Over the last two years, the pandemic has shifted expectations and the way brands communicate with their customers. From buyer support to interactive CX journeys, brands are now having to go above and beyond to meet consumer expectations for more human interactions.
Following the shift online, customer service teams that relied on brick-and-mortar spaces to provide support have had to adapt and find new ways to provide the connections that customers now demand. As research shows, nearly two-thirds of consumers are more likely to buy from brands with real user customer service reps, meaning the pressure for teams to provide an empathetic purchasing journey is higher than ever before.
The good news is that customer service teams can provide more engagement without relying on query resolution and committing to cost-intensive initiatives alone. Instead, there are more flexible and engaging models that extend beyond focusing on simply resolving the issue at hand and improving the onboarding journey. Customers want to be met at every part of the journey.
The ‘new normal’ isn’t that new anymore
Although customers have always desired excellent customer service, what dictates this has been completely redefined following the shift online. Research shows that a third of UK consumers are unsatisfied with customer service CX teams, meaning so much more has to be done in order to impress consumers.
This is no surprise when we consider the dramatic changes the world has seen in recent times. When the pandemic hit, most customers felt anxious about what was happening on a global scale. This, in turn, forced businesses to adapt and work harder to understand the challenges their customers were facing, and many of them responded with empathy for their customers.
Plus, teams battled with an enormous number of queries and those who flexed their operations quickly became winners of the competitive landscape. According to this FT article, Apple and Microsoft are amongst this crowd. They successfully shifted to a work from home model, and have prospered despite the pandemic. In fact, Apple now sits at the cusp of$3tn market value, almost triple its pandemic low in March 2020, demonstrating the impact of true agility.
In turn, customers are now accustomed to an online customer service that is agile and can provide better value than simply transactional interactions. Ranging from agile 24-hour support to remote AI-powered gig platforms, brands are needing to up their game in order to compete for a share of mind and wallet.
The consumer to business gap
One key thing brands have had to remember is that technology needs to be thoughtfully applied and interlinked with humans to enhance the customer journey. Despite being tipped to be the next best way of automating, 70% of chatbots require human handlers to be successful.
As effective as AI is when instantly answering questions and supporting self-service, at its current level of technology, it still requires integrated teams that can support multiple areas of the customer lifecycle. For that reason, AI (usually in the form of chatbots) should be seen as an aid in the customer journey, as opposed to a replacement technology that when used without proper care will alienate customers.
Focusing on the idea of Customer Success will therefore be a key trend and more organisations are gearing towards Gig customer service representatives who are themselves users of the product or service. Also known as GigCX experts, these brand advocates are able to provide on-demand support to help other customers get more value from their products or services at every point in the customer journey.
This means inviting their most experienced customers to onboard new or less experienced customers by offering support during both the sign up and post-purchase phase. This ensures consumers are set-up to get the most from their products, subscriptions or platforms they are using, in order to provide services or sell their products.
On top of this, we’re seeing a growing focus on offering proactive outreach and coaching based on various triggers. By anticipating customer issues and addressing them proactively, brands are much more likely to build trust with its consumers.
This approach is suited to some sectors more than others, including consumer technologies, which can be complex and therefore it is more difficult for a customer contact centre worker to be trained on all the variance of usage in consumer technologies. Plus, brands within this space usually have lots of advocates and fans of the product.
Agility is essential
Without doubt, spurred on by changing working initiatives, expectations have also led to customer service teams supporting consumers outside the traditional 9-5. Our research found that 75% of customers in the UK believe call centre hours are too restrictive and brands are realising they need to meet customers on their time, not the other way round.
According to McKinsey, organisations are looking into more agile customer service functions, most notably, through GigCX – a remote, 24/7 model that utilises brand advocates to answer queries, working around the clock and connecting to consumers.
The gig pool essentially grows and shrinks in line with demand, giving brands a new wave of resilience. Research found 91 per cent of brands were able to take on more queries, demonstrating the ability of the model to safeguard brands in the event of disruption.
The road ahead
Customer expectations have no doubt taken a turn for the better. If brands want to keep up with this pace of change, they need to flex their operations to offer more than a quick fix.
Relationship building, providing empathic responses and meeting the customer when and where they want to be met is the path to strong customer relationships. As such, adopting innovative models that focus on providing value at every point in the journey will be crucial in the years to come.