By Daniel Hunter

Consumers have very high expectations of customer service. 95% find it important to be helped quickly. 89% want a transparent overview of the next steps in a purchase or complaint procedure. 89% expect to be treated in a very friendly manner and 88% want to complete the procedure in a single contact.

Speed tops the list. Consumers have high expectations when it comes to speed. 4 in 10 Belgians expect companies to answer their emails within 4 hours. 55% expect a reply to their Facebook and Twitter posts within the same period.

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem claims that "consumers are becoming increasingly demanding and due to social media, word about good and bad service experiences gets around quickly. Accounts of positive experiences raise the pressure on less successful companies. Society as a whole is becoming faster and faster and customer expectations reflect this trend."

It is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to meet these expectations. Fortunately consumers themselves have come up with a solution: self-service. The majority of consumers today want to be in the driver seat. 67% of the British population expect companies to offer a self-service option. Both in the post-sales service and the pre-sales phase, the consumer wants to be in control.

27% prefer to ask pre-sales questions over the phone, whereas 56% already have a preference for a self-service option. In case of questions or complaints following a purchase, 35% would like to call someone whereas nearly 1 in 2 consumers (48%) would go for the self-service approach in this case as well.

Van Belleghem clarifies that "self-service offers the unique advantage of round-the-clock availability. The consumer picks his own time and place and can solve his question(s) at his/her own pace. For the customer, the speed and flexibility of the concept are huge advantages, whereas the boost in efficiency is obviously a major asset to any company."

In the future, consumer data will constitute a source of enormous wealth for the business world. The question is how far the customer will allow you to go in using his/her personal details.

The study clearly shows that consumers are willing to share data, but only as long as they benefit from their openness.

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