Instead of thinking about a desktop experience, a mobile experience or a tablet experience, customers just want an omnichannel experience – that is, a fast and effortless response to their query that’s integrated across every channel and device that they may choose to use.

That’s the message coming out of a recent customer engagement survey conducted by [24]7. The survey examines the customer’s experience from the order of channels and devices typically used in an omnichannel journey, to attitudes on self-and assisted-service and perceptions of customer service across different types of businesses. The results build a picture of the way we as consumers live, shop and engage with businesses today.

We Are Digital And We Are Connected

Almost nine out of ten respondents own both a smartphone and a tablet representing a consumer base that has becoming increasingly digital over the last few years. That combined with the high penetration of PCs and laptops in the UK is testament to how well connected consumers are as a whole. As a digitally inclined and connected population, UK consumers exhibit a strong tendency to start their customer service journeys on corporate websites accessed via PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets.

In fact, 67% of customer service journeys begin on the website as the first channel of choice. Although there’s been a lot of buzz around a mobile-first world the study shows that 46% of consumers start their customer service journeys on the PC or laptop as their device of choice. This is followed by tablets at 23% and smartphones at 17%. It seems we still live in a PC first – but not quite mobile first – world, at the moment when it comes to customer service.

Consumers Will Cross Channels – Frequently

Nine out of ten consumers will use three channels to resolve an issue during a customer service journey. Consumers have no problem crossing channels if they cannot complete their task in their first channel of choice. 78% of consumers will cross channels and 68% will change devices if they cannot complete their task on their first channel and device of choice.

65% will then, as a second port of call, seek live agent assistance to help them, turning first to a phone call to talk to an agent (33%), secondly to chat (15%) and thirdly to email (15%). It’s clear that the touchpoints that customers use today are not sufficient enough to resolve their issues on their first attempt. Even though consumers may have a strong proclivity to use multiple channels due to their own preferences by far and large the data from the study suggests that touchpoints need to be optimised.

The Breaking Point For Customers

One out of three consumers that ended their business relationship with a company due to poor customer service cited frustration with the IVR as the tipping point for their decision. This is followed by long wait times to talk to an agent (26%) and agents’ inability to resolve their issues (10%). Interestingly, as respondents increase in age the higher the frustration is with IVR.

45% of the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers that took their business elsewhere due to poor customer service cited IVR frustration. Millennials, on the other hand, found waiting too long as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and led them to another company. Anger at poor service has led to 47% saying that they would take their business to a competitor within one day (if price and products are of equal value) and 80% say they would do it within one week.

How Then Do Customers Want To Get Serviced?

There’s been much talk about omnichannel (the ability to maintain customer context throughout the journey). But what is omnichannel good for? Absolutely nothing ! … or at least not without a predictive element. When asked what types of interactions respondents want to experience, 29% view a company’s ability to anticipate their needs as an example of a great customer service experience. This was the number one answer, followed by mobile chat (20%) and the ability to apply the context from website interactions to a phone call (19%).

How We Engage Now

Overall, the results show that we live in an “omnichannel” world.  We use a variety of channels and devices for customer service and most journeys begin online. Prudent companies will optimise touchpoints (particularly the web) and start connecting other channels in a way where context is maintained throughout the customer journey. This omnichannel ability is what enterprises need to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive world.