According to a new study released today (September 18th) by The Economist Intelligence Unit, new-media channels play a bigger role in the pre-purchase phase of the customer journey (i.e. researching and selecting products), while traditional human-interaction channels are seen as more important during the purchasing phase, causing a potential “reverse showrooming” effect.

Omni-channel comes to small business, an Economist Intelligence Unit report sponsored by AT&T, explores how US small businesses—defined here as companies with fewer than 100 employees and up to US$20m in revenue—understand customer satisfaction and how they intend to deliver unique and differentiated experiences across multiple channels.  

Other research findings include:

Small businesses may be overestimating how satisfied their customers really are. When asked to rate their performance over the past 12 months, only 4-5% of respondents believe they significantly outperform their peers in revenue growth or profitability. Yet 26% say they significantly exceed their customers’ expectations and only 3% concede they may not be meeting expectations.

Human interactions still critical to customer satisfaction. Human-interaction channels, e.g. physical stores, phone hotlines, online chats, and e-mail and text correspondence, are still the most heavily used vehicles for customers to interact with small businesses and their brands.The quality of human interactions is considered the foremost driver of customer satisfaction (47% of survey respondents selected it as a top-three factor), followed by the ability to resolve customer issues and complaints in a satisfactory manner (39%).