Making it Easy for Consumers to Communicate in their Channel of Choice is a Strategic Necessity

Late last year, DMG Consulting conducted a worldwide benchmark study of consumers to identify their channel preferences for how they choose to contact businesses and how they want businesses to get in touch with them. The results were analyzed for all consumers and by generation to determine if there are significant differences in preference based on age group. The most striking findings of the study were the following:

  • When consumers need help with serious or time-sensitive issues, they are likely to call, regardless of age.
  • Millennials are less patient than Baby Boomers, and if there is a serious issue that they cannot solve in a self-service channel (which is their preference), they are more likely to call than Baby Boomers.
  • The differences in channel preferences between Millennials and Baby Boomers are closing.

The study also found that enterprises that want to be considered leading providers of customer service need to support the following channels, which are presented in order of consumer preference: email, phone, text, online chat, and social media.

When it comes to how consumers want to contact businesses, email and phone are almost tied for first choice at 37.4 percent. But on an outbound basis, when it comes to how consumers want to be reached by businesses, email is preferred over phone, 60.2 percent to 21.4 percent. When it comes to sales, the channel preferences are different. Web self-service is the preferred way to buy products, as reflected by 78.6 percent of respondents. However, 37.3 percent of consumers still go to the store, and 6 percent call to order. There were slight differences observed between the behavior of Millennials and Baby Boomers, but they were surprisingly small.

The findings make it clear that companies need to use different channels for sales and service. Just because a consumer uses one channel to buy something does not mean he wants to use the same channel when he needs help.

To determine if there were differences in how consumers handle personal interactions, DMG explored how consumers interact with their family and friends. People of all generations prefer to call their parents, as reflected by 67.5 percent of survey respondents, and 16.3 percent choose to send a text. However, when it comes to interacting with siblings or friends, texting is the winner, as reflected by 41.3 percent of respondents who text their siblings and 48 percent who text their friends. By contrast, 43.7 percent of survey respondents prefer to email co-workers.

A whopping 98.5 percent of survey respondents indicated that they would call companies to take care of serious or time-sensitive issues. When dealing with urgent issues that need to be resolved immediately, 89 percent of respondents said they would call; 77.9 percent of respondents would pick up the phone and call if the self-service system did not address their issues, and 61.2 percent of respondents indicated that they would call to speak with someone if they were upset about a situation.

Consumers are highly likely to call to report lost credit cards or car accidents, as reflected by 94.5 percent and 95.3 percent of respondents, respectively; while 72.2 percent would call to address mistakes on their bank/insurance or cellphone bills, 52.9 percent if they needed information about their health insurance, and 68.6 percent if they needed information from their doctors. However, when unhappy about products or services, the preferred channel is email.

This study makes it clear that consumers have strong channel preferences and that it is a strategic necessity for companies to allow them to communicate in their channel of choice, which varies based on many factors, including the situation. Click here to read the multigenerational benchmark study of consumer channel preferences.

Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, is an expert on contact centers, analytics, and back-office technology. She has 30 years of experience helping organizations build contact centers and back-office operating environments and assisting vendors deliver competitive solutions. She can be reached at