The global pandemic has triggered long-term shifts in consumer behavior and accelerated ‘digital-first solutions’ that no one could have predicted. Though some of these behaviors are expected to regress, customer expectations for highly integrated omnichannel experiences are a permanent shift. Customers expect brands to value their time, provide them a secure personal experience, & take overall responsibility for the greater social good.
Customer demands are on the rise. Establish a positive connection with your customers by delivering to them highly personalized customer experiences
Enterprises are quickly adopting digital experience solutions to deliver meaningful experiences that reduce customer churn, improve loyalty, boost brand presence, and drive business revenue. However, designing a customer experience reinvention program should start with a robust enterprise strategy that puts people first.
"You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can’t start with the technology then try to figure out where to sell it.” Steve Jobs, WWDC 1997
Even today, this is one of the best statements that describe the value of ‘X’ in today’s tech-focused ‘CX’ solutions. Customers seek experiences that are more personal and less transactional. They remain loyal to brands that offer speed, convenience, consistency, privacy, and friendliness.How are customer expectations shaping in the post-pandemic era? What are the CX trends that brands should recognize?
Shifting customer expectations in the post-pandemic economy
Customers expect to resolve issues independently
Customers want to avoid long wait times and call routing processes, which make customer self-service a business imperative. Calling up the support team being the only option for customers to voice their concerns is a thing of the past. Self-service allows customers to leverage online support mechanisms, such as knowledge-base, online help, FAQs, how-to videos, AI chatbots, etc., and find answers all by themselves, without wasting time or effort.
Zendesk’s survey indicates the rising inclination towards customer self-service:
- 69% of customers want to resolve issues by themselves, without relying on support teams.
- 70% of customers expect companies to offer a self-service portal or content.
- 63% of customers try to scout a company’s website or online resources before contacting support teams.
- 60% of customers recognize the ability to self-resolve issues as the most important aspect of a good CX.
While these facts favor self-service, it’s still a missed opportunity. Only 28% of companies offer a knowledge base and less than 30% provide chat, social messaging, in-app messaging, bots, or communities.
Companies can turn self-service into a viable customer support option by:
- Making self-service easy to locate across all platforms: website, mobile app, social media pages, kiosk, retail in-store, etc.
- Improving online traffic to self-service by redesigning web navigation and UI and running SEO initiatives.
- Offering seamless, connected experiences across all digital touchpoints. It saves customers from repeating their challenges during every interaction.
- Enhancing ease of use, intuitiveness, speed, and convenience. These attributes form the bedrock of effective self-service.
- Taking appropriate actions based on inquiries, surveys, and feedback. Monitoring customer response and behavior can go a long way in improving self-service.
Customers want to process service calls faster
Though self-service remains a hot choice in customer support, companies cannot fully terminate call centers and telephone help desks. A good number of customers - Gen X and senior citizens, for instance, continue to rely on phone calls and prefer live human interactions over online support channels. According to Zendesk’s CX Trends Report, 66% of users prefer phone support, the most popular customer service channel for any age group.
Findings by Clutch reveal the importance of human touch and fast response in customer service:
- 88% of people prefer talking to a live customer service rep instead of maneuvering complex phone menus.
- 72% of customers often end up talking to a human agent, despite running into intricate phone menus.
- 70% of people press zero to elude a phone menu and reach a human agent more quickly.
Phone support plays an indispensable role in building a great customer experience. Most customers prefer to pick up the phone and receive instant answers, instead of waiting for an email or a live chat response.
Here’re a few tips for better phone support and fast call processing:
- Adopt a centralized, integrated CRM that offers service reps a holistic view of each customer. This allows customer support teams to personalize every single call.
- Develop a deep understanding of different customer personality types. Use surveys and feedback to analyze customers’ experiences and find scope for improvement.
- Improve First Call Resolution (FCR) to avoid call transfers and unwanted follow-ups. Save the customer from repeating their issues to multiple service agents.
- Customer service representatives should be well-trained and knowledgeable about their brand’s offerings. They must empathize with every customer, constantly improve their skill-sets, and follow industry changes.
Customers seek connected, conversational experiences across all channels
Customers are switching from traditional communication channels like phone and email to conversational support platforms such as live chat, AI chatbots, messenger apps, virtual assistants, IVR, etc. for the sake of speed convenience, and 24/7 cross-channel availability. Conversationalization allows brands to add a personal (human) touch to every interaction with the customer.
In 2022, brands should leverage connected conversations, powered by conversational AI, to enhance their CX.
- Gartner estimates that by 2022, 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms every day.
- 83% of customers are ready to use chatbot support if they are guaranteed immediate response.
- 74% of organizations say that conversational assistants are crucial in enabling their brand’s customer engagement strategy.
Despite the soaring popularity of conversational platforms, challenges such as training conversational agents to handle complex conversations and enhancing personalization affect their adoption. Organizations can apply these best practices to improve connected conversational experiences:
- Adopt Natural Language Processing (NLP) models that can improve natural conversational experiences between humans and AI. For example, machine learning techniques like BERT are capable of comprehending human conversations more precisely. Such techniques will enhance conversational AI platforms.
- Make conversational AI accessible to more businesses through flexible and advanced APIs. Democratization of conversational AI through open-sourced APIs will make connected conversational experiences more meaningful and ubiquitous.
- Leverage cloud services to make conversational AI more scalable and accessible to millions of users and devices.
Customers appreciate fast complaint resolution
Customers choose a support/ service platform, based on its speed of response and urgency of the issue. They do not want to repeat themselves and expect service teams to collaborate internally and resolve the issue. Longer resolution times drive them to competitors.
- 75% of customers rate fast response time as the most significant attribute of a good CX.
- A 15% improvement in First Call Resolution (FCR) can cut 57% of repeat calls.
- 80% of customers who switched loyalties said they could have been retained if their issue was resolved on the first contact.
Shorter customer service response time translates to improved CX and enhanced brand reputation. To minimize complaint resolution time and improve FCR, organizations should:
- Implement automated customer service software that helps manage the whole data related to customer interactions.
- Send out auto-responders to boost customers’ confidence. Mention the expected turnaround time that is not too far.
- Set up time-based email alerts that notify service agents to read and respond to every email within the expected response time.
- End siloed conversations by integrating different channels of communication - physical and digital - to provide connected experiences.
- Maintain a single thread of conversation that boosts customer self-service, call/ contact centers, and support ticketing functions.
Trends that shape customer experience in 2022 and beyond
The impact of COVID-19 will still continue to shape consumer behavior and customer needs this year. Increased acceptance of digital channels presents plenty of opportunities for enterprises to drive a relevant and positive customer experience. Here are a few CX trends that will reign supreme in 2022:
AI-based customer experience solutions will find a broader market
AI-powered customer service chatbots and virtual/ voice assistants will improve the quality of customer service in 2022. Gartner’s AI software market forecast for virtual assistants predicts revenue growth of 14.7% in 2022. The rise of advanced machine learning models will augment the Natural Language Processing capabilities of AI-based customer support systems. The application of sentiment analytics will strengthen the ability of voice assistants and chatbots to understand customers’ inputs and retrieve the response they require. AI-enabled CEM solutions can help build personalized customer journeys that are driven by an in-depth understanding of customer preferences.
Growth of smart products and services powered by IoT and data analytics
The worldwide end-user spending on wearable devices is expected to reach $93.9 billion by 2022. Remote work and self-health monitoring requirements push the market growth for wearables, such as smartwatches, ear-worn devices, fitness trackers, and other miniature health-monitoring devices, that collect data from us and our premises. Experience-focused businesses will leverage this data to improve customer insights, tailor offerings to match user needs and develop products that integrate well into our daily lives. In 2022, businesses will focus on making these data-intensive technologies less obtrusive.
Employee experience will be tagged to customer experience
85% of respondents who participated in a recent IDC survey mentioned that improved employee experience translates to enhanced customer experience. As organizations adjust to the new reality of hybrid/ remote work culture, employees expect more trust, transparency, and communications from their employers. Organizations should invest in digital workplace technologies to build a frictionless, collaborative work environment. Happy employees lead to happier customers. Higher employee engagement will boost customer satisfaction and improve business ROI.
Rise of immersive experiences powered by virtual platforms
In 2021, 58.9 million users in the US used Virtual Reality (VR), and 93.3 million used Augmented Reality (AR) at least once a month. As many brick-and-mortar stores and physical office spaces switch to remote operations, brands are adopting virtual experience technologies to retain and attract customers. The emergence of “metaverse”, promoted by leading companies like Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft, will augment immersive virtual customer experience by merging AR, VR, cryptocurrencies, AI, IoT, social media, and other advanced technologies. Amazon’s Room Decorator (AR shopping tool), Warby Parker’s virtual try-on app, and IKEA’s Everyday Experiments (virtual home design improvement app) are a few examples that underscore the growing significance of immersive experiences in CX.
Be the ‘X’ factor in CX
The customer expectations and CX trends stated above present both opportunities and risks for organizations. However, their role in shaping the future of businesses cannot be ignored. With the right technology partner, your business can steer forward with stern strides and deliver the CX your customers expect. How are you planning to cope with the changing customer expectations and trends in 2022? Let us know.