52% of shoppers expect fast response to issues

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Other key aspects to exceptional customer service include always-on assisted service, 8%, and social communities to connect with fans, 9%.

Consumers will abandon a brand and shop elsewhere if they continuously encounter poor, impersonal or frustrating customer experiences.

According to a recent Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council study, 52% of those surveyed expected fast response times to needs, suggestions or issues, and 47% wanted knowledgeable staff, ready to assist wherever and whenever needed. 

Other key aspects to exceptional customer service, but less popular, included always-on assisted service, 8%, and social communities to connect with fans, 9%.

The most common frustration voiced in the survey was price increases on products without seeing added value or improvements. The second most common frustration, 36%, was not being treated like loyal customers. When frustrated, 32% of consumers said they would email the company to complain and 29% would tell all their family and friends. 

"Today, the differentiator isn't whether we are able to individualize an experience, but rather having the insight and intelligence to know where, when and how a customer expects to be greeted with value and relevance," explained Liz Miller, senior VP of marketing at the CMO Council. "Consumers don't need personalization at every moment. But what this research amplifies is the requirement to get relevant, personalized experiences right for an audience of one in their micro-moment of need."

Still, one in four brands are doing a fairly good job of delivering on personalized and relevant engagements. But 38% of consumers said there is still a way for brands to go, and 22% said brands are only delivering in digital. In addition, 70% of customers are willing to share some personal data and 22% will only share if the data is used to deliver better offers.

"So while consumers want simplicity, they want an experience that drives value and is contextual," Miller told FierceRetail. "So yes, they want simple channels, … but for the marketer, what consumers really want in those simple channels is actually quite complex. They want to pick up the phone, … simple. But they want the person on the other end of that phone to know who they are, what the history of the relationship is and what to offer next to help that caller to get on with their day, … not as simple."

As for which channel is better at meeting customer needs, 61% of men say they prefer digital and 59% of women say no one channel meets all of their needs.

The top frustration for women, 56%, is buying something online and not being able to return the item in store. 

Miller sees the results of this survey as a call to action for smart service. 

"I think retail as an industry does a terrific job with training great people to deliver great service, … but are we empowering those frontline resources to have really smart engagements with customers? Are we delivering the insights and intelligence to customer service or salespeople to prove they know the customer?" Miller said. "We need to realize that customer expectations are being set at the speed of digital, but manifesting in the environment of the physical be it on the phone or in the store."

So where should retailers start? Miller says it's impossible to perfect personalization in all channels at once, so pick one and perfect that channel. And in that chosen channel, don't just deliver coupons but deliver value.