Human interactions drive higher loyalty among digital consumers

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According to a recent study from Verint Systems Inc., consumers who prefer to do business through digital channels are more likely to swap providers than those engaged through personal interactions, such as via phone or at brick-and-mortar stores. In other words, a more personal touch in customer service helps to drive retention and loyalty.

Working in partnership with Opinium Research LLC, Verint found a 7% drop in customer retention compared to a year ago. Tapping into the impact that experiences have for brand endorsement and loyalty, the study revealed that consumers who have good experiences either in-store or on the phone are 38% more likely to renew their product or service, even if it is not the least expensive option; 27% more likely to sign up for an organization's loyalty program; and 19% more likely to leave a positive review. In addition, consumers are 57% more likely to do nothing following a positive customer experience on digital versus than in person.

"Our recent Digital Tipping Point research tells us that as soon as the customer has a slightly complex inquiry, they want to pick up the phone to get their task done with the greatest of ease—and quick gratification is the order of the day," said Rachel Lane, director of customer analytics EMEA, Verint, told FierceRetail. "So, if there is a problem with a digital platform we usually need a human to help us. We resort to making what we hope will be a quick phone call. The essence of the learning is that a retailer has to really know their customers, provide them with choices on how to engage and have that human wrapper right across the omnichannel. From an internal perspective, the retailer needs to be able to connect with the omni-shopper equally across all channels and understand every part of their journey to be more predictive in its analysis."

Lane cites Amazon as an example of a retailer that is using human interaction combined with digital services to create a positive omnichannel experience. The company's Amazon Go recently opened its first location in Seattle for staff only, pushing the envelope and making a new payment-free branch for shoppers to be automatically charged when they leave the store.

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"This is where the tipping point comes into play," Lane said. "For some customer groups, such as millennials, this benefit will be enough to keep them from going to a competitor. According to our research, only 35% of them say that they would prefer to speak to someone in person even when they are in-store. Others will miss that human interaction and the shopping experience will feel hollow, causing the customer to feel no loyalty to the brand without human service. Amazon, on the other hand and in the case of this example, knows exactly where they stand and play in this space. They are giving their customers channel options and I’m sure they know exactly the type of customers that they will attract."

Moving forward, loyalty will continue to be a holy grail for retailers. According to Lane, companies with strong loyal customers are better able to forecast and ride out economic storms. With that said, digital migration is causing some loyalty attrition. Thus, loyalty programs will need to evolve.

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Lane added: "Achieving loyalty is becoming less about discounts and more about three things: ease of business, personalization and near-instant gratification. The playing field has started to change more rapidly than ever before and the innovators that can improve these three key elements are likely to be the loyalty leaders."