Brand Loyalty Continues to Drop

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11 April 2024

Brand Loyalty Continues to Drop, According to ServiceNow Research

  • In Ireland, 87% of customers are now less loyal to brands than they were 2 years ago (+5 percentage points YoY) 
  • Security of personal data (96%), problem resolution (95%), and fast response times (95%) are the most important consumer priorities when it comes to customer service in Ireland 
  • 79% of Irish consumers are open to some form of generative AI in customer experience   

ServiceNow, the leading digital workflow company making the world work better for everyone, has published the Irish findings of its EMEA-wide ServiceNow Consumer Voice Report 2024The second annual report spotlights ever-changing customer expectations and economic instability as the driving factors behind the ongoing decline of brand loyalty. To survive, businesses must embrace AI, allowing them to seamlessly integrate technology with human input to enhance customer experience.  

This year’s report shows that 87% of Irish customers are less loyal to brands than two years ago, with nearly 4 out of 10 now making decisions based on affordability. However, a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality is not sustainable for Ireland’s business landscape. In an era where competitive pressures are increasing and customer loyalty keeps decreasing, a focus on customer experience is the answer to sustaining market share and relevance. The findings indicate that consumers are looking to work with companies that can deliver intelligent experiences that seamlessly combine the human element with technology.  

The ServiceNow Consumer Voice Report 2024 asked 15,000 adults from ten countries across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), about their views on customer experience. The report revealed how far customer perceptions and habits have shifted in the past two years and the factors now impacting their loyalty.   

As with the 2023 study, Irish consumers sit atop the tables compared to other nations and EMEA-wide averages: 

  • Six in ten customers are now spending more than they did two years ago, with 73% attributing this increase to rising costs. Comparatively, almost half spend more and 65% attribute it to rising costs across EMEA.  
  • There is a disconnect between what appears important to customers on the surface, and what truly drives loyalty with 80% of Irish consumers saying that sustainability is important when choosing a company to buy from. Whilst in line with 2023’s study (81%) Ireland places more importance on sustainability than Germany (68%), the UK and Switzerland (70%), the Netherlands (73%), France (74%), and Sweden (77%).  
  • However, 50% of consumers in Ireland versus 39% across EMEA, are less loyal to brands now because they prefer to buy the cheapest option. So, while they value the likes of sustainability when using a company, price point remains an important brand loyalty benchmark.   
  • Disappointing experiences are increasingly switching consumers off. Coupled with the growing influence of social media (+5 percentage points YoY) and the opinions of friends (+2 percentage points YoY), the battle for brand loyalty shows no signs of stabilising.   

"When I speak to customers and business leaders, I always hear one thing – their customers are central to their success,” said Cathy Mauzaize, EMEA President at ServiceNow. “Yet, ServiceNow’s latest Consumer Voice Report shows that brand loyalty is becoming increasingly difficult to win. Nonetheless, this research makes me optimistic for the role that technology like Gen AI has. Consumers believe that technology is already making a positive impact on customer experience, and it is now a fundamental consideration for all organisations." 

“Brands cannot compete on price alone. It’s far more sustainable for business to focus on the factors, beyond cost, considered most important by customers like robust security practices, fast issue resolution, and efficient customer services,” said Paul Turley, Senior Director at ServiceNow Ireland. “In Ireland, this is especially true. Our research shows Irish customers are even more discerning than their counterparts across the EMEA region.“    

The future of customer experience is high-tech meets high-touch 

The report illustrates that human and AI collaboration is important for customer satisfaction. More than a fifth (21%) in Ireland said they actively choose to avoid customer facing AI such as chatbots, yet 90% of Irish consumers also demand a variety of channel options when it comes to customer service. The combination of this growing demand, with a lack of trust in AI, adds a layer of complexity to the customer experience landscape. 

Offering a variety of problem resolution channels is an important way to win loyalty, but for businesses to deliver this, a seamless blend of automation and personalised touch is the imperative.   

A blend of AI and human-led customer experience can deliver semi-automated yet highly personalised services to meet the needs of today’s consumers. 

  • 24% of Irish customers use chatbots for basic information, valuing technological efficiency, while 37% choose to go to human support for more complicated issues. 
  • Some even decide to use technology for all their needs, with 6% going to chatbots for everything and 7% using intelligent search engines to provide the answers. 
  • However, 38% of Irish customers don’t trust, customer facing AI such as chatbots, so human touch remains an important balance. 

The new AI: Authentic Intelligence  

Although there is still scepticism, consumers are increasingly more receptive to using AI in customer service – if the human element is not lost. AI should not - and cannot - replace human interaction entirely. More than a third of Irish consumers also want authentic, human generated answers.   

By strategically integrating Generative AI with human expertise, businesses in Ireland can create a seamless and powerful authentic intelligence, ultimately enhancing the customer experience.   

  • The main factor for Irish customers not embracing AI is that yearning for a genuine human interaction, with nearly four in ten (38%) wanting a genuine apology or answer – not a formulaic response. 
  • 32% still recognise the irreplaceable value of in-person customer service chats (across email, phone and live chat.)  
  • Nevertheless, 79% are receptive to some form of generative AI, showing the potential of AI as a tool to give agents' time for more high-value tasks. 

The customer experience of the ‘future’ is tech-first… and sooner than you think 

Almost four in ten (38%) customers in Ireland believe that, in the second half of this decade, AI will be able to foresee all issues before they’ve even occurred. Businesses need to think now about how to harness the power of tech to meet customer expectations in the not-so-distant future. 

The future of customer service is experiencing a revolution, with one in ten people across EMEA refusing to return to human-based customer service. Therefore, the rise of intelligent technology presents a serious opportunity. Brands that can swiftly and seamlessly integrate these services, are likely to attract satisfied customers and experience reduced operational costs. 

In the next year, 13% of Irish customers are interested in fully autonomous, AI-driven customer service, a figure that is projected to increase to nearly 50% by 2050. 

  • By 2030, 62% of customers in Ireland expect the integration of VR for 'try before you buy' experiences as well as the standard practice of smart products being instantly and autonomously replaced any time they are damaged. 
  • The technological evolution continues to grow and by 2050 customers predict an even more significant increase in tech-driven customer experience. The demand for VR in Ireland jumps to 74%, and the desire for automatically replaced smart products rises to 77%. 

Today’s customers demand round-the-clock support  

One of the key requirements of today’s consumer is that help should be available round the clock. In good news for businesses, AI is helping to bring this otherwise expensive ask closer to attainable reality. 

More than 9 out of 10 (95%) of customers across Ireland still expect prompt customer service response times - a figure consistent with last year's study. This shows the opportunity to invest in rapid, intelligent technologies to propel customer experience into the future.   

  • Nearly half (45%) of customers in Ireland expect 24/7 service as early as next year, rising to four-fifths by 2050. 
  • This is also cross generational with 35% of 18-34 year-olds and 55% of those over 55 in Ireland asking for 24/7 customer experience support.  

Even during the most challenging times, it’s possible to build customer loyalty. The right technology can enhance customer experience and gift teams with the resource for high touch support.  

Download the full ServiceNow Consumer Voice Report 2024: Tackling the brand loyalty crisis here

Read the blog post here.

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