Highlighting the importance of customer experience and service in consumers’ shopping decisions, a recent survey found that two-thirds would switch brands for better treatment. And the survey of 34,000 consumers worldwide by customer engagement solution provider Verint, found that loyalty and customer retention is declining globally.

“The finding that consumers are easily swayed to switch to product and service providers that offer a superior customer experience demonstrates the harsh reality of today’s business and loyalty landscape,” says Verint’s Ryan Hollenbeck, senior vice president of global marketing and executive sponsor of the Verint Customer Experience Program. “The customer experience gauntlet has been thrown; customers demand exceptional service in exchange for their business or they will take their business elsewhere. The question now is, how do brands respond?”

Verint’s study found that only 44 percent of consumers say they have been with their service providers for three years or more—down 39 percent since 2015. However, the study also found a means to spur brand loyalty: convenience. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of consumers surveyed said that convenience is a major factor when choosing a brand or service provider, while more than two-thirds (68 percent) feel loyal to brands that make it easy and convenient to engage.

The study shows that 60 percent of consumers expect to engage with an organization via any channel at any time, and these customer expectations are pushing organizations to adopt an “always-on” approach to service. Verint says that to meet the demand, organizations are applying automated solutions such as chat-bots and artificial intelligence, and leveraging a combination of man and machine to drive customer engagement and operational efficiencies.

Even as consumers continue to adopt these digital service channels, the human factor is still perceived to be a vital element in the customer engagement equation. While the first preference for consumers is to manage inquiries online in a self-serve fashion (34 percent), speaking to someone over the phone (30 percent) or in person (29 percent) are also preferred by a significant portion of those surveyed. Mobile apps continue to rise in popularity as an engagement tool, increasing 57 percent from a similar Verint study in 2018. The research also finds that human engagement is particularly valuable for critical interactions that can serve to build long-term relationships.

“The study finds the greatest challenge and opportunity for businesses is to be strategic in their hybrid workforce approach,” says Hollenbeck. ”Organizations need to turn to automated solutions to cope with increased volume and demands, but they must ensure they continue to provide the high-quality experience customers expect—including the ability to engage with a human when needed. Their customer engagement strategy needs to empower customers with the ability to switch seamlessly between digital and other channels.”