Good customer service is more important than price - skepticism about chatbots

Customers value good service more than great products or low prices. They contact companies primarily by e-mail, telephone or at the point of sale. This is shown by a ZHAW study in cooperation with Pidas.


From a company perspective, digital contact channels such as live chats will clearly gain in importance in the future. However, many customers are skeptical about non-human communication partners such as chatbots.

How do customers prefer to communicate with companies? What role do chatbots play in customer service? Which brands create enthusiasm? In cooperation with the internationally active service company Pidas, ZHAW researchers conducted the most comprehensive study to date on the topic of customer service in German-speaking Europe. More than 3,500 consumers and 100 representatives of various companies and industries took part in the survey.

Telephone most common - e-mail most popular

The most common channels for contacting a company or public body are still telephone (50 percent), e-mail (21 percent) or face-to-face at the point of sale (17 percent). This is despite the fact that customers surveyed say they prefer email of all possible contact channels. "If this contact channel were placed more prominently, it could definitely add value for customers and help improve the service experience," says study leader Kurt Ackermann of the Institute of Marketing Management at the ZHAW School of Management and Law. "From the companies' point of view, digital media such as live chats, video telephony or messaging services will clearly gain in importance as contact channels in the future." For companies, it is important to communicate the added value of these new channels in a comprehensible way and to deliver on this promise with a pleasant service experience.

Grafik_Bevorzugte Kanäle zur Kontaktaufnahme

Acceptance of digital communication partners

However, many customers are still very skeptical about non-human communication partners. Only 40 percent of respondents can imagine interacting with digital partners such as chatbots or voice robots (7.6 percent yes and 31.8 percent maybe). Acceptance of this is particularly high if contact is also made via a digital channel and it is about a concern that can be easily resolved. "In terms of robotics in customer service, channels such as email, chat and messenger should be automated first, before complex and costly voice portals and voice robots are offered," says Frédéric Monard, CEO of Pidas. "Robots are largely not accepted because they can't take into account more complex emotional needs so far."

Grafik_Interaktion mit Roboter vorstellbar

However, it is precisely the emotional component that plays a central role in customer loyalty. Only 21 percent of respondents are enthusiastic about a company or can particularly identify with it. Customers who describe themselves as fans of a company do so primarily because of the customer service (61 percent), ahead of the products and services (56 percent). Price, on the other hand, plays a subordinate role (23 percent). Companies massively overestimate their fan quota in some cases. "Both the companies surveyed and people who do not yet call themselves a fan of a company believe that it is primarily great products and services that turn customers into fans," says study director Kurt Ackermann. "In fact, however, good customer service seems to be the decisive reason why customers become fans."

In Switzerland, Swisscom, Migros and Sunrise have the most fans among the respondents. In contrast to Germany and Austria, only national companies occupy the top three places in this country. Another indication of the fan rate is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), an index for recommending companies to others. In Switzerland, the banking sector achieves the highest NPS (+43), followed by insurance companies (+34). The energy services industry brings up the rear (+2), probably due to the slow pace of market opening.

Grafik_Top3 DACH_Unternehmen mit den meisten Fans
Grafik_Warum ist man Fan eines Unternehmens

Digitization is a matter for the boss

Pidas CEO Frédéric Monard is convinced that consistent digitization in customer service opens up great opportunities: "Companies that adapt their service model with the right customer focus and make intelligent use of the latest technologies will deliver excellent customer experiences and at the same time create significant efficiency advantages for themselves". For Frédéric Monard, however, this transformation does not come for free: "Sustainable digitization in customer service is demanding, requires leadership, and demands clear priorities that are oriented toward customer benefits and also address large cost blocks.

For just under 40 percent of the company representatives surveyed, senior management is responsible for driving forward the digital transformation. Nevertheless, responsibility is not clearly defined in one in five of the companies surveyed. Companies see the greatest challenges in reconciling automation and personal customer service, in the compatibility of different technical systems, in the development of corresponding expertise on the part of employees, and in the increasing speed and complexity of developments in this area.

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