Today’s customers naturally expect first-class service and a personalized, harmonious shopping experience. To this end, companies are increasingly utilizing the possibilities of chatbots, artificial intelligence and big data. Recently, however, a new study examined whether more technology is the silver bullet and looked at the role played by the “human touch.”
In the era of the “experience economy,” consumers are putting less emphasis on the product itself and attaching more weight to a positive customer experience when they go shopping. Although price and quality are still the foremost considerations when a purchase decision is made, this is increasingly being influenced by the shopping experience itself. These are the findings of the recent PwC study “Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right,” which surveyed 15,000 consumers in twelve countries. Three quarters of those surveyed view a positive experience as one of the drivers exerting a major influence on their brand loyalty. In fact, 65 percent of US consumers even consider a positive brand experience to be more influential than good advertising.
A positive experience pays off
The study also shows how much of an influence the “human touch” has on the buying experience: despite the progressive development of technology, three quarters of customers want more human interaction in the future. This offers companies a multitude of opportunities to make the customer experience more human, and thus better, and to profit from that improvement over the long term. This is because greater brand loyalty results in a greater willingness to buy and more sales: according to the study, consumers will accept a surcharge of up to 16 percent on products and services — if the experience is right. Moreover, customers are then much more likely to pass on their information (63 percent), share the positive experience with friends, and buy more products from the company.
On the other hand, the study underlines how harmful even a single bad experience can be for shopping behavior and brand loyalty. For example, 60 percent of respondents would discontinue their relationship with a company due to unfriendly service, 46 percent because of incompetent employees. For one third of those surveyed, even a single bad experience can be enough for them to do without a brand they had previously appreciated. Around 52 percent of buyers would even be prepared to pay more for higher speed and efficiency, 41 percent for more competent and helpful employees — factors that, in general, are particularly important to customers alongside convenience.
Employees the secret to success
Above all, the employees of a company are its main leverage when it comes to positively influencing the quality of the customer experience, and thus turnover as well. That’s what roughly 70 percent of consumers are saying. On the other hand, only 44 percent believe that employees truly understand customers’ needs. This is a significant gap, and it shows that companies and brands cannot solve their customer experience problems with technology alone, but only in combination with their employees. Instead, technology is a tool that enables employees to interact smoothly with customers in the interest of an optimized experience. For this to happen, it needs to work seamlessly and unobtrusively across all platforms.
According to the study, many companies still have some catching up to do in this regard. Only 47 percent of executives say that they understand exactly how robotics solutions and artificial intelligence can improve the customer experience. This is a broad field for optimizations, since many consumers want a range of services to be more digital in the future: from buying a car and booking a hotel to arranging a doctor’s appointment. The success of companies also depends on whether the technologies used effectively support consumers’ desire for speed, convenience, and friendly service. Because there is still resistance. For example, 71 percent of those surveyed in the United States say they would rather communicate with a human being than with a chatbot or an automated dialogue system.
The bottom line
Customers are willing to pay more for a customer experience that goes beyond the standard. Naturally, they use new technologies, but they also want to interact with people in the future, and even more so than today. Companies should therefore use technologies that feel human (or more human) and enable employees to ensure the best possible customer experience. Because bad experiences drive customers away faster than ever before.