New research from Aspect Software shows self-service and AI are redefining how consumers view customer service

Customer service has reached a digital tipping point, according to the latest research from Aspect Software. Although speaking with live customer service agents on the telephone is still the most popular first point of contact for British consumers contacting customer service (27%), if given the choice of using one method of communication, two-thirds of us would choose text channels such as live chat or even Facebook Messenger.

The latest findings from the Aspect Consumer Experience Index indicate that our need for a quick and convenient resolution via text channels draws a stark comparison with our US and European cousins, with a huge 68% of Spanish consumers, 52% of German consumers and 41% of US consumers preferring the telephone and a live customer service expert. In the US, the number of people who contacted customer service over the phone declined 10% in the last two years, and contact with customer service overall has dropped 7% over the same period, with consumers pushing towards using digital alternatives.

Whatever the channel though, consumers will stop doing business with companies because of poor customer service: more than three in five (64%) in the last year, with the number of Millennials (age 18-34 years old) less likely to jump ship at 52%, compared to Generation X (35-54) with 58% and Baby Boomers (over 55) at 79%. In the US, Boomers are in fact the group least likely to switch due to poor service! In the UK, basic lack of effectiveness – the ability to resolve issues to their satisfaction was the leading cause of frustration, true for 27% of consumers – almost twice as common a cause as lack of speed, with 12%.

Consumers expressed a notable improvement and rise in interest with their experiences on new/emerging channels. 68% of consumers rated text-based customer service (messaging apps) experiences using AI as fair to excellent, and 58% said the same of conversational interfaces such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Stephen Ball, Senior VP Europe and Africa at Aspect, commented: “The insight from the survey results highlights the growing preference for text-based options, such as self-service, over more traditional live person interactions. More interesting is the possibility that consumers are only equating their interactions as ‘customer service’ once it requires human assistance and they have to speak or chat with a live person. The growing demand for digital choice and automated self-managed experiences cannot be ignored. Further, brands don’t get a second chance from consumers as we can clearly see from the results, but if the experience is exceptional there are opportunities to impact positively on revenue.”

One of the clear opportunities for brands is addressing customer experience effectiveness. Consumers are more than willing to pay more for better customer service. 58% of UK consumers would pay more for guaranteed good customer service, while 64% would pay more for exceptional customer service.

Click here to see the Aspect Consumer Experience Index infographic and the full survey findings.