The results of a large-scale study of more than 24,000 consumers in 12 countries by Verint Systems Inc.–with support from Opinium Research LLC, and research and advisory firm IDC–identifies a tipping point between digital and traditional customer service. The Digital Tipping Point: How Do Organizations Balance the Demands for Digital and Human Customer Service? report shows that despite the rise in digital customer service channels and options, 79% of consumers prefer the human touch to remain a part of customer service when engaging with brands and service providers. Complexity of the service requests are shown to heavily influence whether a customer will choose digital or more traditional channels to fulfill their needs.  

Businesses are responding to the increasing digital world by offering their customers new ways of engaging with them. However, most consumers worldwide choose using the phone (24%) or going in-store (23%) as their primary way to interact with brands or service providers. In terms of preferred digital customer service channels, 22% of consumers want access to an online account, 14% want the ability to communicate with a customer service agent via email, and 9% cited that they prefer to connect using mobile apps.

In terms of leading customers on a digital journey, speed, insight, and desired outcomes are the biggest factors. Over two-thirds (67%) state that customer service online and via mobile devices should be faster, more intuitive, and better able to serve their needs.

Consumers engage with brands and service providers for multiple reasons, and their channels of choice, whether digital or traditional, are quite often determined by the complexity of their requests. In fact, this Digital Tipping Point research reveals that when consumers have a simple customer service request or inquiry, the phone is the most popular option for (22%), while email and SMS come in second place (19% each).

However, as customer service requests become complex, reliance on human interaction increases. More than one third of customers prefer to go in-store (34%) for complex inquiries, while another third prefer to connect by phone (33%). The closest digital channel for complex customer service situations is email, but only 7% of consumers opt for this channel. 

The research also highlights that consumers are more likely to behave favorably towards brands following instances of good customer service in-store or on the phone. A quarter of respondents would give a positive review, and almost one fifth (18%) would renew products or services, even if they aren’t the least expensive option. This compares to 21% of those who would write a positive review and just 13% who would renew products or services following good customer service on digital channels.