While rising inflation may be causing consumers to carefully evaluate investments in high-stakes purchases, inflation is also increasing their expectations for excellent customer service, according to a new report published today by Invoca, the cloud leader in AI-powered conversation intelligence for revenue teams. Invoca’s 2022 Buyer Experience Benchmark Report examines how consumers’ expectations stack up to their brand experiences when they make high-stakes purchases such as buying cars, taking on home improvement projects and going on vacations. According to the report’s findings, over three-quarters of respondents (76%) said they would stop doing business with a company after just one bad experience. In comparison, 63% said they will still pay more for great customer service.
Consumers are shopping based on price, but they’re demanding great experiences, too.
Price and customer service are consumers’ two top concerns when making a high-stakes purchase—the primary reason consumers say they will stop doing business with a company is price, followed by poor service on the phone. While most consumers (67%) said they would do more research than last year to find the best price, 63% also said they were willing to pay more to get the best customer service.
It’s also apparent that the pressures of inflation are giving consumers pause. Slightly more (38%) consumers reported making a high-stakes purchase in 2022 than in last year’s survey (35%). Over 70% of respondents say that inflation has affected their high-stakes purchasing decisions and timelines, and more than half (58%) are slightly less likely or much less likely to purchase at all due to inflation. Rising prices have not significantly slowed consumer demand for products and services, but they have increased their demand for superior customer service.
“Inflation is putting pressure on consumers who have to pay more for most everything, so they rightfully expect more for their money and will not tolerate poorly executed buying experiences,” said Jennifer Lovette, SVP of Customer Success of Invoca. “When someone calls your business, they’re ready to buy and will be immediately turned off if any human-to-human interaction with your brand is not stellar—the phone call is the face of your brand and providing a great call experience is one of the best ways to drive loyalty and customer lifetime value.”
In 2022, the phone became the preferred communication channel when consumers have a problem or need help, overtaking digital.
Invoca’s survey also found that the phone is the most preferred communication channel (68%) when consumers are having a problem and need help, up 8% since 2021 and overtaking digital/online as the preferred contact channel. The least preferred communication channel for resolving issues was via chatbot (4%). Results indicate that people are warming up to chatbots, however. When asked how comfortable they would be making a purchase if the only communication option was a chatbot or automated assistant, this year, 20% said they would be comfortable using chatbots compared to only 13% in 2021. Gen Z and Millennials make up the bulk of that increase in chatbot affinity, with almost one-third (32%) of younger consumers reporting that it’s their preferred communication channel.
Further highlighting the importance of providing a great experience on the phone is the dreaded rude agent, which now tops the list for what consumers constitute as negative customer service (59%), followed closely behind by long hold times (58%) and too many transfers (54%).
- Rising inflation has consumers rethinking their high-stakes purchases. Almost three-quarters (72%) say inflation has affected their purchasing decisions and timelines, and over half (58%) are slightly less likely or much less likely to make these purchases at all due to rising inflation.
- Yet a positive customer experience can be a make-or-break moment for a business. Over three-quarters of respondents (76%) are likely to stop doing business with a company after just one negative customer service experience.
- Consumers now expect businesses to know their reason for calling, especially if they’ve done business with them before, with the vast majority (85%) expecting they know some details about them (ex. purchase history, know who I am, etc). These results compare to 2021, where only 71% believed businesses should already know these details and expect their reason for calling.
- Negative customer experience boils down to rude agents (59%); long hold times (58%) and too many transfers (54%). It’s clear that consumers have lost patience with contact center agents and tempers are rising with more than half (61%) of respondents admitting they will sometimes get angry or raise their voice with agents.
Prioritizing personalization earns your customers’ trust and loyalty.
While today’s consumers may expect businesses to know their reason for calling, they will also trust businesses more and are more likely to do business with them in the future. Therefore, businesses must empower their contact center agents with impactful data and simple technology to ensure they can deliver positive customer experiences. Eliminating pain points by allowing agents to hit the ground running in customer interactions, armed with the right data at the right time, will ensure they can provide assistance and troubleshoot efficiently.
Invoca’s full 2022 Buyer Experience Benchmark Report is available here.
Survey respondents consist of 500 consumers who have completed a high-stakes purchase in the last year. For the survey, a “high-stakes purchase” is defined as one in which you take the time to weigh options, research, and/or put more thought into making a decision, due to complexity and/or cost of the item or service. Those consumers surveyed had researched a purchase or made a purchase in the following industries: automotive, financial services, healthcare, home services, insurance, telecom and travel to better understand the importance of the customer experience throughout the buying journey.