Australian consumers have the highest expectations when compared to the rest of the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, strongly believing that a company is only as good as its customer service, according to a new report from global cloud leader in customer experience orchestration, Genesys.

The Connected Customer Experience report found that nearly one-third (31%) of Australians felt less connected during the pandemic, with many mentioning being less happy, experiencing higher levels of anxiety and impacts on mental health.

This loss of connection was reflected in the way Australians engaged with companies with the use of live webchat increasing from 38% to 43%, chatbots from 21% to 26%, and email from 41% to 44%, with nearly half of consumers (48%) interacting with customer service teams at least once a month and one-third (29%) at least once a week. Further, one in 10 admitted to calling customer service just to hear a human voice.

Beyond frequency of engagement, Australian consumers also value high-quality customer experience with empathy ranked as the highest in importance, with 58% saying they would choose empathy over a speedy resolution.

The majority of Australians want customer experience employees to listen to them (84%), understand their needs (82%) and provide consistent answers (81%).

According to Genesys vice president for Australia and New Zealand, Mark Buckey, companies need to take note of how the current climate is redefining what customer experience means.

“As Australians’ expectations only increase over time, strategising and prioritisng brand engagement to win customer trust, loyalty and connection needs a different approach. Brands can’t afford to overlook the importance of delivering empathetic experiences that build long-lasting emotional connections.”

The study also revealed a service comeback for big brands with close to three quarters (73%) of companies that customers think have excellent customer experience were large national companies – a stark contrast to the pre-pandemic times which praised small and medium brands as service leaders. The vast majority (89%) of people also rated these businesses with an extremely high satisfaction score between 8 and 10.

“The pandemic has caused big brands to raise the bar when it comes to customer experience, especially when in-store or in-person experiences have been impacted. Large companies have realised that they need to improve how they interact with customers, by not just relying on the most efficient or speedy resolution, but instead investing in empathy at scale. Australian consumers have shown they want to feel heard and know that their problems matter,” Buckley added.