Critical Channels of Choice: COVID-19 Highlights a Failure to Meet Consumer Expectations
This has been a year of unprecedented change in the lives of brands and the customers they serve. Precisely, in conjunction with the CMO Council, set out to discover what brands should know to improve the customer experience in the new normal. To that end, we surveyed more than 2,000 consumers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand spanning the five generations of influence: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and The Silent Generation.
The research revealed that while brands have made efforts to engage digitally with customers, those efforts are still falling short of customers’ expectations. COVID-19 has created additional complexity, pushing brands to accelerate the move toward digital engagement.
The biggest takeaway from the survey is that brands still have a lot of work to do to better reach and engage customers in their moment of need. There are significant gaps between what brands deliver and what customers want to see in the way of seamless, frictionless engagement across multiple digital channels.
How COVID-19 has affected customer experience
COVID-19 has pushed consumers and companies digital, but not every brand has been successful at providing frictionless engagement on the right channels at the right time. The world has been dragged, in some cases kicking and screaming, into the digital environment. That’s left many companies scrambling to respond to major shifts in consumer needs, wants, and priorities.
These trends have highlighted the gaps in customer interactions as they move within an omnichannel ecosystem. This year’s survey revealed these significant gaps:
- Brands struggle to understand the preferred channels of engagement for customers.
- Customers are becoming increasingly frustrated with digital experiences that do not meet their expectations for personalized, seamless engagement.
- Digital self-service is increasingly accepted by consumers, with the caveat that engagement can be escalated to a live person when needed.
Companies are struggling today to determine how they will engage customers in the digital space. One challenge is to recognize that the channels of engagement companies want to use may be very different from the channels preferred by customers. And in today’s business world, it’s the buyer’s way or the highway.
Frustration with disjointed engagement causes 73% of consumers to consider moving on to another brand and spending their dollars elsewhere, according to the research. That sobering statistic underscores the necessity of providing a seamless, personalized experience over every channel of engagement to prevent customer frustration and, ultimately, brand abandonment.
Download the report
Precisely, in conjunction with the CMO Council, set out to discover what brands should know to better engage customers in the new normal. We surveyed more than 2,000 consumers spanning the five generations of influence. There are significant gaps between what brands deliver and what customers want to see in the way of seamless, frictionless engagement across multiple digital channels.
Every brand should be asking some very hard questions as they plan for 2021:
- What are the customers’ preferred channels and do they align with your efforts to reach them in the venues of your choosing?
- Do you know what it is about their interactions with your brand that frustrate your customers today?
- How can you better meet and engage with customers in the way they expect?
In short, corporate and brand communications must mimic the personalized interactions that occur between two colleagues that have a shared history and mutual understanding. These conversations must pick up from one channel to the next and continue the thread, without repetition. There are very few companies that do this well, but those companies that master this type of engagement are the ones that will thrive in the new normal.
Universal and generational truths
Certain findings from this year’s data hold true across all generations and geographies surveyed. The majority of people want a blended physical and digital communications mix from their brands of choice, and all generations showed a marked increase in preference for digital engagements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Email took the top spot among channels of choice, ousting the telephone from its long reign as the number one channel of choice for consumers. Though at first glance that might seem surprising, it dovetails with other findings in the report that point to growing customer frustration with poor experience. While email may not be the fastest channel of communication, it does not involve significant time on the customer’s part. There are no long hold times, no long auto-attendant options through which to wade, and no danger of a dropped call in the middle of a conversation. Other popular channels of choice included texting, personalized videos, and chatbots.
It is not enough, however, for brands to simply include these channels in their engagement strategy and call it a day. Customer engagement is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
The data is clear. Customers want a personalized, seamless and end-to-end digital experience. They want to digitally self-serve, and when this is not possible they want to escalate to a live human for assistance. Brands must move to the next level of customer engagement.
To learn more about our research finding and the differences among the generations, download the full CMO Council report sponsored by Precisely.