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.
The results of a large-scale study of more than 24,000 consumers in 12 countries, including South Africa, shows that although businesses are responding to the increasing digital world by offering their customers new ways of engaging with them, most consumers worldwide choose using the phone (24%) or going in-store (23%) as their primary way to interact with brands or service providers.
“As consumers become more digitally savvy, organisations are considering and even implementing more cost-effective digital channels as part of their evolving customer engagement strategies. However, the message from consumers is clear. They still want human touch as an option in many customer service scenarios,” explains Dave Capuano, global vice president, integrated marketing, Verint. “This dynamic means that businesses considering more cost-effective, digitally-driven channels need to ensure they understand customers’ channel preferences and the influence they have on customer behaviour and engagement. Those organisations that tip the balance in favour of digital at the expense of traditional service may risk not keeping their customers happy in the long run.”
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.
The study, published today by Verint Systems, with support from Opinium Research and research and advisory firm IDC, identifies a tipping point between digital and traditional customer service with more than four in five (83%) consumers that believe speaking with a person will always be an important part of the customer service equation. 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.
The Digital Tipping Point: How Do Organisations Balance the Demands for Digital and Human Customer Service? report shows the complexity of the service requests heavily influences whether a customer will choose digital or more traditional channels, such as phone or in-store, to fulfil their needs.
Complexity Drives the Tipping Point
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 enquiry, 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 a third of customers prefer to go in-store (34%) for complex enquiries, 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 favourably 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 a 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.
What Do Businesses Say?
Alongside the consumer research, Verint also ran comparative research with businesses, asking 1019 organisations worldwide about the digital and traditional customer service channels they are prioritising and investing in. In contrast to customers’ preferred options, these businesses reported they are investing least in traditional channels, such as the phone or in-store.
When exploring attitudes towards service channels, almost seven in 10 consumers (68%) believe that they are more likely to negotiate a better deal in person rather than online. However, only 47% of businesses surveyed offer the availability to speak to someone in-store, relying on other methods of communication with customers such as web chat and email. Businesses also acknowledged that digital customer service needs to improve, with 91% agreeing that customer service online and via mobile devices should be faster, more intuitive and better able to serve customer needs.
“This study represents a call-to-action for businesses to better understand their customers’ engagement preferences in order to better serve them,” says Mary Wardley, vice president, enterprise applications and CRM software, IDC. “There continues to be much discussion about the rise of digital and proliferation of mobile. However, as this research shows, human contact is still critical for consumers, increasing the stakes for businesses to strike the right balance in order to effectively service and retain customers, influence sales, and heighten engagement and loyalty.”
Rachel Lane, director of customer analytics, EMEA, Verint adds, “This research across a dozen countries points to some misalignment of priorities in terms of which channels businesses plan to focus on in the future and how customers prefer to engage. The organisations that understand the needs and wants of their customers, along the entire customer journey, will be well positioned to meet customers where they wish to engage, whether in-person or via digital channels.”
Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards
The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.
The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”
Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).
The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:
The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.