How we as humans communicate is changing, so it makes sense that the way we interact with brands is changing, too. Astute surveyed a broad swath of American consumers to better understand how people want to communicate with brands.
Astute published its findings in a series of reports that explore the nuances of the changes taking place around us.
1 | The survey found that consumer preference for various channels of communication is changing:
Live Chat: Live chat is the most preferred method of communication for speaking with customer service. About 50% of consumers prefer to reach out to a company through live chat. That’s a huge jump from about 10% in a survey taken only two years ago. People are increasingly looking for self-service, and if they can’t find the information they need on the Internet, the self-service widget is only a click away.
Telephone: The telephone remains important for urgent and complex issues. The survey found NO change in the number of people who want to pick up the phone for urgent issues. Of course, it’s faster to talk than to type, and emotion (on both sides of the line) is more readily conveyed through speech. On the other hand, the survey found a steep decline of 16 percentage-points in the number of people who prefer to call customer service with a question in the past two years.
Email: The use of email is declining across all ages. Two years ago, about one-third of people preferred to email customer service with a question. Today that number declined 24 percentage-points, and only 5% of people want to email a company with a question.
Chatbots: Customer service bots are growing in popularity and acceptance. Self-service chatbots ranked in third place when it comes to finding an answer to a question. The big driver behind this trend is convenience, as people like getting an answer any time of night or day, and not having to wait in line to find an answer.
People do have very strong feelings about self-service, both positive and negative. Our survey found that:
- 37% of people always prefer to speak with a live person instead of a bot
- 9% of people always prefer to self-serve to avoid speaking with a live person
One key insight is that positive user experiences with a well-designed chatbot can overcome negative stereotypes about chatbots. Of the people surveyed who described chatbots using negative terminology, all of them reported difficulty in using chatbots. On the other hand, people who described chatbots using positive terminology reported having positive interactions with chatbots.
Social media: Social media is less used for customer service, with only about 3% of people choosing social media for customer service. However, it is public and therefore much more visible. The low numbers could reflect the fact that most companies still aren’t set up to respond quickly enough to meet customer expectations for social media.
Texting and Social Chat: These are still emerging channels for customer service, with about 7% of people preferring to text or social chat with customer service. The youngest consumers, adults 18-24 years old, are the mostly likely to text or social chat with an urgent issue.
2 | The survey also found that social commerce soared this past holiday season.
Consumers confirmed the popularity of social commerce, or shopping through social media, over the 2019 holiday season. The survey found that 35% of consumers surveyed made a purchase through social media, and 14% more considered making a purchase during that time.
Social shopping was most prevalent among middle-aged shoppers, or people who are 25-54 years old. That’s most likely because they’re both familiar with social media technology and have more disposable income than younger shoppers. In addition, women were more likely to social shop than men, but they both enjoyed the experience equally the same.
“Our research highlights trends in how consumers are adapting their preferences based on both the progression of digital, as well as on brands’ ability to leverage technological advances to improve customer experience,” said Shellie Vornhagen, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Client Services at Astute. “Using Astute’s AI-powered software and services, our customers are helping to drive these shifts through a data-driven, omnichannel approach to customer service.”