Five Ways to Meet Customer Expectations in the Digital Age

We all know by now—at this point in the Digital Age—that customers are strongly influencing how businesses operate. Events have transpired to flip the traditional sales model on its ear.

Whereas companies used to hold at least some of the cards—developing “solutions” for customers who didn’t know how to solve their own problems—now consumers are armed with data to define solutions for themselves.

The new reality is that consumers today are self-reliant, mobile and demanding. They can quickly do their own research on-the-go via the Internet, but then they expect prompt delivery of the products and services they desire. Along the way, when they bump up against your brand, they expect a personal and stylized interaction.

Fail to understand and/or adapt to the new rules of customer engagement at your own peril. Your key targets are texting, tweeting, browsing and chatting, often using self-service channels, peer-based communities and social networks to find service. A poor response from you and they’ll simply go elsewhere.

To make sure you know how to deliver great service and build strong relationships, take a look at the following five consumer expectations for contact centers, based on an Aspect report:

  • Understand preferences and personalize interactions: Sixty-eight percent of consumers say they’re annoyed when they have to repeat themselves. This means you must maintain the context of every interaction with customers, including between channels. Use this information to dynamically adapt a self-service menu or provide an agent with a customer history. Leverage it further to proactively deliver a service before a customer asks for it.
  • Offer mobile channels: Customers want to interact with brands any way they prefer—from SMS to voice to chat to social—on their mobile devices. Deploy mobile apps that create a seamless transition when customers call into an IVR or connect with an agent.
  • Enable self-service: Provide an omnichannel self-service offering. It’ll lower your costs while aligning your contact center with customer preferences. Another benefit is that this option elevates your agents to experts on complex issues, since most people contact companies only after exhausting other potential resources.
  • Don’t be a time drain: Yes, consumers want fast and easy access to information; after all, they’re only human! Some 66 percent of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to win their favor. As many as 45 percent of U.S. adults will abandon their online purchases if they don’t receive a quick answer to a question. Consider that lowering customer effort can be as simple as being where they are. For instance, embed an instant chat button on your website or streamline self-service menus based on frequent behaviors or a recent transaction.
  • Educate: Well-informed customers are more likely to become loyal brand advocates—veritable extensions of your customer support team. Plus, by offering relevant information, you help your customers discover new and improved ways to use your products or services.

Of course, to meet these expectations, you’ll need to access modern technologies and tools. For example, a workforce optimization solution can be the cornerstone of agent performance and productivity, leading to better customer experiences. In addition, plan to optimize your CRM system using experience continuity data to intelligently route inquiries. You can also deploy cloud, hosted or hybrid solutions to gain flexibility and enable rapid adoption of new features that will keep you competitive.

Customer Self-Service Is Crucial for Contact Centers

Where it makes sense in your contact center, self-service can significantly improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs. As such, the self-service option is now a must for contact centers.

Consumer research shows that time-strapped customers are more likely to patronize businesses that enable them to take care of their own needs through self-service devices. The digital age has transformed the way that consumers interact with brands; now they expect to be served where and when they choose. This requires companies to deliver seamless service through the integration of the Internet, mobile devices and multipurpose kiosks. Keep in mind, however, that consumers still prefer person-to-person contact for complex transactions.

Speed is at the heart of self-service demand. It’s also empowering, giving customers ultimate control over an experience. For businesses, self-service means saving money. Consumer Reports found that a typical customer service transaction handled by a live customer care Communicator usually costs between $2 and $10, compared with just pennies for, say, placing an order online.

Modern technology gets the credit for this effective savings in time and costs. But companies shouldn’t get carried away replacing human contact with machinery. Self-service shouldn’t mean no service. When a transaction goes sour, your personal touch may be the only salve for customer frustration.

Plus, self-service isn’t a great option throughout consumer markets. Every organization needs to assess the demographics of their own customers and how they interact with the business, and then tailor self-service options to their wants and needs.

In general, today’s self-service offerings have benefitted from growing pains resolved over the past couple of decades. This means that even older generations are fairly comfortable and accepting of properly scripted and easy-to-navigate interactive voice response (IVR) systems, for example. Furthermore, with the growth of mobile technology, self-service applications have become a way of life.

A downside of self-service to consider before diving in head first, however, is lost opportunities to engage customers and enhance their relationships with your brand. For some companies, a large percentage of client business comes from contact center phone traffic. Think about organizations that need to educate customers on products, for instance. A commitment to self-service may result in customers making the wrong decisions for themselves.

The challenge for each company is to use its own data to determine which live interactions are valued by the customer and which can be handled through self-service offerings.