We’ve reached a tipping point in delivering digital customer experience.
From the published results of a 2016 global research paper by Opinium for Verint on customer experience in Australia & New Zealand (ANZ), when customers were asked to, “select the preferred method you currently use to interact with your service provider,” it was found that the majority of people (24%) still prefer contacting businesses or organisations by phone. While 19% preferred to physically walk into a store to engage with a service representative, and finally only 10% preferred using email.
However you digitally transform your business, the human element cannot be taken out of the equation. The customer has always been king. Although 24% preferred telephone contact, only 8% of companies had plans to invest or improve this channel according to the research. The investment commitment to handle a direct walk-in to a store or branch was 10%, still short of the percentage of people who preferred this channel of contact. Regardless of the number of smartphones in use today and our desire to use digital channels, we all still want contact with real people whether via the phone or in store and we often want that contact on our terms when it is most convenient and relevant.
“Organisations that rely too much on digital channels risk missing out on ongoing and meaningful relationships with customers.” - Dr. Steve Nuttall
More ‘Human’ = More Trust
Having a phone number and displaying that number so it’s available on your website or mobile app lends a great deal of credibility and trust. If you don’t have a phone number, 75% of potential customers likely won’t buy from you or use your services.
Too much digital can be a bad thing. According to Dr. Steve Nuttall, Head of CX Research at Fifth Quadrant, in a recent analyst brief, “Organisations that rely too much on digital channels risk missing out on ongoing and meaningful relationships with customers.”
Know Where to Engage
Surprisingly when businesses were asked to “select how you anticipate the majority of your customers would engage with your company’s customer service team,” 87% of companies answered that mobile apps, email and SMS were the preferred engagement channels and the way forward with respect to investment. Meanwhile, only 33% of customers are actually interested in those channels. For the relatively minor percentage (7%) of customers who prefer mobile apps, companies are spending 36% of their resources on this channel. Live chat is preferred by only 3% of customers, but companies are allocating 31% of their digital transformation budget to improving this channel of communication. Also, and not a surprise, only 1% of consumers prefer to use social media for a service issue – but the average spend by companies on this channel is 23% of their digital budget. It's important to remember that social does have its place and is an incredibly important engagement tool, but should not be the tool used to solve customer problems. Rather, social should be used to guide or funnel a customer to an appropriate service representative where their query or problem can be dealt with on a one-to-one basis rather than with the community.
Reduce Form Fatigue
Further, when it came to seeking service online, 22% of respondents preferred to contact a company through its website (this is different from email and often involves filling out a contact form with their details and query), but only 13% of companies took this channel seriously. This is quite evident across many websites today that still insist on using long, complex forms for customers to complete, which can lead to ‘form fatigue’ among users. This example by Wil Alambre in an article for Visual Lizard is a perfect example of a form that can lead to frustration and ultimately abandonment.
It’s clear that there’s an unbalanced investment approach by business when it comes to refining their omni-channel strategy and plan. However, what 85% of ANZ organisations do agree on is that “customer service online and via mobile devices needs to be faster, more intuitive and better serve the customer needs.” (Get the research paper). Depending on the query, our channel choices may differ quite dramatically.
Digital Natives: Defined as customers whose first preference is to use a digital channel to engage with an organisation regardless of the complexity of the inquiry, digital natives aren’t just Millennials. The research shows that younger people are the driving force behind the trend and shift towards digital communications channels. While picking up the phone or going into a store on average is the most popular first preference across generations, digital channels rank much higher in second and third preference for Millennials and Baby Boomers. Every customer is just as important as the other.
The Solution – Strategise!
The key is not to place too much focus on any one channel, but to have a formal omni-channel strategy with the idea that no customer gets or feels left behind, thus positioning the organisation as being more and truly customer centric. Customer journey mapping is one of the first steps an organisation should take after establishing their desire to be customer centric.
Customer Journey Map by Fifth Quadrant
Regardless of how rapidly the technology is changing, it’s clear that organisations of all sizes need to adopt policy and strategy that put customers first. Maintaining traditional channels is just as important as developing and refining new digital channels. Smartphones, mobile websites, SMS are not fads but rather a new access points for business to engage more meaningfully with customers regardless of their age or location.