What do customers want? According to CGS, in the US alone, 50% of customers said that the pandemic has resulted in their prioritisation of customer service when deciding whether to do business with a brand or not.
Customer services once focused on cost-efficiency by reducing labour costs wherever possible. However, consumers needs have become more complicated. If companies don’t invest in their teams and make an effort to get to know their customers, they’re going to lose competitive advantage very quickly.
Consumers are becoming better and better at discerning between authentic customer care and just another opportunity to make sales. They have higher standards and expect personalised service – and if they can’t find it with your brand, they will look elsewhere. Brands who focus their efforts on offering an authentic, transparent, customised – as well as convenient – experience will have the advantage in a market dominated by businesses pushing for business growth.
The Two Customer Camps
Here’s where the deeper challenge lies… as much as the future customer bases their satisfaction off personalised experiences, they also crave “quick and easy”. Through my experience, I’ve determined that there are two camps of consumers, where both tend to cross over into each other’s camps. There’s the constant tug between craving human connection, and looking for a quick fix.
Convenience has become a critical element in today’s world. Expecting customers to sit behind their cellphones for long periods of time until an agent is available is an unrealistic approach to customer service, and will certainly result in significant revenue loss.
An example of this challenge is email queries. Emailing is already an inconvenient platform for many people these days, as it’s become a work-only platform. By the time you get back to a customer query received via email, they have likely moved on to find a better, more convenient solution elsewhere. So the question is: How can businesses navigate finding the balance between personalisation and convenience?
What Customers Want From Businesses
The best place to start is by getting to know your customers:
The customer who craves convenience
We’ve all heard enough about Covid, but truthfully, it has played an enormous role in the current customer demands. The initial safety precautions and distancing regulations created more digitally comfortable consumers, who don’t want to break their newly formed habits.
The new-age customer that we see more and more of is one who wants to do all their admin and communication from their mobile devices and without the ‘hassle’ of human interaction. Customer service calls are too high energy or time-consuming for this customer, never mind visiting your branch or local store.
The customer who craves connection
In contrast, other consumers have had the opposite reaction – where over the last 2 years they’ve longed for community and real-time human connection, they are now are now looking for brands they can relate to and find a community with.
Through my experience as a professional that works closely with customer support teams, it’s also become evident to me that loyalty cannot be found in automation. People aren’t loyal to businesses as much as they are to experiences. How are your customers experiencing your brand? Are they making an emotional connection in some way? Connection is what makes customers return for more.
How Should Companies Adapt Their Processes?
When we specifically look at customer services, we find a great deal of insight from customer trends that will assist businesses to adapt. According to a survey done by McKinsley, 75% of customer-care leaders predict that inbound calls will decrease by at least 40% in the next 5 to 10 years. This, however, does not mean that contact centre agents won’t be needed, but that job specifications will likely change. Customers will opt to utilise technology such as chatbots and other self-service channels for quick and easy answers, but will still turn to agents and personalised services for high-value, more complex communication.
Because the majority of inbound calls from customers will likely be complex – with bots expecting to handle at least 30-50% of other requests – agents will need to be highly skilled to competently deal with these queries and consultations. For example, transactions like cross-selling, upselling, and financial advisory cannot be managed via automated solutions (such as chatbots), so there will always be a need for personalised connection.
These adaptations, of course, will need to be facilitated by regular and consistent staff upskilling in order for them to be effective.
As we look ahead, the change brought about during the Covid-19 pandemic will become our new baseline for the future. When we think about what success looks like over the next five to 10 years, we need to measure it against our successes over the last 12 months, while deeply analysing areas where we could improve.
How Can Businesses Ensure Satisfied Customers?
There’s no way around the fact that businesses need to cater to both camps. Businesses are being challenged to think out of the box and keep moving forward in a fast-paced world. We need to bring a human touch into customer service, while still embracing technology and its improved efficiency in your organisation.
Take our work with McDonald’s, for instance. We put processes in place that enable employees to work quickly to provide the customer with what they want, while still making an impression of customer care. How? Body language, facial expressions, and subtle gestures make a customer feel seen. Waving to a customer, or simply smiling behind your mask subconsciously tells a customer that they are more than just potential profit for the business, but valuable as a person.
This starts with staff training. By equipping your team with skills development and training, they can better determine your clients’ needs and find the appropriate solutions quickly and with authentic care. Summit’s online training solutions teach employees how to use technology in the business environment through easy and accessible digital learning platforms. Not only will technology make the learning process more valuable in terms of practice and experience, but I’ve also seen how it sparks the desire to learn. Simulating successful customer-care interactions via video, for instance, has been an extremely successful method in getting employees excited about learning.
Summit has helped many major corporations adapt their processes to meet the needs of current customers, while also preparing for future consumers. Get in touch with us to ensure your customer service strategies are ahead of your competitors!
About the Author
Paula Bell, National Manager: Training, Learning, and Development
Moving from England to South Africa in the 80’s she started her career as Casino Inspector at Marula Sun and was promoted as Learning & Development Manager at Carousel and Sibaya Casino, Sun International. As Group Training & Development Manager in Maldives Crown & Champa Resorts she took responsibility of 7 CCR Resorts and over 3000 employees.
Paula joined the IHST team in 2017 while also publishing her book Past Lessons – Future Gains.