The ease of online and omnichannel shopping due to the pandemic has elevated consumers' expectations. More than half of respondents (58%) said their customer service expectations are higher today than they were a year ago, according to a report from Talkdesk Research released Tuesday.
It takes one bad service experience to reduce the loyalty of 68% of customers, with only 14% strongly agreeing that retailers are giving the best customer experience possible, the findings indicate.
Positive customer experiences are less impactful on loyalty, with less than half of survey respondents (44%) saying they were more likely to buy goods from retailers again if they had a positive customer service experience.
Talkdesk's report echoes previous findings on consumer expectations. Earlier this month, Coveo research indicated that nearly three-fourths of consumers will leave a brand behind after three or fewer poor experiences.
As the line between digital and in-store experiences blur, consumers expect to interact with retailers via chatbots, video chat and voice applications more in two years than they do today, the report indicates. In contrast, consumers expect to interact with brick-and-mortar stores less, with 49% of consumers indicating they use the channel today versus 33% expecting to use it in two years.
The report also emphasizes retailers' failure to respond to customers' needs. A Forrester report released last month noted that companies that lack communication across their operations and fail to use automation have different versions of events and customer profiles. The majority of respondents in Talkdesk's report (84%) expect their questions or problems to be solved swiftly and correctly.
But as customers shift their retail interactions away from physical stores, digital channels will become more important to retailers in terms of customer service and spending. According to Talkdesk's findings, respondents said they use AI chatbots for less than a third (31%) of their retail interactions, but they expected that to increase to 44% in two years. A Juniper Research analysis from last year predicts that shoppers will spend $142 billion via chatbots in 2024, a jump from $2.8 billion in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed a shift in consumer expectations, but many brands haven't risen to the challenge. As Alorica Senior Vice President Paulo Silva mentioned in a statement, customer service is an integral part of building brand affinity and loyalty.
"This sea change in consumer behavior has been on retailers' collective radar for years, but the pandemic accelerated it," Tiago Paiva, CEO of Talkdesk, said in a statement. "In-store and digital experiences are, for many retailers, still treated as two distinct, separate channels. The mere fact that consumers now want one simple, holistic interaction creates a major challenge for retailers who thought they had a few more years of runway to implement."