Sign up to get full access to all our latest content, research, and network for everything customer contact.

2011 Sees Rise in Consumer Preference of Live Call Center Reps

While companies scramble to provide customer service across multiple channels, a new American Express study reveals that customers increasingly desire a human customer service representative to handle their claim. The finding represents a shift from a similar American Express study last year, suggesting a possible you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone" effect.

"A lot of times people don’t realize how much they value service until a company takes it away," said Mary Jo Bitner, director of the Center for Services leadership at Arizona State University, to the Wall Street Journal. "Customers have seen companies cut service and are saying ‘Wait a minute. I really do value that.’"


Jim Bush, an American Express executive vice president who manages customer service, told the Wall Street Journal that call centers were frequently targeted during the recent economic recession.

Companies might want to reconsider these cuts with 90 percent of claiming they prefer to have issues handled by a live representative.

The survey, which polled 1,018 consumers in February, found the biggest shift was a significant raise in consumers who would be willing to pay a premium for enhanced customer service. Roughly 15 percent reported a willingness to spend 20 percent more, up more than 10 percent from last year. Overall, 70 percent responded a willingness to pay more for better customer service, up 12 percent from last year.

With the study’s indications that better customer service is equated with live interactions in consumers’ minds, perhaps the focus on technologies for creating online and multi-channel customer service solutions should be tempered until the technology catches up.

According to Bitner, customers do like using automated or online services, but they frequently lack the necessary information or ability to fix problems as quickly as a call center representative.