Australian consumers’ customer experience demands continue to rise, according to new research, with half of consumers saying their expectations are higher than a year ago.

More worryingly for brands, the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2019 also showed most companies are failing to keep pace with those expectations.

An overwhelming majority of Australians (88%) in the global study by the San Francisco-based customer service software company – based on survey results, focus groups and product usage data from 45,000 companies using Zendesk – see customer service as a key influencer of purchase decisions; it was on a par with price and product/service, also both scoring 88%.

But customer satisfaction has fallen globally over the last five years, the data shows – down 2.2% to 92.5%, and down by 0.94% to 95.13% in Australia in 2018.

Consumers in Australia seem to have faster-growing expectations of customer experience than the global average, with standards being set by the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google and Uber, the report said.

Half of Australians said their expectations had increased compared to a year ago, in contrast to 46% of consumers globally.

Researchers discovered Australians place high value on a fast response from brands when it comes to resolving problems – 53% said 24-hour customer service was essential, compared to just 36% of consumers globally.

“A great CX is now a huge part of Australian consumers’ purchasing decisions,” said Malcolm Koh, APAC CX strategist at Zendesk. “Consumers want fast and easy solutions, and the dip in customer satisfaction shows it’s clear that Australian businesses need to up their CX game.”

Consumers appreciate online support, such as FAQs, before having to contact customer service directly, but AI-powered customer service in general was another thing all together.

Researchers found 71% of customers prefer to deal with a human, not a bot; but, at the same time, they recognise AI can be helpful in sorting out simpler problems (56%), and in providing 24/7 support.

However, a sizeable proportion of customers (56%) said AI makes customer support more difficult to deal with.

“It’s no longer a question of if, but when businesses will start deploying AI to improve their CX,” according to Rod Moynihan, ANZ director of Zendesk, quoted in Marketing magazine.

“Already in Australia, our customers are seeing the benefits of AI, from cost reduction to improving efficiency,” he added. “The challenges are there, but with the right strategy and commitment to ongoing improvement, I believe these can be easily resolved.”

Sourced from Zendesk, Marketing; additional content by WARC staff