Consumers want service with a smile, literally. That’s the message of a Global Consumer Pulse Research report, “Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement,” that Accenture Strategy is releasing today.

“Companies have lost sight of the importance of human interaction,” said Robert Wollan, senior managing director of advanced customer strategy at Accenture Strategy. “They wrongly assume that their digital-only customers are their most profitable and that customer service is a cost. They overinvest in digital technologies and channels and lose their most profitable customers ­— multichannel shoppers — who want experience in both digital and traditional channels.”

Accenture’s study found that 83 percent of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings to solve customer service issues and get advice. Almost half – 45 percent – said they’d be willing to pay a higher price for better service.

Shopping center owners and their tenants will be happy to know that physical or in-store experiences are valued by consumers, with 65 percent choosing stores as the best channel for getting a personalized experience. Further, 46 percent said they are more willing to buy new or upgraded products when the receive face-to-face service compared with online.

Consumers have higher expectations in stores and online. They want digital to provide context and insight from analytics and provide convenience for speed. “The digital service you execute has to be the on the same level as that of stores,” Wollan said.

“U.S. companies have reached a tipping point in customers’ digital intensity and they need to rebalance their digital and traditional customer services investments if they want to improve loyalty, differentiate themselves and drive growth,” said Kevin Quiring, managing director of advanced customer strategy, North America Lead at Accenture Strategy.

“[Retailers] abandon the human connection at their own risk and are facing the need to rebuild it to deliver the varied and tailored outcomes that customers demand.”

There’s plenty of room for improvement, with 81 percent of consumers saying that it’s frustrating to deal with retailers that make shopping difficult.

Social media has given voice to shoppers complaining about poor customer experiences. About 44 percent said they’ve vented on social channels.

The cost of unsatisfied consumers to retailers is steep. Sixty-eight percent of customers said that once they’re disillusioned with a retailer, they won’t go back.

Loyalty programs are on the rise, but many aren’t persuasive enough to retain customers dissatisfied with other aspects of a retailer. The best loyalty programs have different tiers that offer access to exclusive deals or exclusive products or services, Wollan said. Those that are strictly about discounts are margin-eroding propositions for retailers and not necessarily a win with consumers.

Like it or not, consumers will continue to hold retailers to increasingly higher standards. “We are in an age that’s absolutely defined by consumers raising expectations from one industry to the next without any consideration for the complexity of the businesses,” Wollan said. “You used to allow four to eight weeks for delivery of products. Then, a supply chain revolution emerged so we could have various tiers of shipping. Retailers rose to the challenge before and will rise to the challenge again.”