Canadians have increasing standards for companies

A Salesforce report shows how the buying experience, data and tech are impacting customer expectations.

Customers expect more from companies they purchase from and many of them are falling short of those standards, according to this year’s State of the Connected Customer report from Salesforce.

The report is based on a survey of 6,700 people globally, including 300 Canadian consumers and 150 local business buyers (those who make purchasing decisions on behalf of their company or employer).

Standards are at an all-time high when it comes to customer experience, with 80% of respondents both globally and in Canada saying the experience a company provides is just as important as its product or service, with 69% of Canadians saying their standard for customer experience is higher than ever. What’s more, 60% of Canadians say companies fall short of those expectations, with 69% saying they’ve stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience – rates that are both higher than the number of global respondents who said the same.

Those standards are just as applicable to B2B companies: 78% of Canadian business buyers say they want the same experience, whether they are buying for their company or for themselves.

An average of 11 different channels are used by business buyers to communicate with companies, with an average of nine channels used by general consumers, according to the study. When it comes to digital environments, those channels include online portals (80%), mobile apps (77%), SMS (74%), online communities (59%) and voice-activated assistants (44%).

Use of data has been top-of-mind recently as a result of privacy scandals and the passing of GDPR, and companies still have work to do in order to communicate clearly to customers and put their minds at ease: 44% of Canadians say they are confused about how companies use their data, with 66% believing their personal data is currently vulnerable to a security breach.

If companies want to increase trust among customers, the survey suggests giving them more control over what data is collected and having a strong privacy policy, as well as being more actively transparent about how data is used and show a commitment to protecting personal information.

Related to that, 84% of Canadians say it is important for companies to treat them as a person, instead of a number, to get their business.

Nearly half (45%) of Canadians say companies need “cutting edge” digital experiences to keep their business, and a similar number (49%) of consumers say they expect brands to provide new products and services more frequently than before. However, those are bigger factors when it comes to business buyers: 64% say they look for cutting-edge digital experiences and 65% expect new products and services.

The use of artificial intelligence is also becoming more apparent to Canadians, with 40% of consumers and 52% of business buyers saying it is already transforming their expectations of companies. Most consumers (62%) also recognize AI’s positive outcomes, with 54% saying it has good opportunities for society and 55% saying they are open to it improving their customer experience.