The customer of today
by Craig Farley, Head of Consulting at IPI
The pandemic has advanced digital-first customer service at warp speed. With an increase in staff shortages and customer queries as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, organisations across every sector turned to digital channels and cloud-based technologies to help ease the burden on both customer service agents and customers alike, implementing technology such as chatbots and video chat for the first time. For innovative organisations already serving up an omnichannel CX, the challenge has been to build on their offerings to deliver what customers really want.
After two years of increased digital usage, customers have come to expect to be able to communicate with their favourite brands across multiple channels – from the phone to email to social media. This is especially true for younger digital natives, who expect instant and accessible ways to reach organisations, be it their favourite retailer through TikTok or their bank through a mobile app.
But in addition to wanting and expecting an omnichannel CX, the customer of today, across every demographic, also wants to have an empathetic and personalised journey. With the challenges of the past two years, customers want to know that brands can be sympathetic whilst also delivering a personalised experience – be it an individual greeting by name by a call centre agent or specifically curated offerings over social media. The customer of today is here, and they expect an exceptional experience.
Why it’s important to be aware of the views of today’s customer
From social media to online reviews, it has never been easier for the digital-savvy customer of today to leave an impact on a brand’s reputation. Considering 84% of customers say they trust online reviews as much as they would trust recommendations from friends, customers really can make or break a reputation with just a few clicks of a button.
What’s more, competition is fierce for brands across every sector, making it easy for customers to jump ship to an alternative brand – especially if the competition offers a better customer experience. A recent finding from PWC found that 41% of customers who had difficulties with their insurers are more likely to switch providers due to a lack of digital capabilities. Keeping digital channels open then is paramount to staying ahead of competitors.
Indeed, even when it comes to complaints, companies that can achieve efficient and timely resolutions across multiple channels are actually in a better position to harness customer loyalty. This is especially true in the retail sector as customers who have complaints resolved quickly are shown to have a purchase intention rate of 82%.
Even if the problem is not one that can be instantly fixed, customers will be reassured to hear a contact agent express empathy and interact with customers on a personal level while they work to resolve the issue. In fact, 80% of customers claim they will only shop with brands who deliver these personable, personalised touches. So, knowing that today’s tech-savvy, digital-first customer expects brands to deliver omnichannel CX with a human touch is paramount to securing long-term loyalty and trust from customers.
However, being aware of the views of customers today isn’t enough – action must be taken for it to be truly meaningful.
Technologies that can cater to the customer of today
In the age of the digital, cloud-based contact centre, there is a plethora of technological solutions that can enable organisations to better meet the expectations of today’s customer.
IVR for example, puts the time a customer is on hold to good use by gathering information on the customer – such as name, reason for calling and customer service history. This helps contact centres to triage calls, as the information collected enables them to put customers through to the relevant department and provide agents with all relevant information so that they can start helping the customer as soon as they’re connected. This is especially helpful in fulfilling the personalised expectations from the customer of today, as agents can greet them by name and know their previous history with that brand.
Chatbots are also great for the tech savvy customer who prefer to get answers to questions without speaking to an agent. Available 24/7, 365, chatbots that are powered by AI and with pre-prepared Q&As, can help answer customer queries at a time that suits them. They also provide reams of data that can be analysed to help improve the customer journey – for example, if the data shows that a question is repeatedly being asked on the chatbot about a particular product or service, changes can be made to improve that element.
In the same vein, incorporating an analytical element to an omnichannel offering is key to learning directly from customers how improvements can be made and expectations met. Speech and text analytics for example, can provide invaluable information that be used to make positive changes. Whether customers are contacting an organisation over the phone or via text-based channels like email or chatbots, their comments are filled with data and feedback about branding, products, processes and services. What’s more, sentiment analytics enables organisations to track how customers are feeling, at the IVR stage for example, and indicate to the customer service agent how that customer is feeling. If the customer is angry or distressed, for example, the agents will then be properly prepared to handle their query in an empathetic way.
As we move into 2022, digital omnichannel CX is here to stay. The advancements made in CX over the course of the pandemic have improved both the customer journey and also enabled contact centres to diversify their CX offerings to meet and deliver on the customer expectations of today. But as customer expectations continue to evolve and change, and as the challenges of Covid-19 remain in play, organisations must continue to look to innovate, and deliver a customer journey that is as human and empathetic as it is technologically innovative.