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Consumer convenience: Phones, video and social media

Consumers have become more difficult to engage with as they spurn automatic brand loyalty and look online to support their purchase decisions. It's time organizations used technology to reconnect with them, says a recent study commissioned by BT and Avaya.

Consumers in the US are more active on social media than the global average, and 83% of them would buy more from organizations that are easier to deal with, according to a latest study commissioned by BT and Avaya.

The study prods companies to adopt 'omni-channel' communication to 'keep up' with tech-savvy consumers, who want to be able to contact a company through different channels depending on where they are - at home, in office or driving. A big 81% also demand the option to switch from social media to phone in a continuous conversation with the same customer service agent.

The study, 'Autonomous Customer 2015: On hold for Intelligent Customer Service', which covered 5,500 people in 10 countries, says tech-savvy consumers research and make buying decisions online, and prefer to interact with organizations on their own terms.

"Organizations have to align themselves with rapidly changing consumer expectations," says Wael El Kabbany, vice president, BT.

"Convenience is now a top priority for consumers, and organizations need to recognize this. For the autonomous customer, convenience means flexible, multichannel support whereby customers can communicate with an organization using the channel which works best for them."

To begin with, customers want organizations to offer the technology they are most familiar with; 83% say they would post a customer service comment on Facebook, and 78% are interested in using Skype to speak to an agent. Consumers are also keen to see interactive voice recordings with smartphone screen visuals (84%) and web chat (83%).

Savio Tovar Dias, director for Sales Engineering, Avaya Global Growth Markets, says, "Customer loyalty is often said to be a thing of the past, but this research identifies a fantastic opportunity for businesses to continue striving to win that elusive customer allegiance. Organizations should make sure they are doing enough to make customer support the most seamless and convenient process for their customers."

The findings reveal a number of key opportunities for organizations to re-engage with 'Autonomous Customers' for more profitable relationships.

Globally, 62% of consumers say they find dealing with customer service issues exhausting with just 13% saying they regularly get first-contact resolution.

The study highlights the need for 'omni-channel' through which consumers can seamlessly change how they contact organizations depending on their situation - whether they are at work, sitting at home watching TV, driving, cooking, in meetings or on a train. People should be able to start an interaction through an app but then use messaging or tweeting to speak on the phone to the agent handling their query.

About 64% consumers want to switch from web chat to video chat, with 88% saying organizations should be easier to contact by web-chat, email and phone.

Video

The growing popularity of video is another big area which needs to be tapped for customer service and engagement, says the report. In just two years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people watching videos to get information on products and services.

71% customers would like video chat to have a product demonstrated by an agent, which is gain higher than the global average of 63%. The highest demand for video chats being in India (81%) followed by China (78%).

Social Media

Consumers are also actively using social media with 25% of global consumers having accessed customer service through social media. Consumers in India, UAE and Indonesia are most likely to say they would post a Facebook customer service message.

About 15% say they have made a complaint or comment as status update and the research shows that two in three expect a response from the company through the same platform. Customers don't want to be directed to the phone or to an online form, or asked to Direct Message or Private Message their comment instead.

Phone

While video chats are increasingly on demand by customers, phone remains a preferred form of communicating with organizations.

However, organizations are missing out on sales due to consumers' growing concerns about security when transacting over the phone. Security was the biggest single change in the Autonomous Customer research between 2013 and 2015.

People want technology to secure card payments over the phone (with the advisor not able to see or hear the account or card details). Longer and complex ID&V processes are not the solution as consumers are looking for organizations to make it easy for them to get through to someone. Globally, consumers expressed great enthusiasm for voice biometrics for ID&V, with three in four saying they would like to see this technology in place.

The report suggests using calling line identity (CLI), customer sign up to Visual IVR and even GPS location to recognize the customer, which can help agents make interactions quick and more personal. Eighty-three percent of customers in the UAE would like Visual IVR when calling on a smartphone.

The demand for which is highest in India and China at 86%. One in two consumers would buy more if payments were secured by PCI compliant technology. Seventy-seven percent of UAE customers want companies to offer voice analytics or biometrics to avoid providing personal information.

The Future

The study goes on to say how the emerging concept of the internet of things can be an inspiration for 'Intelligent Customer Service', through which organizations can resolve issues before they arise by anticipating problems that customers may not have been aware of, and changing how service is delivered, depending on the customer's situation.

For now, the phone is still the most popular means for resolving queries and issues, particularly complicated ones, with 82% of customers preferring to call the company. Sixty-seven percent of consumers phoned a call center in June. Customers are making more complex calls to call centers, with two or more issues.

However, they expect more knowledgeable customer care agents who often put them on hold because they don't know what to say. Consumers are more likely to find help from other consumers, as for 1 in 2 consumers agents struggle to answer their queries.