Consumers Want Digital Interactions With Brands to Feel More Like Personal Conversations

Respondents indicated that physical in-store remains the most-preferred purchase channel, followed by eCommerce, phone calls, and email.

Consumers Want Digital Interactions With Brands to Feel More Like Personal Conversations

Respondents indicated that physical in-store remains the most-preferred purchase channel, followed by eCommerce, phone calls, and email.

Cloud communications business, Vonage, has unveiled new research that shows businesses have technology gaps that “prevent them from making meaningful connections with customers.”

According to Vonage, after two years of non-stop digital transformation among businesses, only 45% of consumers are “very satisfied” with the way they connect with companies, revealing opportunities to enhance digital transformation efforts with omnichannel communications channels, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven capabilities, and more.

Vonage’s 11th Global Customer Engagement Report is based on a survey of nearly 5,000 consumers from 11 countries and explores preferences when it comes to using technology to connect with their favourite brands. The survey also included respondents from six major economies in Asia Pacific (APAC), namely Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.


 

Consumer Expectations and Satisfaction

The report found that 60% of customers globally are “very satisfied” with friends and family communications, while 45% rate business/service provider communications as high. In APAC, 56% are “very satisfied” with friends and family communications, while only 45% rate business/service provider communications highly.

Regarding APAC consumers, the study found that they preferred using mobile phone calls (54%), messaging via non-SMS apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (48%), and commenting on social media posts (44%) for contacting friends and family on a daily basis. Customers contact businesses less on a daily basis and on different platforms.

It added that mobile phone calls (40%) are the most common method used by customers to communicate with businesses followed by phone calls via messaging apps (32%), messaging via non-SMS apps (31%), emails (31%) and commenting on social media posts (30%).

“This disparity suggests that businesses are not providing consumers with the same, familiar experience they are used to in their personal lives when it comes to communications technology,” the company said, adding that in order to do that, businesses need to drive omnichannel customer engagement forward (voice calls, video, chat, messaging apps, and more) and embrace emerging technologies like AI, to eliminate common customer frustrations and technology gaps.


 

“The ubiquity of mobile phones delivers the kind of vehicle to businesses that allow them to speak to and engage with their customers directly — right from the palms of their hands,” said said Joy Corso, Chief Marketing Officer for Vonage.

“Yet, this research reveals that many businesses are still not using the communications channels made available by today’s technology to their full potential and are missing out on opportunities to make real connections with customers and drive customer engagement. This is where AI tools can help and surface as underused technology.”

AI tools like virtual assistants, for instance, can address common requests and eliminate long wait times for customers. Virtual assistants can also provide the initial triage to route customers to the right person — which is helpful during peak or seasonal periods.

“The pandemic made the call for digital transformation louder than ever before. Whether it’s messaging, chat, video, or AI-powered conversational commerce, consumers expect to connect with brands in the same way they connect in their personal lives.”

Another tool is conversational commerce, which uses AI to engage customers in-channel. Companies can use it to add information, automation, and self-service to conversations. For example, companies can provide front-end FAQs, authenticate users, and authorize payments.

“In this age of digital transformation, as more businesses work to improve and simplify the customer journey, AI-powered technologies such as virtual assistants, programmable voice, chatbots, and conversational commerce are letting customers take control of their preferred communication channels,” said Dan Miller, Lead Analyst and Founder, Opus Research.

Common Frustrations and the Way Forward

The data additionally revealed several top customer frustrations in making meaningful and effective connections with brands in APAC, including:

  • Long wait times to speak to a customer support agent (54%)
  • Contacting customer support multiple times to resolve an issue (54%)
  • Customer support’s inability to answer a question as the right person is unavailable (52%)
  • Describing an issue to multiple agents and being transferred multiple times (50%)
  • No avenues for speaking to customer service via voice or phone (50%)

While these frustrations are not new, they remain top of mind for consumers, and businesses need to remedy this before it negatively impacts customer loyalty, said Vonage.

Purchase Channel Preferences

Globally, the respondents indicated that physical in-store remains the most-preferred purchase channel (45%), followed by ecommerce (39%), phone calls (38%), and email (36%).

While phone calls and email are widely preferred channels across all stages of the purchase process, website chat is preferred mainly for asking questions while shopping and getting answers to problems during a purchase. This isn’t surprising as today’s consumer needs and demands real-time, contextual, and seamless support at every step of their customer journey. This represents another area of opportunity for businesses to address to ensure exceptional customer experiences.

In APAC, consumers preferred phone calls (54%), email (45%), and in-store visits (40%). In contrast, texting (34%) and video chats (19%) were least preferred channels. When it comes to research, APAC consumers’ most preferred channels include search engines (58%), friends/family (44%), the company’s website (44%), and third-party websites (41%). In contrast, only 32% would visit retail stores while 24% would call the company directly while doing research.

“The pandemic made the call for digital transformation louder than ever before. Whether it’s messaging, chat, video, or AI-powered conversational commerce, consumers expect to connect with brands in the same way they connect in their personal lives — through whatever channel they are in and where they are most comfortable,” said Corso.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for businesses here. Quite simply, businesses should be communicating more like family and friends. That is the experience that will drive customer engagement and keep customers coming back.”


You can read the full Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report 2022 here.

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