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What Channels Do Your Customers Prefer? 

Marketers have been striving to figure out customers’ channel preferences for years, as they try to find the most effective and impactful way to reach prospects. Service departments are starting to ask a similar question now that executives realize the critical role customer service plays in building their brand. Service executives are trying to make it easy for their customers to conduct business, and an important part of achieving that is to allow consumers to interact in their preferred channels, even if the preference changes based on the situation.

To help provide some clarity, in Q4 2016 DMG conducted a multi-generational benchmark study of consumers’ channel preferences. We looked at how consumers of all ages reach out to businesses and how they want to be contacted by these organizations.

Study Demographics

270 consumers from 15 countries, including the US, Czech Republic, UK, Israel, Canada, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, responded to DMG’s study. Survey results were aligned with worldwide demographics, as 52.2% of survey participants were between the ages of 18 and 39, and 47.8% were age 40 – 60+. (Consumers who were 40 – 49 years old (Generation X), were included in the Baby Boomer category.)

Top Findings

The most striking findings in the study are:

  1. When consumers need help with a serious or time-sensitive issue, they are most likely to call, regardless of generation.
  2. Phone is the preferred communication channel when consumers want to make sure the “discussion” is understood by both parties.
  3. Millennials are less patient than Baby Boomers – if there is a serious issue that they can’t solve with self-service, they are even more likely than Boomers to call for help.
  4. The differences in channel preferences between Millennials and Boomers are closing.

Purpose Drives Channel Choice

Consumer channel preferences vary based on the activity and who customers are interacting with. The study found that in order to be considered leading providers of customer service, enterprises need to support the following channels (presented in order of customer preference): email, calls, text, online chat and social media. Emails and calls were almost tied at 37.4% for first choice for contacting a business to address a customer service issue. On an outbound basis, the situation is different: email is preferred over the phone, 60% vs. 21.4%. And when it comes to sales transactions, consumers’ preferred channels are web self-service, email, online chat, calls and text.

To obtain a point of comparison to determine if consumers primarily use the same channel for most of their interactions, DMG explored how people interact with family and friends. The study found that people of all generations prefer to call their parents, as reflected by 67.5% of survey respondents, and 16.3% use text messaging. However, when it comes to interacting with siblings and friends, texting is the winning channel, as reflected by 44.6% of respondents, followed by 27.8% who call. By contrast, 43.7% of survey respondents prefer to email a co-worker.

Bottom Line

Channel choices matter, and consumer preferences vary based on the activity. Email and phone are the primary form of communication for customer service issues, but web self-service is the winner when it comes to sales. However, when something goes wrong or an issue is sensitive, consumers of all ages and generations are most likely to call. Click here to read the full benchmark study, Consumers Channel of Choice.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at