Most senior business leaders understand the strategic importance of customer experience (CX). They recognize that providing great experiences has become a key means of differentiation and a primary driver of competitive advantage.

To provide great customer experiences, marketers and CX leaders must understand what specific aspects of experience their customers value most. The results of a recent study by PwC provide several valuable insights on this critical issue.

PwC’s Future of Customer Experience study consisted of an online survey and in-field interviews of a representative sample of 15,000 people. Four thousand of the respondents were from the United States, and the remaining 11,000 were from 11 other countries around the globe.

The results of the PwC study are not particularly surprising. The research revealed that customers highly value speed, convenience, knowledgeable and helpful employees, and friendly service. Almost 80% of the U.S. respondents rated these factors as the most vital aspects of a great customer experience.

What I found most interesting in the PwC study is that customers still place high value on the human aspects of customer experience. Overall, 75% of the study respondents indicated they would want to interact more with a real human being as technology improves. It’s not that customers don’t use technology to interact with companies. They clearly do. But today’s customers expect technology to work, and they don’t typically notice CX technology tools unless they malfunction or otherwise disrupt the customer experience.

Providing poor human interactions is also an easy way to lose customers. PwC asked its study participants what would cause them to stop doing business with a company. The top four factors selected by respondents are listed below. Three of these factors are directly related to the quality of human interactions.

  1. Bad employee attitudes
  2. Unfriendly service
  3. Untrusted company
  4. Unknowledgeable employees
The PwC study focused on consumers, but research by other firms has shown that B2B customers share many of the same attitudes and preferences.
For example, a 2017 survey of CX leaders and influencers by Walker Information found the personalization, ease, and speed are the three core dimensions of B2B customer experience. Walker’s research found that B2B customer experience professionals believe customer expectations have risen across all three of these dimensions and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
In this survey, Walker asked participants to rate the level of customer expectations for personalization, ease, and speed at three points in time – in 2013, in 2017, and in 2020. The following table shows the percentage of respondents who said customer expectations were/will be high:
A 2017 study by KPMG Nunwood Consulting (B2B Customer Experience:  Winning in the Moments that Matter) provides more evidence regarding the importance of the human touch in B2B customer experience. This study consisted of a survey of 2,974 members of decision making units in B2B companies.
One objective of this research was to identify what “relationship management model” survey participants preferred. The clear winner was the model in which a relationship manager owns the customer relationship, and serves as the customer’s primary, if not exclusive, contact.
The survey report states “[customers] frequently prefer to have one person to deal with and have them acting as their ambassador – the one person in the organisation that champions their interests and ensures that the services are provided to them in the highest standard.”
Collectively, these research studies make two important points. First, many of the aspects of experience that customers value most are utilitarian – e.g.speed, ease, and convenience. And second, great B2B customer experiences still require a deft human touch
Illustration courtesy of Jeff Djevdet ( via Flickr CC.

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