Noel Lavery, UK Sales Director, Infobip
The COVID-19 epidemic continues to affect businesses, with uncertainty as to the depth and longevity of its impact – especially as 2020 saw many organisations rush through digitisation in one form or another to protect employees and serve customers.
The pandemic has surely made the world realise the true value of a seamless digital customer experience. Yet there were many organisations left unprepared for the rapid shift, stuck in old workflows that hindered customers’ ability to shop, contact or engage with them. With this year placing further ambiguity on the state of business operations, now is the time to break out of the digital transformation rut and ensure your business is ready to deliver the best service possible.
Lessons learnt from lockdowns
All brands face challenges when it comes to reaching their customers and holding contextualised conversations. Modern-day consumers have access to a massive and growing selection of channels, which they expect to be able to use to communicate at a time that suits them. The pandemic has also seen a new wave of ‘digital laggards’ – those who have been forced to switch to digital channels due to reduced in-person operations and want their online experience to feel as easy as shopping in-store.
Our research, which assessed customer expectations before and during the first lockdown of 2020, found that there is no overall preferred channel for brand communication. Over half (46 per cent) wanted to communicate via email, 35 per cent via live chat online and 17 per cent by social media. Being present on more than one channel is paramount.
We also know that customers have become pickier during this uncertain period. If a business doesn’t get it right, customers will not shy away from dropping it in search of one that does. Almost a third (32 per cent) of consumers said that they will not spend again with a business that provided a poor service during lockdown. If we extrapolate this against what they would have spent, it means businesses could lose a total of £2.5 billion per year in future sales if they don’t provide a strong experience.
Many brands are still stuck in a traditional mindset: pre-2010 most businesses relied on email, post and telephone to communicate with their customers. In today’s ‘always on’ culture, this approach to customer service doesn’t cut it. With the rise of the chatbot and more consumers taking to social media to call out those brands that have failed to deliver, being able to provide an instant service or response isn’t just a priority, it’s a necessity.
Experience and engagement go hand in hand
Every person in a business has engagement goals, from the Chief Technology Officer ensuring the technology is running efficiently and securely to the Chief Experience Officer wanting to make the external journey for customers as smooth as possible. Customer experience and customer engagement are not rival agendas – they must go hand in hand to drive loyalty.
This year signifies the age of experience, meaning brands need to think about the customer journey from start to finish. This comes down to providing timely and relevant communication – for example, a delivery update or a personalised discount code – on a customer’s preferred channel. For customer service, businesses should use automated responses and messages across different channels to gather essential information and ensure they have a complete view of a customer’s engagement. This way, agents, many of who are facing increased pressure while working from home, can focus on providing the right response for more complex enquiries.
No more excuses
What prevented certain businesses from embracing digital transformation last year was the concern that it needs a complete overhaul of old legacy systems. But that simply isn’t the case. Our solution connects experiences across all stages of the customer journey via one single platform. Through this, businesses can overcome the complexity of all consumer communications – from engagement to customer service – and build meaningful customer relationships across any channel.
An example can be seen through our work with WhatsApp to develop simple, self-service chatbots, which government health departments across the world have used to provide quick, trustworthy information on COVID-19. Contact with the chatbot is initiated by a person entering a number in their contact list and sending a message of “Hi”. This starts a dialogue with a WhatsApp chatbot, where users can choose from a list of topics they would like more information on, including the latest figures, restrictions and guidance for their area. By providing this service via WhatsApp, a channel people are relying on more than ever to communicate, it reduces the pressure on health services’ contact centres when things are critically busy while ensuring the public has access to trusted information at their fingertips.
COVID-19 has changed almost every facet of how we live and work. Many brands rushed through digital transformation projects to help cater to fast-moving consumer needs, but as the new, or perhaps more likely ‘never’, normal continues, this represents only the first phase of changes needed to deliver an exceptional service. Now is the time to think about the digital tools available to you to make operations more efficient, to empower your staff working remotely and to ensure customers don’t lose out on personalised, human interaction when using digital channels.
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