A third of people lose patience within five minutes if a retailer’s customer service isn’t up to scratch

One third of UK & Ireland consumers say they would shop elsewhere if they don’t get a satisfactory response in five minutes or less, according to research from analytics leader SAS. This is supported by many ranking convenience and speed of service almost as high as price – though price will remain the key factor as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

SAS’ Hyperautomation Report reveals the new customer-centric demands and fast evolving expectations accelerated by the pandemic. A sample of 1,513 people in the UK and Ireland were asked about their expectations and experiences of customer service in different sectors, including retail.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers say that competitive pricing is a key driver when choosing a retailer – just ahead of convenience (59%) and speed of service (51%). It may be that competitive pricing comes more to the fore as the cost-of-living crisis takes effect, but the research nevertheless highlights the importance of speed.

While consumers place a high value on speed and convenience, they are not prepared to sacrifice quality of service. Well over half (56%) only want experiences to be faster if this also guarantees no mistakes are made or a better service is delivered. Achieving speed and quality requires hyper-efficiency from retailers – something that can only be achieved when automation is combined with intelligent decision-making, or ‘hyperautomation’.

The good news for retailers is that they’re already better-placed than most other sectors to leverage this technology. Some 54% of consumers say they trust them to deliver services through AI-powered tools such as chatbots – compared to 34% who feel the same about government organisations, for example. Hyperautomation is a step-change from simple linear automation – and could go a long way in winning over the 40% of respondents who still say they have little or no trust in retailers’ use of automation.

Only 12% of respondents say they’d consider communications with retailers entirely online, which is in line with many other sectors. Nearly half (42%), however, are happy with a mixture of online and human interaction. Yet hyperautomation could increase the proportion of people willing to interact purely online, because it can deliver on the clear need for speed and convenience while not sacrificing the overall customer experience.

Explaining more, David Shannon, Head of Hyperautomation, SAS UK & Ireland, said:

“The results show that retailers need to make consumers feel like they are being understood by delivering quality experiences and outcomes quickly and efficiently. Their current view towards automated customer service technology reflects the fact that online services primarily consist of basic robotic process automation and unintelligent chatbots, rather than the fast, intelligent online experience that is possible with hyperautomation.

“Now is the chance for retailers to meet multiple business goals at once, improving efficiencies and mitigating costs, while still offering a superior experience to customers. As we face the prospect of rising cost inflation, it’s imperative that retailers take steps to deliver what customers now demand, which is a fast, frictionless, and effective online service at a competitive price. Without this, they will be overtaken by the competition, and fail to foster long-term loyalty to the brand.”

To learn more, read the eBook entitled Hyperautomation for Retail and Customer Goods.

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