New Report: What Customers Value Most in Their Experience

Customer service employees may be more important than ever.

A 2018 report from the consulting firm PwC surveyed 15,000 customers from 12 countries, including 4,000 from the U.S, to identify the qualities that customers value most in their experience. The results clearly indicate that having friendly, helpful employees available is critical—even as service interactions are increasingly automated.

There are major implications here as 43 percent of customers said they would pay a premium for a better experience. 

You can find proof of this in many places. Coffee is cheap, yet coffee shops are packed with customers willing to pay a premium each weekday morning. Airlines now bring in an estimated $47.2 billion in fees annually for upgrades such as extra legroom or earlier boarding. And movie theaters everywhere are upping prices in exchange for reclining seats that can be reserved in advance.

Here are some insights than can help you leverage your customer service team to get an edge on the competition. You can also read the full report here.

 A smiling retail associate helps a customer in a clothing store.

Top Experience Drivers

There's a clear cluster of customer experience drivers that customers feel are worth paying a premium for:

 Image source:  PwC

Image source: PwC

The top five are:

  1. Efficiency

  2. Convenience

  3. Friendly Service

  4. Knowledgeable Service

  5. Easy Payment

Notice these all seem pretty basic. There's nothing about the latest technology, hyper-personalization, or even socially-consciousness branding in the top five. Customers are telling us they value companies that are easy and enjoyable to do business with.

Better Access to Humans Is Needed

Despite the rise of automation and self-service, customers still crave a human connection:

  • 71 percent said employees have a significant impact on their experience.

  • 59 percent feel companies have lost touch with the human element.

  • 71 percent of Americans would rather interact with a human than a chatbot.

One challenge is it's often difficult to connect with a live person, as anyone who has found themselves repeatedly yelling "Human! Human!" into a phone can attest to. Self-service is often welcome, but it's a best practice to make a live person easily accessible.

Service Quality Trumps Advertising

In the U.S., 65 percent of survey respondents said their experience was more important than advertising when it comes to influencing their purchasing decision.

Three of the top four experience elements that send customers to the competition are directly related to interactions with employees:

  1. Bad employee attitudes

  2. Unfriendly service

  3. Untrusted company

  4. Unknowledgeable employees

Keep in mind your customers are increasingly likely to go online and rate your company's service—good or bad. Customer-centric businesses are able to leverage positive reputations on rating platforms such as Google My Business to drive even more customers to their doors.

Bonus Insight: Physical Locations Are Rising in Popularity

A separate PwC survey found a 22 percent increase from 2014 to 2018 in the percentage of customers who shop in physical stores at least weekly for items other than groceries. 

Online retailers such as Amazon, Bonobos, and Warby Parker have successfully opened brick and mortar locations in recent years to capitalize on this trend. CapitalOne is adding coffee shops to its bank branches. And this may be anecdotal, but that line at Costco doesn't seem to be getting any shorter!

Once again, experience is key.

I recently did a comparison of three drugstore chains near my home. The stores were all on different corners of the same intersection, carried many of the same products, and had similar prices.

Yet the experience at CVS was significantly better. Friendly employees were more readily available and visible signage along with an intuitive store layout made items easier to find. 

Take Action

Small details can make all the difference in a crowded market. 

This makes it critical to capture and analyze customer feedback. Customer-focused companies relentlessly identify and resolve pain points that aggravate customers. You can use this resource page to find help with your feedback program.

We also need our employees to create positive connections with customers. I know many customers service leaders who are struggling with consistency in this area, however, there are several solutions within easy reach: