Irish consumers are increasingly demanding a frictionless digital experience, but the elements of customer service most valued by shoppers, such as being able to easily resolve issues, have remained unchanged since the arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
This is according to the results of new survey entitled Me, my life, my wallet from KPMG, which consists of insights from more than 18,000 consumers across 16 counties, regions and jurisdictions, including 829 respondents from Ireland.
The report details how Irish customer behaviours and choices have been impacted by COVID-19, and other prevailing factors such as environmental and ethical issues.
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 accelerated the move to digital for Irish consumers, with 68% doing more online shopping now than they did before the pandemic.
The research found that businesses with well-established and user-friendly digital channels had a clear advantage, with 99% of Irish consumers saying that a good website is important. But while Irish consumers are happy to digitally self-serve, they expect to be able to access human support when needed. Respondents to the survey said that a human webchat was more important (95%) than having a mobile app (84%).
Interestingly, the elements of customer service most valued by Irish consumers have remained unchanged since the arrival of the pandemic. The survey showed that 93% of Irish consumers said that a company’s ability to resolve issues was important to them and 86% of consumers stated that the integrity of a company was important to them, emphasising the growing demand for ethical retailers and brands that gives back to society.
In the wake of the pandemic, Irish consumers are also more worried than ever about their personal wellbeing, which is also influencing expectations around customer service, with 99% considering it important for companies to keep them and others safe.
While the pandemic has influenced some people’s financial priorities, personal wealth was one of Irish consumers’ lowest ranked concerns. Future finances are prioritised over current finances for 49% of consumers, compared to 42% pre-pandemic, and 51 percent indicated they have begun saving more as a result of the lockdown.
When asked what items they would cut spending on should their income decrease Irish people said that clothing (46%) and leisure activity (44%) would take the greatest hit.
Irish consumers are also concerned for their personal data and how organisations use it. Findings show that 92% of consumers want companies to protect their data without ever having to ask, and 93% would never want their data sold to others. While customers want their data used to reduce friction around their purchases and deliveries, organisations must strike the right balance. The research shows that 40% of consumers are unsettled at the idea of a company knowing what they want before they know it themselves.
Commenting on the research findings, Niall Savage, Retail & Manufacturing Lead at KPMG Ireland said:
“As the disruption caused by COVID-19 continues, it will be more important than ever for Irish businesses to stay close to their customers’ changing expectations and be prepared to evolve accordingly.
“Our survey found that 88% of consumers are more focused on personal wellbeing than they were before the pandemic. This means that the expectation for businesses to keep their customers safe tops all other service expectations. So as Irish businesses prepare re-open their doors later this year, they should ensure all appropriate measures are in place to demonstrate that customer safety is at the top of their agenda.
“Businesses investing in new technologies should also take heed that Irish consumers value human support above all else. The digital revolution accelerated by COVID-19 is certainly a game-changer for businesses and provides huge opportunity, but high-quality customer experience should remain central to the design of any new technology.”