23rd Aug 2012
Dennis Fois shares new research findings into the multichannel journey that your customers take, and the critical factors that influence their experience along the way.
Empowered and impatient, customers today have high expectations and are driving the way forward for the multi-channel experience. Earlier this year, we commissioned Vision Critical to survey 3,000 consumers across Europe, examining the factors influencing customer experience across different goal-driven journeys from purchase to loyalty.
Ultimately, we found that customers simply don’t care about the silos that are your customer service, marketing or sales departments, they just want an answer; to reach their goal via the most efficient route possible and preferable to them.
To buy or not to buy?
The first goal the survey examined was purchase; assessing key influences on the consumer’s decision to buy, or not to buy. Examining the psychology of purchase decisions has been a subject of much research, debate and controversy. Our survey did not set-out to investigate or contend these theories, instead our objective was to understand the real-life tipping points that are influencing customer’s decision making process today, both positively and negatively.
In this first goal, purchase decision, it’s clear that the rise of social media has given weight to peer recommendations. 22% of all respondents rated social media as very influential or influential in their purchase decision and for the youngest demographic surveyed, 18-34 year olds, this stood at 29%.
The prominence of this social signal can be seen most clearly in the UK, where the most common cause of purchase abandonment was negative social recommendation (30%), just ahead of more traditional causes such as lengthy or complicated sign up and payment processes. Whist negative social reviews and ratings were the biggest influence on abandonments in the UK, in France; negative social reviews were as influential as unclear service expectations (both at 25%).
However, peer recommendation is not only highly influential when deciding to purchase. The survey also found social channels to be of increasing importance to the customer interaction mix for after-sales goals such as seeking help, or making a complaint.
Moments of truth
During the series of goal-driven journeys which a customer undertakes from pre- to post-sale service, businesses have the opportunity to get it right and engender customer confidence and loyalty, or get it wrong and risk losing the business and worse, provoking negative social comment.
Inevitably, especially when purchasing a sophisticated product or complicated service, things do go wrong. The research found these instances; call them ‘moments of truth’, to be pivotal in making or breaking trust or positive sentiment – a clear opportunity for a business to take control of the experience and win, or lose.
Our research also highlighted that the most important factors for a good customer experience at the point of purchase involved a quick response to a query, or at least for the response to be delivered within the promised timescale, as well as a clear definitive answer reflecting good understanding.
The findings show that consumers’ channels of choice will also vary with different goals. Moreover, consumers are prone to switch mid-way, adding a second channel to an interaction for escalation or convenience. They like to channel-hop, driven by an impatience we can probably all too easily recognise in ourselves.
Looking at after-sales, 2 in 5 consumers will begin a service interaction with phone or email. Self-help then becomes their additional, second channel, with 1 in 3 consumers choosing online web self-service to seek assistance, while social media is the preferred back-up channel for 1 in 10 consumers.
Examining the influences of consumer journeys in after-sales goals, we clearly found that serviceexpectations rise with loyalty and price. Consumers strongly disagreed with the statement ‘When I pay a bargain price for a product or service, I’m willing to accept a lower level of customer support’. In other words, businesses can ill-afford to offer shoddy service, even if they offer bargain prices. However, 50% of those same respondents expect an even higher level of customer support when they demonstrate loyalty or pay a premium for service.
When expanding or extending a relationship, customer experience perhaps becomes even more influential. The survey shows that consumers are increasingly taking a ‘something for something’ approach with service expectations; expecting premium pricing and customer loyalty to warrant enhanced levels of customer service. Any winning business strategy should therefore include service as an important element.
Hero or zero
So, with peer reviews becoming increasingly influential in acquiring customers, and with those customers choosing to hold a continuous conversation across many channels at once, a unified approach to multi-channel service becomes key to providing the consistent and context-aware experiences that today’s consumers demand when trying to reach their service goals.
‘Moments of truth’ occur on multiple occasions, where suppliers have the opportunity to become a hero or set themselves up to become unstuck. A successfully negotiated customer journey achieves its goal, in an easy and timely manner. It builds the level of trust and paves the way for the next interaction in a progression from initial discovery through product or service purchase and ultimately towards loyalty to the supplier built on a good customer experience. Throughout these expeditions, some long term, valued and trusting relationships will form between the consumer and supplier, while other journeys are abandoned with no positive outcome for either party.
Dennis Fois is director of UK & Northern Europe at eGain.