Only half (49%) of consumers have used the same technology service providers for more than three years, compared with 61% from a similar study in 2015, with 10% having used their chosen service providers for less than a year, compared with 7% in 2015, according to a survey of more than 36,000 consumers across 18 countries by Verint Systems. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

Findings from the research report, entitled 'Defining the Human Age: A Reflection on Customer Service in 2030', explore how technology, societal trends and customer preferences will shape customer engagement in the years to come. The study also provides advice for engaging the discerning customer and striking the balance in human and automation service experiences.

While retention rates have fallen sharply across all age groups, the results for consumers aged 18-25 indicate cause for concern, as this demographic will become an even more vital and influential audience for organizations in 2030. Just 28% of customers aged 18-25 have been with their service providers for more than three years, and 14% have been with their service provider for less than a year.

The study also found that 69% of all respondents said that a company's ethics are a major deciding factor when choosing to engage with an organization, and almost half (49%) said they are more likely to switch providers for ethical reasons.

While technology will continue to influence how customers engage with organizations, more than three quarters (76%) said they want human contact to remain part of customer service. Nearly two-thirds (63%) stated that they are happy to be served by a chatbot if they have the option to escalate the conversation to a human when needed. Yet, 41% said they could not tell the difference between being served by a chatbot and being helped by a human behind a screen.

Based on the findings, futurist James Woudhuysen projects that "Technology will do a lot for people in the future. We can be confident that by 2030 clever chatbots and online channels will make it tougher than ever for customers to distinguish online dialogues and machine operators from human ones. Advanced automation will make self-service and information access easier than ever before. On the other hand, its limitations will ensure that customers, especially older ones, continue to value the human touch delivered by real people. The balance between technology-assisted human service and fully automated service will certainly go on shifting toward the latter, but that balance will vary in different scenarios, and both ways of engaging with customers will remain vital to getting things done."

"The message for organizations based on input from more than 36,000 consumers globally is clear. To succeed into the future, companies must be honest and transparent, both key qualities that must come through in every element of the customer experience," said Ryan Hollenbeck, senior vice president of global marketing and executive sponsor of the Verint Customer Experience Program. "Today's visionary organizations are declaring customer engagement a sustainable competitive advantage, essential to their future success. To excel, they need to ensure they have the right mix of digital and human engagement options to offer speed, convenience and the personal touch."