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2024 trends: Winning AI strategies must focus on human connection

The volume of customers giving feedback directly to brands after a bad customer experience in Australia declined in 2023, according to new research released today by Qualtrics. 

A drop in feedback on bad experiences has not resulted in happier customers, however, with findings also showing consumer trust (- 4% to 71%), advocacy (-3% to 69%), and intent to rebuy (-4% to 69%) all fell over the same period.

Findings in the 2024 Consumer Experience Trends Report from Qualtrics – based on more than 28,000 responses globally, including 1,200 in Australia – show almost three-quarters of consumers (72%) do not share feedback directly with a brand after a bad experience, up 6 points from 2021. In contrast, half of consumers say they will tell their friends and family, 28% will give feedback to the company, 14% will leave an online review, and 13% post to social media.

It’s not just after bad experiences – consumers are giving less direct feedback after good experiences. One-quarter of consumers (27%) will give feedback to the company about a good experience, half will tell their friends and family, 19% will leave an online review, and 13% post to social media.

While consumers may be giving brands less direct feedback, they continue to share their experiences in less direct ways across a variety of channels and times, such as in call centre conversations, in online reviews, online, and in-person. By tuning into feedback in the places where customers are giving it, organisations can create a more authentic view of their customer experience and surface insights that may not have come up in a traditional survey. And this shift in feedback habits highlights an opportunity to build a deeper understanding of what customers want and need, and the critical need for businesses and governments to expand the ways they listen to and respond to consumers and citizens.

“Australian consumers expect more than ever from the organisations they engage with, but fewer people are sharing direct feedback about the experiences they have with organisations. Brands need to find new ways to capture valuable customer feedback in all the places where it’s being shared – like on social media, call transcripts, chat logs, and review sites – and combine it with operational data – such as average spend and visit frequency – to gain insight into what consumers are doing and better understand how to serve them better,” said Moira Dorsey, Principal XM Catalyst, Qualtrics XM Institute.

 Tell friends and familyTell the company Leave an online review Post to social mediaSay nothing What consumers do after a bad experience50% +1 pt since 202128% -6 pts since 202114% -3 pts since 202113% -1 pts since 202128% +4 pts since 2021What consumers do after a good experience49% -1 pts since 202127% -5 pts since 202119% +1 pt since 202113% -3 pts since 202129% +5 pts since 2021

A winning AI strategy must address consumers’ fear of losing the human connection

While organisations are focused on adopting and deploying AI to build deeper connections with customers – such as by identifying and rapidly responding to issues, writing communications or personalising experiences and recommendations – Australian consumers are less excited about the changes. Slightly more than one-third of consumers say they are comfortable with AI-powered services and communications (compared to 48% globally), expressing concerns with a lack of human connection, misuse of personal data, the possibility people will lose their jobs, and service quality.

The majority of consumers still prefer to interact with brands via human channels (64%) instead of digital (36%), and the most successful initial AI strategies will see organisations use the technology to power transactional engagements and equip frontline employees with the tools, insights, and ability to deliver higher levels of customer service.

Consumers’ top AI concernsLack of human connectionMisuse of personal dataLoss of jobsInteraction qualityTrust in information Extra effort59%54%54%51%42%32%

The consumer experience Trends in Australia in 2024

The Qualtrics study shows consumer expectations are on the rise heading into 2024. Providing a seamless experience across every channel – from shopping online through to calling customer support or using a chatbot – is now table stakes. And, as AI becomes a bigger part of daily life, consumers are putting a premium on human connection and rewarding brands that deliver exceptional digital support with their dollars and lasting loyalty.

The shift in how consumers give feedback is one of four trends highlighted by Qualtrics set to define the consumer experience in 2024:

Human connection is the foundation of a winning AI strategy

Great service beats low prices in the battle for customer loyalty

Digital support is the weakest link in your customer journey

Consumer’s don’t give feedback like they used to, so companies must listen in new ways

Product quality and service more important than price, support just behind

Even in the current inflationary economy, price is not the deciding factor in purchase decisions for most consumers. Product and service quality primarily dictates how consumers spend their money, with price followed by customer service support. Consumers placing significant importance to a range of purchase drivers underlines the need for brands to understand what matters to their customers so they are able to prioritise and focus their investments.

One barrier to delivering great customer experience is lagging morale among frontline staff like cashiers, restaurant servers and bank tellers. Separate Qualtrics researchshows frontline workers are less satisfied with their pay and development, and support to do their job, compared to non-frontline employees – a trend at risk of getting worse before it gets better, with only 38% of customer experience leaders making “training our customer service agents and frontline employees” a priority.

Purchase drivers in 2024Product & service QualityPriceCustomer service supportAn easy digital experienceDoing good things for society63% 52%47%24%14%

Digital support creates winners and losers

Great digital support can have an outsized impact on customer loyalty. Despite being equally satisfied making a purchase online or in person, globally consumers are 2.7 times more likely to return if they had great digital support, compared to 2.5 times after great customer support from a person. Consumers are six percentage points less likely to be satisfied by their digital customer support experience, compared to human support.

The issue is especially pressing as brands are increasing their reliance on digital channels to drive their business. A recent Qualtrics study found that 70% of companies say that digital channels contribute to at least 40% of their revenue, and 85% of respondents expect that number to grow in the coming months.

Read the full 2024 Consumer Experience Trends Report here.

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