The 'Autonomous Customer' paradox; customer service is more vital than ever

65 percent of consumers find dealing with customer service issues exhausting

Oct 08, 2015, 10:00 ET from BT

IRVING, Texas, Oct. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumers themselves are redefining the future of customer service according to a new report commissioned by BT and Avaya. The study, 'Autonomous Customer 2015: On hold for Intelligent Customer Service' shows that while consumers are perfectly happy to 'self-serve' through websites and mobile apps, they have high expectations for quality service the moment they decide to seek third party support as nearly 79 percent expect to receive a response to a social media comment in 15 minutes or less.

In its third year, the independent report, produced by Davies Hickman Partners, covers 10 countries and is based on the responses of 5,500 consumers, including 500 consumers in the U.S. The research has shown there are rich rewards for organizations that strike the right customer service balance, as 90 percent of consumers state they will buy more from organizations that are easy to deal with; leading to repeat spend and brand loyalty.

"Organizations have to align themselves with rapidly changing consumer expectations," says Dr. Nicola Millard, BT's futurologist. "Transactional websites and mobile apps - along with social media - put organizations in the position of supporting customers 24/7. The digital world lives 'in the moment' and puts consumers in control. Customer service has to follow suit."

Multiple channels of communication

With traditional formalized customer service channels less entrenched, and consumer technology so readily adopted, many consumers expect to have the ability to video chat with an organization. Nearly 50 percent of consumers surveyed would like to see the agent they are speaking with to better resolve complex service issues.

Similarly, accessing customer service through social media is on the rise, with 1 in 5 consumers believing Twitter and/or Facebook are the best ways to reach customer service.

"Customers expect to simply engage seamlessly between voice and digital channels, without having to repeat or update information already provided," said Karen Hardy, senior director of product management at Avaya. "Delivering increased levels of engagement and a consistent brand experience to customers will help businesses effectively harness customer satisfaction as a way to remain competitive in today's marketplace."

High quality, light touch customer service

With consumers being ever more digital-savvy, companies are increasingly looking to move customers towards self-service to improve service levels and cut their own costs.

However, the 'Autonomous Customer' report carries a stark warning for organizations that push customers too far down a self-serve route. While consumers are used to exploring some customer issues directly, when something goes wrong, they expect outstanding and effortless customer service wherever and whenever they need it.

"If you've invested 20 minutes research, refining and part-completing a purchase – but then have an issue the website can't solve – you want an answer from the organization then and there," says Millard. "And when you interact with that organization, you expect it to be aware of exactly where you are in the purchase process; particularly if you're a regular customer or have already identified yourself to the website."

The research shows that the phone is still the primary channel of choice for customer service issues, but 69 percent of consumers do worry about their personal security over the phone.

Another crucial point for customers is the ability to move seamlessly from channel to channel when it suits them. Nearly 82 percent of consumers believe organizations should always offer different channels to meet their customer service needs.

As technology continues to be woven into consumers' everyday lives, companies will need to ensure they are training employees at multiple levels to anticipate a new range of customer service needs. From traditional customer service representatives who manage inbound phone queries to members of the communications team monitoring commentary live via social media – consumers are taking customer service to all channels and expecting companies to follow suit.

A free, downloadable copy of Autonomous Customer 2015: On hold for Intelligent Customer Service is available here.

About BT

BT's purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world's leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of five customer-facing lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

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About Avaya

Avaya is a leading provider of solutions that enable customer and team engagement across multiple channels and devices for better customer experience, increased productivity and enhanced financial performance. Its world-class contact center and unified communications technologies and services are available in a wide variety of flexible on-premises and cloud deployment options that seamlessly integrate with non-Avaya applications. The Avaya Engagement Environment enables third parties to create and customize business applications for competitive advantage.  The Avaya fabric-based networking solutions help simplify and accelerate the deployment of business critical applications and services.  For more information please visit

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