Customer expectations are higher than ever before with improved, slicker interactions becoming the new normal. Whether it’s the current climate that has pushed businesses to adopt new approaches faster than they had anticipated or a general sign of the times, it’s clear that people businesses are trying their best to respond.
Large call centers stocked with agents manning the phones is no longer enough when it comes to customer interaction, especially in the current circumstances. Common challenges range from those forced to work from home not having the right technology to fulfill customer service needs, to reduced number of agents at the call centers themselves. Either way it’s not looking good for customers or business. Organizations must quickly pivot their customer experience (CX) function to meet the needs of the ‘next normal.’ If businesses hope to keep up with customers, they need to transform call centers into customer experience centers and improve service levels to match new expectations.
The reason for this need to evolve is clear. Consumers have become used to instant gratification resulting from digital technology that allows them to always be on. Having one option — ringing a call center, sitting in a queue before speaking to an agent — no longer cuts it. Customers these days demand quick interaction via the channel of their choice.
Getting this right could be the difference between business success and failure. More than half of UK shoppers would switch to a competitor if the digital customer experience doesn’t measure up, according to research conducted in 2020. But how can companies transform their businesses to become centers of CX excellence when there are so many moving parts and uncomfortable levels of economic uncertainty?
The answer is – they can’t afford not to.
Cloud-Based Connected Customer Conversations
Business leaders should ask themselves three questions when it comes to transforming the CX:
- Can we engage with customers on the channel of their choice?
- Can we personalize communication?
- Is the business always available to field inquiries, regardless of the time of day?
Only then, can they ask themselves, how do we do this profitably?
Making this possible will require an omnichannel approach. SMS, chatbots, chatapps, and social media should all be considered as vital parts of the CX function. Most businesses have, of course, tried to communicate with customers via multiple channels, but either find it difficult to make these conversations meaningful or end up with expensive stacks of technology that don’t work together. Issues are created because companies struggle to transition between the variety of channels and technologies on the market. The context is, therefore, lost between interactions and they cease to become seamless.
This friction not only frustrates customers, but also makes the life of agents more difficult and ultimately costs the business where it can do real damage — reputationally. When you lose the respect of customers, you sacrifice the bottom line. Imagine, for example, a customer has an issue they want to raise with your business. They ask initial questions with a chatbot and perhaps have a follow-up email conversation, before eventually speaking to an agent on the phone. But if a company isn’t dragging all this information into one central place, the call center agent doesn't know about these previous conversations, and the customer is forced to repeat themselves. All the while resentment grows, which could potentially lead to one final interaction – the customer terminating their contract.
Businesses need to bring all these insights into one platform that enables them to deliver the very best customer experience while reducing costly inefficiencies. For that reason, business leaders should consider a cloud-based platform, so that data can be easily shared, platforms can be easily integrated, and solutions can be constantly optimized and upgraded. Essentially, they must look to ensure that they interact with customers in a personalized and harmonious way.
Time to Get Personal
The personalization of these interactions will be key to attracting and retaining customers going forward. In fact, three-fifths (63%), of consumers expect personalization as a standard of service and like to believe that they have been recognized as an individual when sent special offers.
But it’s not only what you communicate with customers that should be personalized, it’s how you communicate with them. Take a car insurance company as an example. Most of the time, people expect to receive an email or a letter when their insurance is coming up for renewal. But what use is this when most people work the same office hours as the insurance company? It becomes an inconvenience and that leads to churn. What if you could simply send a reminder text on WhatsApp letting the customer know their insurance is up for renewal and ask them how best to contact them to discuss their options?
It is because today’s connected consumer wants to be always-on and expects instant gratification that business leaders should also ensure they think ‘mobile first’ when it comes to interacting with the customer. By 2024, the number of monthly active smartphone users is projected to grow steadily and reach over 61 million individuals in the UK alone – almost 93% of the population – all using chatapps, MMS, SMS. and apps to consume services.
What’s more, when the COVID-19 lockdown comes to an end, many people will still be keen to continue with contactless interactions. This could become part of decision making when choosing a brand going forward. So figuring out how to communicate with a customer without physical contact could be key to getting shoppers in store, and that’s why mobile becomes even more important.
It could also create a further push towards the use of conversational UI via bot technology, for example.
Creating the CX Customers Expect
What is clear is that the way companies approach customer service must change. People want quick, easy, safe, personalized conversations on the platforms they love and use regularly. As we enter this ‘next normal,’ companies should take the lessons learned during this period in history as they create the CX function of the future.
Adrian joined Infobip in 2010. As Vice President of Products, he is the prime mover in creating Infobip’s global product vision and strategy, steering its development through new technologies to address the constantly changing needs of enterprises and developers around the world.