Do customers prefer simplicity and flexibility over chatbots and automation?

Customers think businesses should focus on launching simpler and more flexible customer service options instead of investing in new tech such as personalisation and voice assistant

Adam Muspratt

New research from Engine, the service design consultancy, has revealed that customers want customer service and experiences to be open and honest rather than technologically advanced.

The customer experience gap: Customers want simplicity and flexibility over chatbots and automation. Here are some key takeaways from the research 

  • 62% of customers want simple and flexible customer service options, over new technology
  • Only 15% of customers think businesses should invest in tech like voice assistants
  • 68% of customers recommend services to friends based on the quality of service rather than convenience and price 
  • Amazon named the top business for providing the best customer experience and service for the second year running 

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The latest findings from the Customer Experience Report 2018, uncovers that, when asked what businesses should prioritise, 62% of customers said the focus should be on launching ‘simpler, flexible, and more affordable customer service options’. Furthermore, 58% of those surveyed also suggested that businesses should provide better ‘training and performance incentives for customer-facing staff’.
Only 15% of consumers wanted brands to focus on innovations such as voice assistants, and under a fifth of respondents (17%) wished businesses would use their data to create personalised recommendations. Just 22% of customers would suggest businesses automate elements of the customer experience through tools such as chatbots.
In the five years that the annual survey has taken place, the ranking of priorities remains unchanged. It’s ‘openness and honesty’ (50%), followed by ‘efficiency’ (48%) and ‘reliability’ (43%) according to those surveyed. At the bottom-end in importance is ‘personalisation’ and ‘proactivity’ which ranked eighth and tenth, respectively. 

top_10_best_customer_service___experience_2018Additionally, Engine found that consumers are more likely to recommend a service to a friend based on the ‘quality of service’ (68%), over ‘price’ (28%) and ‘convenience’ (3%).

RELATED: 5 steps to improve customer service by making it personal

Once again, Amazon is getting the balance of technology and engagement right to be named the best brand for its customer service. The retail giant beat the likes of traditional high street retailers such as department store, John Lewis, who ranked joint second with Lloyds Bank. It also ranked higher than UK supermarkets Tesco (3rd), Marks & Spencer (4th), and Sainsbury’s (6th).

Joe Heapy, the co-founder of Engine, commented:
“It’s interesting that when looking at what customers want businesses to focus on, respondents place the least importance on automation and the use of innovative technology and yet, they rank Amazon, one of the most automated tech companies as number one for customer service. This comes down to Amazon having worked hard to design a frictionless, principally digital self-service experience that puts the customer first. They then introduce the human touch to provide support when people most need it. 

It’s important for businesses to get this balance right. As automated self-service becomes more intelligent across the board, customers will see more value in a bot dealing with most common issues, freeing staff to accommodate customers when they do have a real issue.”

For more insight on customer service check out this article on discovering your entrepreneurial DNA