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Industry Research : Australian Consumers Turn to Smartphones and Web for Customer Service
Avaya, a global provider of business communications and collaboration systems, software and services, has revealed that Australian consumers are increasingly likely to turn to mobile and online alternatives, such as smartphone apps, social media and websites, over traditional customer service channels.
The findings of the newly published Avaya APAC Customer Experience Index (formerly the Avaya Contact Centre Consumer Index), show that the majority (60 per cent) of Australian consumers prefer to resolve their queries on a company’s website before contacting a customer service centre. This is significantly higher among Gen Y consumers (72 per cent).
One particularly striking finding was the importance of customer service for Australian consumers. 42 per cent of consumers indicated that they would be prepared to pay more money to a company that always provides excellent customer service.
According to the research, web chat usage has also increased, backing the perception that consumers are looking for answers on the web first. The proportion of Australian consumers who believe they will be using web chat more often in the next few years has increased from 14 per cent in 2011 to 20 per cent in 2012. Similarly, the use of customer service apps on smartphones and other portable devices re-enforces the suggestion that mobility should be a key focus for customer service professionals. One-third of consumers report that they are likely to use a smartphone app for a customer service enquiry in the next 12 months, with the reasons given that apps are ‘convenient’ (60 per cent), ‘fun to use’ (43 per cent), ‘good for simple queries’ (36 per cent) and ‘easy to use’ (35 per cent).
Social media usage in customer service interactions is still relatively new, and has doubled to eight per cent in the last twelve months, which is the fastest rate of growth across any customer service channel. The number of consumers who believe they will be using social media more often has also nearly doubled in the past 12 months to seven per cent.
Despite the growth in the use of non-voice channels, the report emphasises that voice, in particular live agents, remains the most heavily used and most preferred channel for customer service. While describing the Australian consumer as being a little more ‘cynical’ compared to other consumers in the APAC region, being able to speak to a person remains the most important factor when deciding what channel they use. So, as organisations implement new channels, optimising and evolving the voice channel should be a key priority.
Importantly, only 28 per cent of Australian consumers agree that ‘The service I receive from customer service centres has improved over the last 12 months’, compared to 44 per cent across the region. Australian consumers are also more likely to agree with the statement ‘Interacting with customer service centres is always problematic’ (57 per cent).
Coupled with the sharp decline in automated systems for all but the most simple of queries (nearly three quarters of consumers – 72 per cent – agree that ‘If I had a choice I would always try to avoid using an automated phone system’), ramping up web-based and smartphone-native service channels while continuing to support and enhance the voice channel are the two key takeaways from the report.
"Customer service has always been high on the agenda of Australian consumers, with the standard of customer service levels often cited as the reason for business popularity – or decline – across numerous industries, most recently retail. While Australian consumers may be more weary of perceivably poor customer service, they’re also willing to pay more for good service, and as our research shows, are savvy enough to look for other, better means of service. Web-based service offerings, including live chat, and smartphone apps linked to live agents, will become increasingly important tools in the battle to win long-term customer loyalty in Australia. Voice remains the number one priority for more complex queries, so it’s imperative Australian service organisations prepare themselves accordingly." Tim Gentry, Managing Director, ANZ, Avaya
Key Australian consumer trends from the 2012 Avaya APAC Customer Experience Index
1. Live agents will remain the primary service channel for the long term
- Despite the growth of other non-voice channels, consumers still prefer to use a live customer service agent with one third of consumers rating it as their most important factor
- The live customer service agent is preferred for all query types, but has the highest preference for technical queries (90 per cent), complaints (89 per cent) and billing-related queries (89 per cent) and purchase queries (84 per cent)
2. Web self-service channels are a significant focus for consumers
- The majority (60 per cent) of Australian consumers prefer to solve their query by using the company’s website before contacting a customer service agent. This is significantly higher amongst Gen Y consumers (72 per cent)
- Web service has increased from 36 per cent (2011) to 47 per cent (2012)
- Over half (52 per cent) of consumers say they will be using web self-service more in the next one to two years
3. Web chat usage is expected to increase significantly
- Web chat has increased from 13 per cent in 2011, to 16 per cent in 2012
- Consumers believe they will use it more in the next 12 to 24 months, with 14 per cent in 2011, to 20 per cent in 2012
4. Smartphone apps deliver a simple, engaging and convenient user experience
- 15 per cent of Australian consumers have used a smartphone app for customer service enquiries, this is slightly higher among Gen Y consumers (20 per cent)
- Among Gen Y consumers, 29 per cent report that they will be using smartphone apps for customer service issues more often in the next one to two years. This is significantly higher compared to Baby Boomer (eight per cent) and Silent (four per cent) generations
5. Social media customer service will gather pace ahead of other channels
- Social media as a customer service channel has doubled in the past 12 months (four per cent 2011, eight per cent 2012), which is the fastest rate of growth across any customer service channel
- Overall, 16 per cent of Australian consumers have used social media for a customer service enquiry. This is significantly higher amongst Gen Y consumers (29 per cent)
- Over a third (36 per cent) of consumers expect a response from a social media query within an hour. This is higher among Gen Y consumers (39 per cent)
6. SMS offers an effective outbound customer service channel
- 64 per cent of Australian consumers are open to receiving text messages that provide updates on essential information
7. Email queries is still a popular communication channel for consumers
- Over half (55 per cent) of consumers have used email as a customer service channel
- A further 72 per cent state they will use email more often in the next one to two years, an increase from 56 per cent in 2011
- However, first contact query resolution for email interactions is significantly lower versus other channels
8. Continuity of knowledge is a key customer experience
- One in three (34 per cent) queries require multiple customer interactions before they are resolved
9. Consumer preference for the automated phone channel is slowing
- Nearly three quarters of consumers (71 per cent) would try to avoid using an automated response system
- Automated phone channel usage has declined in 2012 (33 per cent vs. 44 per cent in 2011)
- Automated phone channels are primarily seen by consumers as good for solving simple issues (46 per cent)
The 2012 Avaya Asia Pacific Customer Experience Index has been compiled following a series of online surveys with consumers who have contacted a customer service centre (contact centre) in the past three months. The survey covered 2,681 respondents across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and India, and included 520 unique respondents from Australia. Research was conducted in May and June 2012 by Fifth Quadrant on behalf of Avaya.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, September 10, 2012