Consumers are keen to use digital self-service channels when interacting with their communications service provider – with strong consumer demand for digital engagement – but are being held back by a “broken” digital customer journey that often requires them to switch to a human agent, according to research published by Amdocs.
The firm’s Refocus survey collected the views of 9,600 consumers from the US, Brazil, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Singapore, Philippines and Australia between September and November 2022, as well as surveying 120 decision-makers at communications service providers and carrying out 15 in-depth interviews with leaders who are responsible for digital engagement, customer journey and marketing.
The study found fundamentally that just 13% of customer interactions with communications service providers are completed purely digitally with no human involvement, using self-service tools such as chatbots, apps and websites.
Amdocs noted that this low proportion of end-to-end digital interactions is in stark contrast to the high rates of digitisation and automation reported by decision-makers at communications service providers, who stated that 65% of journeys are digitised. It warned that this gap between providers’ digitisation of journeys and the actual proportion of interactions being completed end-to-end digitally is consistent across seven types of customer engagements, including technical or setup support and purchasing or changing subscriptions and plans.
The research also showed that consumer demand for digital channels is twice as high as current usage, suggesting a mismatch between customers’ preferences and the ability of providers to meet them. Younger consumers (aged 18-54) were most likely to start their journey digitally, with 41% of those in this age category doing so compared with 31% of 55-64-year-olds and 24% of those aged 65-plus. In most cases (56%), it was the consumer’s decision to switch from digital to human channels during an interaction.
Furthermore, Amdocs observed that the research suggested digital channels – when executed properly – can be a substantial differentiator, with 42% of consumers saying they would likely switch operator if another provider offered a significantly better self-service experience.
Refocus also gathered recommendations from dozens of telco industry decision-makers, including around the use of data management and artificial intelligence (AI) as a foundation for increasing adoption and stickiness of digital channels. However, the study revealed that nearly two-thirds (63%) of decision-makers surveyed said implementation of AI and ML is a major challenge and is not currently having a significant impact on their customers’ engagement with digital channels.
The research suggested human agents will have an important role in customer experience for the foreseeable future, and the findings are said to underline the ability of human agents to act as brand champions by generating high levels of customer satisfaction, recommending that agents receive ongoing investment, support and upskilling to maximise their effectiveness, working in harmony alongside digital channels to drive a superior overall customer experience.
“Our research shines a light on the gap between consumers’ strong appetite for digital journeys and the effectiveness of today’s offerings,” said Gil Rosen, chief marketing officer at Amdocs. “It also shows that, while service providers report high levels of digitisation and automation, the reality is that it’s rare for a consumer to complete a journey end-to-end digitally.
“A frictionless digital customer experience is vital today, and will only continue to grow in importance as consumer demand for self-service channels increases and new technologies like AI allow for innovation,” he said.
“The clear takeaway from these findings is that communications service providers seeking to gain a competitive advantage should refine and refocus their digital customer engagement strategy, while continuing to invest in upskilling their human agents. By doing so, service providers will be able to close the gap between their offerings and consumer expectations, and provide a rounded, holistic experience that delights consumers and provides those all-important ‘wow’ moments.”