IntelliResponse, a supplier of virtual agent technology, polled 1,000 US online consumers asking what sort of relationship they wanted from those companies they bought goods and services from.
Over half (59%) preferred an efficient, transactional relationship while around one quarter (24%) characterised their relationship as a friendship, where they get personalised service.
Brands need to stop trying to "surprise and delight", according to IntelliResponse, and instead focus on the changing approach of consumers towards customer service.
More than two thirds of respondents (68%) said that a company's website is now the first place they go when looking for information regarding a product or service. And three quarters (74%) thought they should be able to get the same answers from that source as from speaking to a call centre.
For younger consumers, whose lives are increasingly centred around their smartphone, mobile apps were the solution.
Some 61% of respondents aged 18-24 and 60% of those aged 25-34 said they would rather use a mobile app for a customer service question than call a contact centre to speak to a live representative.
"Consumers want the ability to find the answers to their customer service questions, at the time and place of their choosing," said David Lloyd, CEO of IntelliResponse.
"Companies need to empower their customers with self-service channels that can instantly deliver the single, right answer to service questions and ultimately provide the efficient experience consumers are looking for," he added.
The importance of the customer experience was emphasised in an article in ANA Magazine, which noted that the proliferation of consumer touchpoints had increased the opportunities for things to go wrong, or right.
"Any weak link along the way undermines the brand experience," said Jerry Wilson, former chief customer officer at Coca-Cola, who saw the future being in enabling customers to design their own customer experience.
Data sourced From PR Newswire; additional content by Warc staff