Help! Customers Value Service Above All Else

Consumers want excellent service above all else. And they don’t need multiple touchpoints at all times.

Those are among the findings of a survey released today by the CMO Council, working with SAP Hybris. 

The CMO Council polled 2,000 customers in the United States, Europe and Canada.

The study found that among the top ways to engage, email was second, cited by 52%. It was topped only by company websites, at 58%. Third, and perhaps most important, is the phone (48%), followed by in-person engagement (30%).

These choices are followed by word of mouth (29%), direct mail (27%), social media (27%) and traditional advertising (27%).

Email is important not only as an engagement tool, but as a complaint mechanism. When aggravated, 32% of the respondents will gripe by email or a company form.

But here’s the key point: “Only 15% expect companies to be everywhere,” the study says.

So what do customers want? Here’s the list: 

  • Fast response times to my needs and issues—52%
  • Knowledgeable staff, ready to assist—47%
  • Rewards for my loyalty—42%
  • An actual person to speak with, regardless of time or location—38%
  • Information where and when I need it—38%



In other words, keep that phone line open, and have a knowledgeable staff.

What don’t they need? If you believe them:

  • Recognizing my history with the brand at every touchpoint—12%
  • Multiple touchpoints that add value to my experience—10%

That doesn’t mean people don’t expect to be recognized. The study notes that “customers have contradicted themselves.” 

Their pet peeves are pretty standard ones:

  • Slow service—33%
  • Not being able to reach someone who can actually help—27%
  • The feeling that they are being followed online—23%

In addition to those who complain by email or a company form,  31% will protest to a salesperson or clerk, and 29% will tell their friends and family.

Worse, 26% will shop in another channel, and 22% will delete unwanted communications.

When brands continually frustrate them, 47% of the respondents will stop doing business with them. And 45% will turn to another brand.

The survey was divided evenly between men and women.

Of the men surveyed, 61% engage totally via digital channels. But 59% of women, responding to the same question, say “nothing really meets my needs.”

As for critical touchpoints, men are more likely to go for news outlets (58%) and online advertising (55%). Women prefer direct mail, both email and paper (53%) and word-of-mouth from friends (53%).

What frustrates men and women the most? For 69% of the men, it’s “constantly feeling like a company knows nothing about me.” Meanwhile, 56% of women say it’s buying something online and not being able to return it in a store.

Most women will send a complaint via email or a company form. Men will try to do business with one of the brand’s other channels

Age also plays a role. People over 65 want to speak to a person. Those in the 45-54 range want automated service options, 24/7. An 

Their biggest frustrations? Those over 65 say getting promotions in the mail or email to find they can’t get the product being advertised.

How do they engage with brands? Those in the 25-44 age range are totally digital. Older people are less so, and youngsters ages 15 to 24 say “nothing really meets my needs.”

Of those surveyed, 70% are willing to share some data with brands. But only 10% are open books, “willing to bare it all,” as the CMO Council puts it 

But consumers want something in return--39% will share data only if they know what it’s being used for. And 22% expect the data to be used to deliver a more relevant experience. 

Above all, they don't want to feel like they're being stalked. 

Is there any other good news in this study? Yes. When asked if companies are delivering what they expect, only 4% said, “No, and they’re a long way off.” Another 11% also said no, but added that the firms were struggling to get there.

Here are the positive answers:

  • They are almost there, and know me better today than before—38%
  • Yes, every touchpoint is relevant and personalized—25 
  • Yes, but only in digital channels—22%


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