What Does Customer Experience Look Like Today?
With so many competing brands, products, and services available these days, customer experience has become one of the most valuable points of differentiation for any business.
However, as the average person now has such pervasive access to technology – from multiple mobile devices to countless mobile apps, and a range of social media platforms – delivering an outstanding customer experience is more difficult today than ever.
Consumer-driven expectations for the ability to self-serve with instant access to information, instant solutions to problems, and anytime, anywhere engagement through digital channels, have all drastically changed what customer experience looks like. For example, 70% of customers now say that connected processes – such as seamless hand-offs or contextualised engagement based on earlier interactions – are very important to winning their business.
And, of course, those new technologies have also given every customer a voice that can be heard across the globe. A single negative tweet or one bad online review can now spread like wildfire and could have a damaging impact on your business. Clearly, ensuring you have a customer experience strategy capable of succeeding in the digital age must be considered a top priority.
So What Exactly is Holding Businesses Back?
At Maintel, we’ve identified three key challenges within this space right now, which are:
1. Managing all channels consistently
Customer service now involves traditional processes and systems like contact centres, alongside more recent technology trends like social media, so the typical customer experience strategy is often fragmented and lacking clear direction.
2. Delivering on the growing desire for self-service
Because of the almost limitless information available to modern consumers on their smartphones, self-service is quickly becoming the standard method of engagement with any brand, product, or service, both in B2C and B2B contexts. Gartner has even previously predicted that by 2020, a customer will manage 85% of their relationships with an enterprise without interacting with a human.
3. Ensuring contact centres can sufficiently support the needs of the modern customer
Thanks to self-service trends, the role of the contact centre has changed, as has the required level of support agents must give. A customer calling in will now likely have already failed to self-serve or will be looking for a more sophisticated answer than is available elsewhere. Businesses must ensure their agents are able to adapt to that new dynamic. This requires additional training, greater awareness of the digital journey that’s led the customer to them, and access to more detailed information to provide support.
These challenges are all inherently linked by that technology-driven desire to get things done quickly and easily in everyday life. That’s why it’s so crucial for a customer experience strategy to be as holistic and robust as possible, otherwise it will eventually fail.
Overcoming These Customer Experience Challenges
I know what you’re thinking… easier said than done. While overcoming these challenges will never be easy, there are steps your business can take to ease the pain of such a seismic shift of how customers want to engage with brands.
1. Firstly, approach customer experience with a unified strategy that aligns all the possible channels and touch-points, with consistent information across the whole business. From the top down, your strategy must be continually optimised to reflect the needs and behavioural preferences of the modern customer. Thankfully, technology solutions are available to help guide this, and seamlessly introduce an omni-channel strategy into the business. Thanks to advancements in areas like cost predictability, scalability, and management capabilities, these solutions have become more affordable and intuitive than ever before.
2. Without the ability to self-serve through their preferred channels, customers will turn to more innovative competitors. According to PwC, 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience. So, making available all the information a customer may need in a digital context is imperative. Once that’s been achieved, proactively build up internal knowledge bases to ensure communication is aligned with each customer’s needs during, and beyond, that initial attempt to self-serve. It’s dangerous to assume self-service will always be successful, so there must be support in place to minimise customer frustration.
3. Use technology to protect contact centre staff from difficult interactions, while also allowing them to better understand the specific needs of each individual customer. Agents now need greater support from solutions that can enhance their capabilities and streamline their roles, such as workflow engines, management platforms, and automation of processes. Furthermore, having contact centre staff handling simple enquiries is not the best use of their time, so leverage the technology available to ensure agents are having meaningful interactions with customers as often as possible.
Of course, time, effort, and money are required to take these steps, but with the right strategic partners and the appropriate solutions in place, a successful customer experience strategy will be easier to achieve than you may first think. The investment is a necessity, but the choice of approach is what will make the difference.
Remaining Ahead of the Curve
As with any business trend, another common pitfall is to expect the market to stand still and wait for you, or to stop evolving once you’ve finally updated your customer experience strategy.
New technologies, rapidly maturing, will continue to transform the way customers interact with brands. For example, AI presents exciting opportunities, with innovations such as natural language processing becoming more powerful, and chat-bots earning more trust in their ability to support customers.
Expect to see AI-powered algorithms make their way into contact centres too, automating the method of pairing each customer with the most suitable agent to help them specifically. And soon, many businesses will need to enhance their offerings with virtual or augmented reality services, overlaying physical products – through the digital display of a smartphone screen, or devices like smart-goggles – with complex information regarding how to fix or troubleshoot a problem.
The Customer is Always Right
As previously mentioned, there are far too many products, services, and brands out there today empowering the customer’s right to choose based on their experiences, so the need to be proactive in remaining competitive cannot be underestimated.
That’s why at Maintel, not only have we embraced the most innovative and forward-thinking customer experience technologies available, we’ve also significantly adjusted our delivery of those solutions over time to ease these challenges for all the businesses we work with.
One of Maintel’s key strengths, for example, is integration. This allows us to connect all the dots between the many disparate channels of communication and back-office systems, to achieve that unified approach which has become so crucial to success. Adopting the tools required to quickly and effectively solve problems and support customers is a far easier task when done with one single holistic strategy in place.
The most successful companies in the world today are no longer dominating their competition just because their product is better than all the others. It’s the experiences they provide with those products which resonate with customers and keep them coming back time and time again.
Speed, convenience, and ease-of-use are critical points of differentiation, and technology is the driving force behind that. So, a customer-centric omni-channel strategy must be a core business priority that all departments and functions work together to perfect.
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