How Are Customer Expectations Changing and What Does That Mean for Us?
Our panel of experts share examples of how customer expectations are changing and how contact centres can react.
Customers Expect Businesses to Provide Online Digital Services
Consumers increasingly expect the products they are looking for to be available online, in order to avoid the need for them to visit stores in person.
The world of online digital technologies is increasingly appealing as a route to purchasing products and services online.
Those businesses that consumers traditionally had to visit may need to consider shifting to online operations.
The trend towards digital services being made available online dates back long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has given it an additional boost.
Customers Expect Empathy and Engagement
During difficult periods, like the COVID-19 pandemic, customers expect more empathy and engagement from the businesses they are dealing with.
Also, customers expect organizations to have people lined up to deal with them who can make the right decision on their behalf and have the right level of experience or technical know-how to solve their problem.
Organizations need to rise to the challenge in terms of the service they deliver through the contact centre in these emotional situations. They need to have the emotional intelligence to recognize the moment and put in place the right people and processes to solve the problem quickly.
People with the authority to make real-time decisions that help the customer in their hour of need, rather than those that merely keep to an established script, will be better prepared to meet the customer’s emotional and functional needs.
Customers Expect a Fine-Tuned Social Service Approach
Customers expect solutions and answers to be posted a lot more rapidly through social media or certainly on the website or user forums so that they can find up-to-date information quickly.
The concept is about having outsourced customer service people in place that are focused on screening, aggregating, filtering, reposting and sharing great ideas and content from existing customers that help other customers.
Many customers see it as a much better and less frustrating approach than spending time googling and then ending up on the company website and finding that a post they are interested in is about five years out of date and has not been properly maintained.
All this shows the value of accurate, timely data. When any company moves to digital, they need to be aware that the whole foundation that digital is built on is data – and if that data is not up to date, then people will quickly stop using it.
Customers Expect Your Customer Experience to Stand Out
Businesses have recognized that they are being compared not just to their direct competitors, but to other experiences their customers have had.
The current crisis has not changed this fundamental truth, but it has changed the channels on which customers prefer to connect.
While customers have given businesses the benefit of the doubt as they adapt to the shift online, their patience is starting to wear thin, especially as our current situation starts to look more like the “next normal”.
Customers are quick to compare interactions with businesses that have effectively switched to remote working with those who have yet to fully transition or – at worst – those who are unresponsive even on digital channels. So beware!
Customers Expect a Frictionless Service
Phone is still king, but as fewer in-person services are available, we’re seeing the rise of other formats. These include chatbots, instant messaging and more.
As the contact centre becomes more distributed, it is important to keep everything as centralized as possible.
Simplifying your contact centre solution will help to maintain a seamless customer journey, while offering them as much choice as possible with minimal friction.
When we go back to “business as normal” – assuming that happens – customers won’t want to lose their choices, and they certainly won’t want more friction in their interactions with businesses.
Customers Expect Reassurance Around Safety
As online sales continue to grow during the pandemic, businesses in all sectors are having to adapt to the online-first world.
In a bricks and mortar setting, customers look at how they can feel physically safe. However, as businesses switch to online services, they need to be cautious around how they keep their customers safe online.
For example, many businesses may have switched to online payments for the first time. Call handlers may also be taking payment details over the phone. It is essential that these organizations balance the risk with the need to deploy solutions quickly.
Beyond payments, businesses may hold much more sensitive data about their customers.
Even during these difficult times, it is important that GDPR and other privacy protection laws are adhered to.
This also means that in the world of remote call centres, having a secure calling solution is imperative.
Customers Expect Self-Sufficiency
The three most important customer expectations contact centres must pay attention to are: self-sufficiency, changing channel preferences and personalization.
Modern consumers, especially younger generations, expect immediate 24/7 access to all areas. This expectation for round-the-clock support requires an investment few contact centres can afford; thus it is imperative to provide reliable, effective and rewarding self-service.
According to Forrester, nearly 40% of customers use an online virtual advisor or chatbot, both on websites and smartphones.
Digital alternatives manifested through a proliferation of channels provide opportunities to deploy intelligent self-service support that efficiently performs operations in a convenient, secure and intuitive manner.
Customers used to immediate internet access and easy communication through various devices in their personal lives expect brands to have the same capacities, resulting in the expectation that there should be no difference between working hours, weekends, nights and holidays.
Customers Expect More From Your IVR
All generations have higher customer experience expectations, and increasingly consumers are turning to a digital-first approach, especially in light of COVID-19.
Expectations in IVR technology have evolved from accomplishing basic verification to delivering real-time updates, in-depth profiles and comprehensive customer history which are synchronized across all channels in seamless, accurate and pleasant interactions.
Furthermore, simpler IVR mistakes like having dead-ends, out-of-date messaging and a multitude of options will only serve to give the customer a poor first impression of your brand.
Admittedly there is a disconnect between rising customer expectations and organizations’ current abilities to meet them. Nonetheless, smooth channel-less experiences remain the holy grail of customer experience.
Customers Expect Faster Responses
While the threat of COVID-19 is still very much with us, the relaxing of restrictions and the desire from society to get back to normal has meant that customers’ expectation levels are increasing again.
Previously, long wait times were acceptable, but now the experience is deemed jarring and unexpected.
To avoid giving such a jarred and unexpected experience to your customers, you can:
- Implement queue-management systems to take the sting out of sharp spikes in contact volumes or drops in resource levels.
- Remove complications and consider a secure cloud payment solution that ensures no card details have to enter remote workers’ homes – a key home-working requirement.
- Provide intelligent FAQs and automation of common customer updates and requests – to help reduce advisor workload and lower contact volumes.
Customers Expect Low-Effort Experiences
As the months have passed since the first COVID-19 outbreak and organizations have had more time to scope out their surroundings, it has become clear that most of these quick fixes have been made with the short term in mind.
What’s more, this customer leniency is fading, and customer standards are rising back to what they were a few months ago.
Now, businesses must fully appreciate their customers’ time. They must take this opportunity to unite their tech, people, and processes and show customers their true value with effortless experiences.
This means updating legacy technologies, recognizing the needs and demands of both customers and employees, and tying them together with a reassessment of business processes – including improved training and communication with the C-suite.
The future is still uncertain. But one thing is sure, as always, customers must feel appreciated to remain loyal to brands in a post-pandemic world. Tactical solutions will no longer cut the cake. Long-term strategy will.
Customers Expect to Speak to You at Their Own Convenience
Customers want to speak to you. This points gains momentum when you consider that only 21% of customers rate the digital experience provided by large multinational organizations as excellent – according to BT research.
Now is the time to refocus on the channel that consistently delivers the highest satisfaction levels: voice.
The traditional phone call is alive and well, and right now it is the ideal channel to make a real connection with your customers. Staff that can empathize with customers will create a high-quality experience that drives loyalty.
Many organizations that have over-pivoted to digital channels are finding they aren’t delivering on cost or satisfaction measures.
So, add capacity to ensure everyone who wants to speak to you can do so within a short timeframe.
Don’t forget that people who can’t get to your physical stores or premises will want to speak with you as well.
Customers Expect Advisor Availability
68% of contact centre professionals believe they have an increased desire for emotional empathy in their interactions, including a stronger need to “feel heard” and increased demand for more complex help and support – according to Calabrio research.
All these expectations – like empathy, validation and complex support – are things that only a human advisor can deliver.
Over the past few months, we have seen how most contact centres are maintaining or even reducing virtual assistant spending yet are increasing spend in self-service tools.
Contact centres know they need to find the right balance; customers want convenient self-service options, but they’re also looking for the empathy, personalization and complex support only a human interaction can provide.
Customers expect to be able to speak to a human advisor for conversations that require empathy, so get the balance right between self-service or human service.
Customers Expect Lots of Channel Choice
As time has gone by, expectations around multichannel service have inevitably become higher, as half of in-person communications have shifted to phone, chat, email and other digital communications.
Expectations around video conferencing have also surged, as video communication has become the closest approximation to face-to-face contact available in a socially distanced world.
But contact centres will likely want to first invest in multiple channels and focus on building an omnichannel infrastructure (which includes video conferencing tools) to meet and exceed customer requirements.
Then, make sure the omnichannel experience is a quality one for all customers by using quality assurance (QA) metrics to deliver real-time feedback to advisors and boost effective multichannel engagement.
Customers Expect Personalized and Proactive Service
Today’s customers expect contact centres to know who they are, where they have been previously on their service journey and how they are feeling during the interaction.
To do this, contact centres are turning to hyper-personalization. Hyper-personalization requires that contact centres combine customer feedback, interactions-based insight and journey analytics to get a holistic view of a customer across all channels.
Journey analytics is used to analyse every aspect of the customer experience to generate automated actionable insights.
This enables contact centres to bolster their routing strategy and predict customer intent, enabling them to proactively act in the right place in the journey on the right channel and at the right time.
Customers Expect an Easy Digital Experience
Customers expect to be able to get in touch with the contact centre in a multitude of ways. As well as this, research confirms that Generation Z and Millennials have a clear preference towards using digital channels.
In order to adapt, contact centres need to invest in supporting digital channels, which will affect many areas of the contact centre.
A few pointers which need to be considered when adapting the contact centre’s digital-first strategy are listed below:
- Forecasting and scheduling – Provide new models and algorithms to reflect digital demand
- Quality – Support new standards and processes
- Performance – Provide new KPIs that reflect digital channels
- Analytics – Use unstructured data (such as voice) for a holistic view of the customer experience
Customers Expect an Easy Smartphone Experience
In our digitally powered landscape – with anything and everything available at the click of a button – it’s fair to say that consumer expectations have never been higher.
For today’s consumer, communicating with a friend or family member has never been easier. A choice of applications and platforms make any interaction – whether phone call, text message or even voice note – seamless. These interactions are quick and, above all, they are extremely convenient.
This level of interaction is something that consumers also now expect from the brands that they interact with. They want to engage with organizations seamlessly, no matter which channel they use.
Most brands have been quick to embrace platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – not to mention in-app messaging and SMS. But adopting these channels is only half the battle; brands also need to replicate the convenience that customers experience in their messaging interactions with friends and family.
New messaging software allows brands to take advantage of new app while leveraging the same AI-engine core as its successful virtual assistant and live chat deployment.
Customers Expect 24-Hour Service
The business world is no longer nine to five, and it hasn’t been for decades. That’s why customers have come to expect around-the-clock service for sales and support.
According to Invesp, 89% of customers are retained by companies that enable seamless engagement across phone, interactive voice response (IVR), email, webchat, social media and text channels.
Additionally, Salesforce research says 73% of customers will likely change brands if a company doesn’t provide 24/7 omnichannel communication.
Due to the strength of these retention statistics, masvoz predicts that 50% of contact centres that are not employing unified communications as a service (UCaaS) will move communications to the cloud by the end of 2020 to establish an omnichannel presence.
What’s more, an American Express survey shows that two out of three consumers are willing to pay a higher price for excellent customer service. In today’s world this includes being where your customers want you to be, all of the time.
Customers Expect Great Self-Service Options
A study by Coleman Parks revealed that 91% of respondents would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
When brands provide this kind of specialized service, the number of calls to a contact centre could be greatly reduced. So what self-service options should you consider?
Let’s start with building a knowledge base, then closely examine the words customers use in the search box to tune it.
Lastly, monitor the top search enquiries regularly and analyse the overall customer experience when customers use your knowledge base.
Smarter chatbots also enable businesses to quickly respond to a high volume of incoming questions.
Customers Expect Data Protection
Salesforce reports that 62% of customers are more afraid of their personal data being compromised than they were two years ago.
Also, 57% of surveyed customers are not comfortable with how companies use personally identifiable information (PII).
If your contact centre’s customer data is stolen in a security breach, your organization will face unexpected costs from security upgrades, stiff penalties or fines, a significant loss of business, and a tarnished reputation.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By migrating your contact centre’s communications to the cloud, PII actually becomes more secure.
Customers Expect to Speak to Engaged Advisors
The future of customer service and experience is highly specific and personal.
All other interfacing can and should be done digitally; and if digital multichannel communications are improved, the customer will respond accordingly. This does not mean your advisors will disappear.
Live advisors will need to be highly specialized and extremely agile, however. Fortunately, this comes at a time where remote training and employee development can be made available around the clock via eLearning and modules.
Your WFM and learning capabilities should ensure that everyone involved in customer contact operations, from the front lines to administration, has the solution knowledge and resources they need – when they need them – to support continuous delivery of a consistent, exceptional customer experience.
Industry experts are anticipating that the needs of customers will require more specialized responses with increased advisor expertise.