberg monthly Covid Resilience Ranking, having implemented strict border controls that allowed its residents to resume a relatively normal daily life. Yet, the survey shows the emotional toll of the pandemic was still high. Approximately 40% of Singapore’s residents are non-citizens; the long separation from relatives overseas may have played a part in why respondents said they found the pandemic so hard.
For many consumers, the struggle of pandemic life and social isolation have a ripple effect, leading to feeling less connected to others, less happy, less physically and mentally well, and less patient with other people.
One of the globally consistent trends in data was that the digital world is helping people maintain a sense of connection. Those who became more connected on social media and messaging were less likely to experience the negative effects of the pandemic on their happiness and well-being.
The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” suggested that the more digitally engaged we are, the less engaged we are with others. However, our research shows that, in a quarantined world, digital interaction plays a valuable role in closing the connection gap and allowing humans to engage with one another.
The data also showed that a sizeable proportion have looked to companies for outside contact. In the US and Asia-Pacific, one in six consumers has contacted customer service just to hear a human voice.
Winning on Experience
The pandemic has taught us what matters most in connecting with consumers. People want to experience empathy — being listened to, heard and understood by someone who takes the time to get to the heart of their issue — more than anything else.
In the customer service space, this means knowing each customer, understanding their needs and preferences, and transferring their context across channels so they don’t have repeat themselves. It’s knowing which type of interaction serves customers best in each moment — whether it’s through a human or a bot. And it means giving customers what they need, before they even know they need it.
This isn’t to say speed no longer matters. It absolutely does, but not at the expense of an empathetic experience.
Personalization also is important. Increasingly, consumers are willing to exchange their data for more connected, empathetic experiences. Two in three consumers worldwide believe that when companies collect data, with consent, it improves the service experience.
Most of all, our research highlights the extent to which companies can win in the market with a differentiated service experience. There are many opportunities to build empathy, reduce friction, and build loyalty and trust. “The connected customer experience” report guides you on the starting point and provides case examples from organizations that are getting it right.