Generation-spanning survey reveals consumer perceptions of the customer service experience and whom they trust most

 

This article was written by Jeff Wartgow Vice President, Product Management @ Oracle. You can find the original article published here

Every generation has its own distinct consumer habits, shaped by the social, technological, economic, and political forces around them. As a result, they have different relationships with brands, different expectations for customer service, and more resources than ever for product recommendations and support.

Baby Boomers and Millennials may be the biggest buying blocks today, but no service leader can afford to ignore the growing buying power of Gen Z.

In a recent survey of more than 2,000 US consumers aged 18–80,  Oracle Advertising and CX worked with Brent Leary, a partner with CRM Essentials, to shed light on consumer behaviors and preferences across generations—and their overall perception of the service experience today.

How modern customers feel about their service options
As hard as it is for service providers to hear, we all know that customer service has a pretty negative connotation.

When asked which activities they’d prefer over contacting a service agent, most participants in the study (59%) chose undesirable tasks like cleaning the bathroom, going to the DMV, or waiting in traffic.

When a sophisticated chatbot can enhance the customer service experience they do need customer support, participants overwhelmingly ranked calling an agent the last of seven possible options. The top three choices:

  • Commenting on the company’s social media page
  • Interacting with a chatbot on their site
  • Turning to online communities on Reddit, Quora, and other forums

 

Though interacting with a chatbot was a preferred option, consumers say it’s far from perfect. A staggering 98% of respondents said they were frustrated by their experiences with fully automated customer service options. Most participants (86%) also craved more human-like qualities in chatbots, like empathy and humor.

However, they were also glad to avoid some all-too-human pitfalls. A sizable 89% of survey respondents appreciated that chatbots didn’t make them feel dismissed, judged, or misled in their interactions.

Anything but a service agent, Gen Z customers say
Unsurprisingly, there‘s a clear generational divide when it comes to customer service preferences.

While 37% of all survey respondents said they trusted social media influencers over brands, in general, Gen Z consumers—who’ve been raised on smartphones and constant connectivity—are more likely to trust influencers and turn to social media platforms (TikTok, YouTube, etc.) for guidance about a product.

Members of this younger, extremely online generation were also twice as likely than Baby Boomers to contact companies on social media if they have an issue. The vast majority of Gen Z respondents (95%) said they relied on these platforms, while about one in five said they preferred brands with an engaged online customer base. Baby Boomers, meanwhile, preferred to speak directly with an agent over the phone.

Given the amount of trust that Gen Z consumers place in these third-party communities, it makes sense that they’re 1.8 times more likely than Baby Boomers to choose a TikTok influencer over a customer service agent for tips about a product.

The strength of this preference can be pretty extreme, too. Of all the survey participants who trusted influencers over official brand accounts, 21% said they didn’t want to speak to a customer service agent again—ever.

How can brands harness these customer service insights?

First of all, don’t panic.

An omnichannel customer service experience

This shift doesn’t mean that conventional customer service channels are obsolete. Instead, it reinforces the need and continued expectation for a fully omnichannel service experience.

Be prepared to meet your customers where they are and empower them to engage with your business however and whenever they choose.

Consider how you can best incorporate your social media channels into your overall customer service approach. Take every opportunity to engage and nurture customer communities online. Make agents available via phone, as well as chat and direct message. Offer self-help options for simpler and more common queries like order status.

Most importantly, give your service team all the intelligence and functionality they need to resolve issues quickly and seamlessly.

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