Consumers want to call businesses directly before making a high-value purchase, according to a new report published by Invoca, a conversational intelligence provider for revenue teams. The Invoca Buyer Experience Benchmark Report analyses the sentiments of 500 US consumers and pinpoints the importance of the phone call in the buyer journey for purchases that require consumers to do research or put more thought into a decision — often due to complexity or cost of the item or service — particularly over the past year of volatility. The study found that 68 per cent of consumers find the human connection aspect of calling businesses attractive and say they prefer to communicate in this way more than any other channel, including online channels like chat or email. However, just over half of the respondents said they were satisfied with their experience calling a business overall.
Human Conversations Have a Significant Impact on the Buying Experience
With storefronts closed and consumers limiting physical interactions, eCommerce sales skyrocketed in 2020, reaching upwards of $860 billion — an unprecedented 44 per cent increase from the year prior. While consumers turned to online channels to make everyday purchases, they still want human assistance to complete more complex transactions. Consumers frequently call businesses to get this help, and the Invoca report found that this isn’t the last resort. In fact, the study found people prefer to call. Specifically, most respondents call to do more research (44 per cent) and, simply, because they feel most comfortable completing high-stakes purchases on the phone (30 per cent).
“In these high-stakes transactions, consumers want to feel confident that they are making the right buying decision, and offering a human touch is the best way to provide that reassurance and build a rapport with them,” said Dee Anna McPherson, CMO of Invoca. “However, this also means that businesses must pay close attention to the experience that their customers are having on the phone and implement the technology needed to perfect it, because it can make or break the reputation of their brands.”
Key findings include:
Productive and effective conversations can inspire long-term confidence and loyalty from consumers. For instance, 50 per cent of consumers report finding agents more helpful now than before the pandemic, and around half (51 per cent) of respondents feel satisfied with their interactions overall and believe their business is valued (45 per cent).
Yet, if businesses aren’t making contact centre calls a priority, poor experiences push customers in the opposite direction. A top reason for customer dissatisfaction when calling is long wait times, which is acutely felt in transactions with travel (46 per cent), insurance (43 per cent) and healthcare (43 per cent) businesses. Three out of 4 consumers will hang up after being placed on hold, with only 6 per cent of callers holding out for 30 minutes or longer.
Consumers also expect businesses to know their reason for calling, with 71 per cent believing businesses already know these details; yet, in reality, almost 8 in 10 callers said they are rerouted at least once.
Over half of consumers (53 per cent) also say they need to repeat their reason for calling to multiple agents. Transfers can understandably cause customers to feel frustrated (35 per cent), less inclined to purchase (22 per cent) and cause distrust in the business (16 per cent).
Consumers are beginning to venture out into the world again, though the desire for information and support from real people remains stronger than before the pandemic. Consumers expect patience and empathy from these interactions, so it’s critical that businesses’ sales, marketing and support teams ensure a smooth and more efficient customer experience. By empowering agents with data and investing in technology that gets customers to the right person right away, businesses can nurture these important relationships, accelerate revenue growth and increase customer loyalty.