Companies Have Lost the Human Touch in Customer Experience 
Companies have lost the human touch in customer experience 
 
PwC research shows up to 16% return on investment for quality customer experience investment 
 
By Owen McFeely, Director, PwC Retail & Consumer Practice
 
 
Two thirds of consumers surveyed by PwC feel companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience. Three quarters saying that they want more human interaction in future, not less.
 
The findings come in a new international survey by PwC of 15,000 consumers across 12 countries including the UK, US, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Singapore.  Research undertaken in Ireland earlier this year revealed similar trends.
 
The report Experience is Everything finds that in an age of chatbots, digital payments, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data, companies need to work harder to strike the right customer experience balance.
 
Price and quality remain top of mind when consumers make purchasing decisions, but 73% of global respondents say that a positive experience is among the key drivers that influence their brand loyalties. In fact, the price premium for quality customer experience among consumers worldwide is up to 16 percent on products and services.
 
PwC global research revealed that 65% of consumers find a positive brand experience to be more influential than great advertising. Based on recent Irish research, we are seeing the same trends in Ireland, where consumers will keep shopping in-store as long as they get the right experience, combination of value, convenience, personal service and integrated physical and online services.  For example, mobile is very important,  with almost a third (31%) of Irish consumers saying mobile is their preferred method of payment in-store (Global: 46%), rising to 66% for those aged under 34. We are seeing consumers choose between convenience, where they may shop online, and experience.
 
UP to 16% return on investment for quality customer experience 
The ‘Experience Economy’ has ushered in a new customer experience mindset, steering brands beyond emphasising products and services to selling rich consumer experiences. Our findings quantify the potential return on investment on investments in providing a quality customer experience of, upwards of 16%.
 
The detrimental cost of bad customer experience, and quantifiable value of the good
The global survey underlines how bad experiences drive consumers away. Of the consumers surveyed, 60% would stop doing business with a company due to unfriendly service, 46% because of employees lack of knowledge (46%) and half because they don’t trust the company. One in three (32%) say they would walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.
 
Speed and efficiency (80%); knowledgeable and helpful employees (78%); and convenience (77%) universally matter most. These cornerstone elements are so highly valued that the majority (52%) of consumers would pay more for greater speed and efficiency; 43% would pay more for greater convenience; and 41% would pay more for knowledgeable and helpful employees.
 
In Ireland, based PwC’s 2018 Irish Retail & Consumer report, there is also room for improvement with the shopping experience.  According to the Irish research, the majority of respondents are not happy with most elements of the in-store shopping experiences.  For example, half (49%) are not happy with sales associates'  knowledge of the product range and has deteriorated from 37% last year. Two-thirds (66%) are not happy with in-store WIFI or personalised offers.   
 
Traditional retailers could be at an advantage as shopping behaviour in stores shifts more to the experience rather than just shopping, but the Irish survey suggests more training of in-store staff is needed.  The increasing trend of shopping with a mobile device also creates significant opportunities for retailers to become fully 'interconnected'.  The trick will be how to optimise the interplay of the in-store shopping experience with mobile and social platforms while ensuring a seamless 'last mile' experience.
 
Trust in the brand and the company is key
In particular, in Ireland, security is still a concern for majority.  More than half (52%) of Irish consumers are concerned about security when making payments via their mobile.  Using credible websites and dealing with providers they trust are the most popular ways to reduce personal cyber risk. 
 
Most consumers want brands and retailers to know enough about them to provide highly relevant  personalised offers, but they also want to be sure that all sensitive personal information isn't misused. Businesses need robust cyber security programmes, and with GDPR now having been implemented, they need to ensure they protect personal information and provide secure website and payment facilities. 
 
Employees critical to the experience - and spending
While the consumer generates the revenue, employees drive the experience. Seventy one percent of global consumers think a company’s employees have a significant impact on their experience. But only 44% believe that employees understand their needs well. Consumers in Japan, the US and Singapore are even less convinced that their needs are understood (21%, 38% and 38%, respectively).
 
Brands won’t be able to solve their customer experience problems with technology alone – it’s just an enabler, facilitating the connection between a product or service and consumers. Instead, they must find a way to create an experience that blends consumer demand for tech with their strong desire for authentic, personal interaction. They don’t need to look far, though – employees hold the key to creating and sustaining great interactions with consumers.
 
In short, consumers are willing to pay for a customer experience that goes beyond the norm and brings together the best elements of people, technology and service with a smile.
 
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