Customers favor food over flowers

Keith Dawson/Ovum
27 Sep 2012

Despite the increasing attention enterprises are paying to expanding the array of possible customer contact channels, Ovum’s research indicates that customers tend to rely on tried-and-true contact modes. Notably, there is little variation in the pattern of contact among different age groups. Customers -- whether Boomers, Millennials or something in-between -- favor contact channels that show results over channels that are novel.

This contradicts a widely-held view that younger consumers are rapidly pushing the boundaries of customer service in wildly new directions due to their exposure to ubiquitous mobile and social computing. What is really happening is that younger customers, like their older peers, are more focused on the results of interactions, rather than the mode of contact.

In order to influence and optimize the customer experience, enterprises should focus their service efforts on measuring for positive outcomes, rather than maximizing channel choices.

More choices are not necessarily better choices. Customers clearly have more choices than they used to when it comes to contacting companies for service or inquiries. But there isn’t a consensus that more choices lead to better choices.

In a 2011 Ovum survey, global customers were asked for their opinion as to which channels were most “successful” – which contact modes resulted in the most success resolving an issue on the first attempt. Not surprisingly, there were strong preferences towards voice and email among the respondents. After those two dominant contact channels consumers claimed web chat as a distant third most successful channel.

A smattering of respondents selected an “alternative” channel as the most successful. Those included SMS, social networking, various flavors of automated self-service, and online forums. But by and large consumers in 2011 were not impressed by the success rate of the new channels, or even from traditional IVR self-service.

Age does not affect the perception of channel success. The surprising element is that there was no significant variation in response based on age. The response profile of consumers under the age of 30 was almost identical to those aged 51–70, across all contact channels.

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