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Brand marketers are prioritizing the customer experience this year, and it seems as though they’re doing so with good reason. Some 73% of people in 12 countries around the world – including 75% in the US – believe that the customer experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions, finds PwC in a recent study [pdf].

In fact, about two-thirds (65%) of respondents in the US feel that a positive experience with a brand is more influential than great advertising. Unfortunately, only half (49%) say that companies are providing a good customer experience today.

Here are 4 takeaways from the report.

1. Speed and Convenience Make the Experience

There are various factors that go into a great customer experience, but some stand out more than others. As part of the report, PwC measured the level of importance people ascribe to elements of the customer experience, as well as the extent to which they’d be willing to pay more for those elements.

The results indicate that Americans value speed and convenience, and that people outside the US value speed even more.

Several studies support the importance that people place on speed:

The analysts note that people also want great design, personalization, and easy mobile experiences, among other elements, but that these don’t matter if companies are lacking speed, convenience and the right information at the right time.

The risks of a bad experience are quite severe: 32% of respondents across the 12 countries tracked would stop doing business with a brand they loved after a single bad experience. Americans appear to be more forgiving: only 17% would abandon a brand they love after a bad experience, though about 6 in 10 would do after several bad experiences.

2. People Will Pay More For A Great Experience

While there are risks to providing a bad experience, there are rewards to be had for offering a great one.

Indeed, respondents reported a willingness to pay a premium for various products and services if companies were to provide a great customer experience.

For example, were the company to provide a great experience, people said they would pay 14% more for a hotel stay, 12% more for a dinner, 10% more for an airline ticket, and 7% more for car insurance.

Customer experiences are particularly important in the Healthcare, Banking, Restaurant and Retail industries, per the report, and are least important in the Media and Sports sectors. Levels of satisfaction with customer experiences, meanwhile, are highest for Restaurants and Hotels and lowest for Sports, Pharma and Airlines.

The biggest resulting gaps between the importance placed on the customer experience and the level of satisfaction with experiences are for the Airline and Healthcare industries, which clearly need to improve.

See here for a separate report listing the US companies with the best- and worst-rated customer experiences.

3. Employee Interactions Are Critical

One of the more interesting insights from the report is the extent to which employee interactions matter in defining the customer experience.

Consider these findings:

  • The two situations that would drive the most people away from a brand, both in the US and across the world, are bad employee attitudes and unfriendly service, as 6 in 10 would stop doing business with a brand if the service was not friendly; and
  • Fully 71% of respondents say that employees have a significant impact on their overall customer experience, 10 times more than say employees have little impact (7%).

It’s not only friendly service that counts: almost half (46%) of people across the 12 countries covered in the report would stop doing business with a company if its employees weren’t knowledgeable.

Furthermore, improvements in technologies are unlikely to abate the need for high-level employee interactions. Across the entire consumer sample, respondents were more likely to strongly disagree (43%) than strongly agree (29%) that once technology becomes advanced they won’t need people for great customer experiences. People in the US were even more forceful in this belief, with more than twice as many strongly disagreeing (55%) than strongly agreeing (23%) that advanced technology will negate people’s role in a great customer experience.

Additionally, almost 2 in 3 US respondents (64%) said that companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience, and 71% would prefer to interact with a human than with a chatbot or other automated process.

Finally, 3 in 4 respondents on average indicated that they’ll want to interact with a real person more as technology improves, including 82% who feel that way in the US.

4. Gen Z Values Fun, Good Design

The PwC report reveals that 4 in 10 Gen Z respondents feel more loyal to brands now than they did last year, compared to 24% of all respondents on average. That makes it especially important for brands to offer great experiences as Gen Z consumers begin to form brand loyalties.

The study indicates that Gen Z wants similar things from the customer experience as do Millennials and Gen Xers. However, the report does highlight some areas that are more important to Gen Z than to respondents overall. Those include:

  • The mobile experience (63% of Gen Z would pay more for this element, versus 54% of the total sample);
  • Fun (60% and 52%, respectively);
  • Design (59% and 50%, respectively);
  • Trust (39% and 28%, respectively); and
  • Brand Personality (32% and 19%, respectively).

The full report is available here [pdf].

About the Data: The results are based on a PwC survey of a representative sample of 15,000 people from 12 countries, via an online survey and in-field interviews. Some 4,000 respondents were from the US, with the remaining 11,000 from the following countries: Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Canada; China; Colombia; Germany; Japan; Mexico; Singapore; and the UK.

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