Keeping the person in personalized: key pointers in customer experience
The most common technological device that’s in use by most people, on most days, is their personal smartphone. As the conduit to a multitude of sources of information, entertainment, communication, and collaboration, it is the focus of many peoples’ lives. For businesses, it’s critical to note that the personal smartphone is a consumer device. That sounds like a trite statement, but it has significant ramifications for the stance that businesses need to take with regards to staying in touch with their customers.
Because people are using the same device to contact businesses from whom they buy goods and services as they do to stay in touch with friends, family and loved ones, companies must use the same conduits and methods. Just as context and the demographics of the people involved changes, customer experience functions in businesses also need to adapt: some people prefer a call, sometimes an email is necessary, on occasion, a text, or now and again, a social media message is the best way to interconnect.
In customer experience, that’s known as omnichannel approach. Of course, to consumers and customers, that’s just how people stay in touch with one another. Like the old marketing adage that people buy from people, not companies, people today communicate with businesses the way they interact with people.
A Customer Experience Trends Report published recently (more on this below) has shown some interesting anomalies between what’s happening in customers’ minds and what the reality is on the ground as far as interactions with companies go. Customer satisfaction levels are dropping, gradually, but expectations for a great experience with companies are on the up. Customer attitudes are increasingly dictated by the fact that the technology they use just works, so why shouldn’t customer experience and support work just as well? Apparently, in some circumstances, it doesn’t.
Customer experience departments in the enterprise are keen to deploy technology platforms that can provide an omnichannel capability, but that’s not enough. To a customer commuting to work, omnichannel is just, well, normal.
During a 40-minute train ride, a single individual may send out social platform DMs, make a call, send a dozen texts, a WhatsApp or two, post to social platforms, and fill out a web form. Being capable of receiving via these channels should be the absolute minimum that any customer could expect. In short, it’s fantastic that your customer experience division has an omnichannel platform from which to work, but it’s like saying your people can pick up a phone. It’s so much expected, so much part of the scenery, that it’s what customer experience and support functions do in addition that makes the difference between the best and worst in customer satisfaction levels.
Certain brands have an excellent reputation to uphold, and many will have built a persona on personalized, friendly and helpful (or better, generous) customer experience. That has not happened by accident. It’s a mentality that starts in the company training room, in the onboarding processes for new staff, in the company ethos. For companies just starting out and trying to compete with the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and Rakuten, the bar is set very high, but there are some simple pointers that, if followed, can beat the giants at their own game.
Customers expect to contact companies in different ways and expect the company to be able to follow the threads consciously, in the same way that people maintain relationships with one another. If you text message a friend, then call them ten minutes later, you wouldn’t expect to have to remind them of what the text message said. So why do companies expect their customers to do just that? Omnichannel alone isn’t enough, it needs to be intelligent— bordering on conscious.
But more than that, customers want routing to someone (or something) capable of helping them. Being placed in the hands of an unintelligent bot is a pointless exercise if the issue is complicated, but may be just the ticket for a quick, standard enquiry. Getting the means of resolution is much more important to the customer, as is the speed of resolution.
Customer experience platforms, therefore, need to be able to consciously route to the right person or thing, that has the correct information at hand, and the ability to resolve a situation, quickly.
Size & age matter
The overall scope and scale of a customer experience team tends to have an impact on its ability to cope appropriately with the needs of today’s customer, who expects a personalized, hyper-responsive service. In larger experience functions, there’s less use of AI, for example, as an integral part of the customer support platform. Larger customer experience departments tend to put a higher value on staff training than do the smaller ones; although stating that the two statistics are related would probably be too simplistic (you’ll need to read the report itself for more detail).
What’s not in any doubt, however, is that with a commitment to personalization comes a commitment to multichannel experience. The older the demographic of customers, the more likely they are to rely on phone calls, rather than self-service (either by bots or by FAQ pages, for example). Additionally, it’s baby boomers and Generation Z who are suspicious when companies retain their credit card and other financial information. In short, malleability, and the ability to adopt changes quickly is an important facet in providing great customer support.
Keep it cultural
To bring this essay full circle, it’s worth returning to the consumer mindset, and that of the interactive nature of much of the technology in use today. At the end of the day, customers are humans who are seeking help and support, using the same methods of communication to contact companies that they deploy to stay in touch with friends and family.
The human contact element of any customer experience function is also highly significant. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2019 – about which you can read more here– found that of the customer experience staff and management it surveyed, a culture of support and help between staff produced the best effects on overall customer satisfaction levels. Additionally, the setting of measurable targets was effective, as attaining those targets using careful measurement of progress was a significant factor in improving job satisfaction (and therefore customer happiness, in general).
It’s significant, therefore, that customer experience in a business sense is best improved by adopting some very human traits: mimicking the consumer-led multichannel approach to communication, and the provision of help & support, both inside the customer experience department, and facing the customer too.
To read more about the top customer experience trends in 2019, click here.
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