As more people become used to shopping online, there is a greater expectation for 24-hour customer service, where we are in an always-switched-on world. In fact, there is no signs of eCommerce showing signs of slowing as it is expected to expand from US$4.28bn in 2020 to US$6.39bn by 2024.
In this increasingly digital environment, consumers expect businesses to know what customers want, whether they are in a store or online, and expect prompt delivery of products and services. This has been driven by the convenience of online businesses from the likes of Amazon, where effective customer service across all channels is critically important. The delivery of this, with the help of online tools such as webchat and video chat, will allow organisations to make sure their brand is linked with the very best customer care.
Even those businesses that moved completely online because of the pandemic, are now looking at a hybrid way of working, offering both online and in-store presence. They need to carefully define their customer service strategy as consumers will still want to go out and visit stores, despite the shift to online shopping. A joined-up approach should cover every type of communication and all channels whether physical or virtual. Customers will expect that if they have contacted a business online and then visited its store in person, it will know who they are and why they are there.
Customer journey mapping
The answer to getting all this right is putting in place a digital-by-design approach supported by customer journey mapping. Businesses need to consider segmenting their customers into different groups and then focus on working out what channels are best suited for each type, while taking into account their preferred device and the nature of their interaction. They should also consider what is going to give each type of customer the quickest journey time, with the least amount of effort and the highest level of reliability.
However, all too often we have seen instances of businesses adding on new digital channels for the sake of doing so. This can stem from the misguided perception that a business must do this simply because one of their competitors has it. However, approaches like this often fail to maintain the quality and consistency of the service expected, because they are driven by the quantity of channels.
Instead, their priority should always be to get their core customer interaction channels working to the very best standard. These should always include voice and email, but they may also include webchat and online self-service.
Increasingly in the retail sector, video is likely to be one of those channels. When consumers are thinking of buying expensive items, they may well appreciate a consultative approach that customer service staff can provide while at the same time visually demonstrating how the product looks and works and what its key benefits are. Eventually, we might see applications using technology such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), that are capable of showcasing products in a variety of different contexts and scenarios.
Whatever new channel is used, it is extremely important that it is fully integrated with those channels that are already in place to ensure that the customer always receives a seamless experience, no matter what kind of method of interaction is used. Otherwise, the business runs the risk that it will frustrate customers instead of delivering customer satisfaction.
An example of this is when a customer contacts a business through its website typing in detailed information about themselves and their enquiry. The interaction then fails, and they resort to calling the contact centre directly, only to be asked for the same information, leaving the frustrated customer where they started.
Instead, businesses should be looking to fully integrate their channels, allowing them to capture the context and present it to the customer services agent at the point of contact. Ideally, that agent should have the full 360˚ view of all the emails sent by the customer, the web pages they have visited, what they have filled in and where they got stuck. By doing so, they should be able to pinpoint how they have moved from one form of communication to another.
This is all very important and highlights that while technology is both powerful and liberating when used correctly, simply adding it into the customer service mix for its own sake will have limited value. Businesses need to ensure they are implementing a truly digital-by-design approach, with due diligence on what their customers really want and need, and by mapping the customer journey accurately, before adding extra channels.
Gauging the voice of the customer
Businesses should always ensure they are capturing the voice of the consumer, analysing and reporting on it to improve the customer experience no matter what channel they have used.
This allows them to receive ongoing feedback on which channels are working well and why customers like or dislike certain elements of the service, so that improvements can be made. The latest tools that make use of embedded AI to extract intelligence from phone calls, webchat, email and social media, add further insights into customer behaviour.
Customers come first in the new digital world
As customers expect prompt and efficient service delivery, business must develop a digital-by-design model, where they integrate new channels seamlessly with existing ones and support the whole approach by capturing the voice of the customer. If this is achieved they will gain a better understanding of their customers and will be well placed to deliver the best possible levels of service.