As consumers become more reliant on digital channels for both commercial and communication purposes, Canadian businesses are beginning to feel the pinch. Many of them are struggling to keep pace with consumers’ usage of unconventional service providers to satisfy their individual needs.
Such is the focus of Accenture’s 10th annual Global Customer Consumer Pulse Research, which featured input from 1,215 Canadian respondents. According to the findings, only 11 per cent of those surveyed believe that companies are effectively converging digital channels to communicate and offer products and services to their customers, despite their investments into these areas. Additionally, just over a quarter (28 per cent) of the Canadian respondents said they were loyal to certain providers, and the same amount indicated that they would recommend them to others.
Further results show that only 45 per cent of Canadian consumers were satisfied with online services available through company websites, while nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) said they discuss their negative sales and marketing experiences with their peers, representing a 5 per cent year-over-year increase.
While these findings are not the cause for alarm for Canadian businesses, there is still lots of room for improvement. But what can be done to improve service and customer relations? Berkeley Warburton, sales and customer service strategy lead for Accenture Canada, explains.
IT in Canada: Why is creating a good initial experience such a crucial part of the customer service cycle?
Warburton: Customers are more discerning and less loyal to brands than ever before. The customers have higher expectations of their service providers, and the experiences that we have with other providers imprint on us. We take that and use it to inform (others) about the expectations we have of other providers. Recognizing that, our clients are identifying that now is the time to focus on the customer experience.
ITIC: Why do Canadians expect such a high level of service whenever they do business online?
BW: As our research shows, Canadian customers spend more time online than those in other countries. A higher percentage of Canadians have access to the Internet, and we are a culture of savers as opposed to spenders, more so than our brethren south of the border. If you think about all of this together, Canadian customers have higher expectations of how they want to deal with service providers online.
ITIC: The report indicates that only 45 per cent of Canadians are satisfied with services from company websites. Why is this?
BW: We have many discussions with our clients about this continued struggle, and the reality is that with customers becoming more digital, the game has (accelerated), and companies have been chasing the opportunities that digital can bring. Several years ago, it was all about getting social and introducing some social elements to your Web presence, but the reality is that a lot of our clients haven’t addressed the root causes of some of the problems.
These problems are exposed on the website in terms of the customer experience when they don’t execute well. We’re working with many Canadian clients across all industries in terms of bringing together that omni-channel experience, making sure the experiences are consistent across the channel, but also ensuring that we’re really defining the role of each of those channels.
The role of the website, the physical store and the phone channel have evolved over the past year, so (uniting) those elements and executing it is the number one challenge that our facing. There’s no surprise that the report suggests that there is room for improvement in the eyes of the consumer.
ITIC: Why are more Canadians sharing their negative online experiences with others?
BW: As Canadians, we are more digital, we’re (more frequent) users of mobile technology, and we’re very engaged on those channels. As a culture, we’re very selective and savings-oriented, and as a whole, we’re more discerning in terms of what we expect when we elect to bring our business to a company. Knowing that, it’s not surprising that we tend to be more vocal via these social channels when it comes to an experience that we are disappointed with.
ITIC: What can businesses do to gain a better understanding of what good service is?
BW: There are a few ways that companies can do this. Having a formal (method) of gathering customer data, whether it’s through formal surveys, focus groups or working with companies like J.D. Power to get yourself benchmarked in terms of overall customer satisfaction, but also satisfaction with specific transactions and executing a channel strategy. You have to take time to define each of the channels and how you want your customers to experience them.
You also have to look at your competitors and depending on the industry, being laser-focused on what the competition is doing across the customer lifecycle and how you stack up in terms of the customers’ experiences relative to your competitors’ and your peers outside of the industry.
We take our experiences from some of the disruptors, such as Amazon.com, Apple and Airbnb that directly impact us, and we expect those same experiences when we’re interacting with the more traditional service providers, like banks, utilities and healthcare.
Editor’s Note: This article is a follow-up to a Marcello Sukhdeo column about this study. Click here to read the column.
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