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Meeting rising consumer expectations across multiple customer interaction channels and investing in the right mix of digital and traditional channels will be the major challenges for Australian organisations, although a study released today finds that at the moment only 12 per cent of businesses are delivering a fully integrated channel experience.

In its Future of Business Report just released, Optus says its research shows that Australian businesses will need to have a rethink about their approach to customer interaction.

And, according to Optus 65% of Australian consumers it surveyed are expecting to have access to the same service and features across an organisation’s digital and traditional channels in the future, despite the lowly figure of 12% of Australian businesses currently providing integrated channels.

Optus surveyed 550 decision-makers from business and government organisations and 2,177 consumers, to find out which customer interaction channels, from online, mobile and social media to contact centres, and bricks and mortar, are most important to Australian organisations and their customers today, and in three to five years’ time.

According to John Paitaridis, Managing Director, Optus Business, the feedback from the survey sounds a warning to Australian businesses that are prioritising investment in emerging digital channels such as social media.

Consumers surveyed by Optus rated online - organisations’ websites - as their most preferred channel of interaction with organisations over the next three to five years, but only 8% of those consumers expressed a preference to engage with organisations via social media during the same period.

“This could lead to Australian businesses delivering a mix of customer service channels that don’t meet their customers’ future expectations,” Paitaridis warns.

“Our research shows that consumers value online channels but not at the expense of traditional channels, signalling the need for businesses to focus on developing holistic strategies that blend all customer touch points.

“We believe for businesses to thrive in today’s customer-driven economy, they must demonstrate the value of all channels, including online, mobile and social, and ensure that the channels are optimised so that services created can improve customer experience.”

Paitaridis says the survey revealed that mobile shows great potential to engage customers, with the percentage of Australian organisations expecting to use mobile to engage their customers rising from 46% now, to 82% within the next three to five years.

Currently, 40% of organisations use mobile applications to engage with their customers, while 71% plan to do so in the next three to five years.

Optus observes that the research also confirms that industries are at different stages of the multi-channel journey, with financial and insurance services leading the charge in mobile customer interaction (62%), while the manufacturing (70%) and utilities sectors (77%) have the lowest adoption of online channels to engage customers. Hospitality (89%), retail (69%) and media/telco (67%) are leading in the use of the social media channel to engage customers.

Paitaridis suggests that a successful multi-channel strategy is key to driving customer experience, and that multi-channel integration continues to be a major priority and challenge for Australian businesses, “with only 12 per cent of organisations surveyed having fully integrated channels to deliver a consistent experience.”

“This is well below current consumer expectations with 65 per cent expecting to have access to the same services and features across an organisation’s digital and traditional channels.”

On a more positive note, Paitaridis says organisations are optimistic, with 61% of surveyed businesses expecting to have integrated channels in three to five years.

“Australian businesses will also need to develop flexible long-term investment strategies that strike the right balance between digital and traditional customer interactions. Executing these strategies successfully will go a long way to meeting the rising expectations of Australian consumers,” Paitaridis concluded.

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Peter Dinham

 

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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