Carolyn Blunt1

Digitalisation of customer service

Back in 2010, industry experts predicted that digitalization would play an increasingly important role in customer service. Six years down the line it’s very clear how customers are using technology to buy, shop and communicate with businesses. But have companies adapted enough to meet customer’s ever growing digital expectations?

In a recent Oracle report, 64% of businesses agreed that they had a digital strategy in place approved by their board. Of them 83% agreed that their digital strategy sets out a vision for how customer service will evolve within the digitalization context.

This may sound positive, but it raises two important questions:

As commented by industry expert Mike Harvard: “There cannot be less than 95% of companies with a digital strategy – even if that strategy is to ignore digital.” What are the other 36% of companies focusing on if they are not considering the impact of digitalization?

A primary motivation for digitalization is improved customer satisfaction.75% of companies surveyed agreed that customer satisfaction was the biggest motivator behind digitalization and 55% were motivated by customer retention. It is one thing to have a strategy in place and another to implement it effectively. How are companies embracing digitalization in a way that ultimately enhances the customer experience?

Digitalization gone wrong

Too often systems are designed only within the context of company improvements like saving costs and streamlining processes. This may sound like good business practices, but it leaves out a vital component – the customer. The system design doesn’t consider what most important to the customer and what might be most convenient to them.

For example: A customer needs to update their address details and so they login to a company website. Only it’s not quick or simple like it’s supposed to be. The company requires verification of the address by uploading a scanned proof of address, but the customer doesn’t have such a document handy, nor a scanner. Or they have the document but when they try to upload it the system fails and times out telling them to try again. So much for the convenience of digitalization. Eventually the customer gives up and calls in to get the address changed.

If you are going to offer customer self-service through digitalization there are two golden rules: Keep it simple and easy to understand, and make sure it works! Don’t send customers on a wild goose chase, promising convenience (without having to pick up a phone and wait in a queue) only to have it backfire by not working properly.

What customers really want from digitalization:

Options – The Oracle report highlights that different age categories respond differently to digitalization. Younger generations aged 16-24 are more likely to engage in social media platforms and online self-service, while 45-54 year olds seem to prefer more traditional channels like the speaking to a customer service agent by phone. Unless the customer base is exclusively one age sector, which it rarely is, companies need to account for customer preferences and be able to offer different ways of interacting. Know your customers and what they want and incorporate this into your digital strategy.

Solutions – Customers and especially Millenials are becoming increasingly vocal about their demands for solutions. They expect the first person they deal with to be able to resolve their query, and when it doesn’t happen, they have a whole host of platforms available to voice their discontent. Thanks to social media it’s becoming more difficult for companies to hide bad customer experiences or deal with them privately and this can be very damaging to a brand. Consider how digitalization can enhance first call resolutions. Are there ways to integrate and link different communication methods so that when a problem needs to be escalated, at least the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves every step of the way.

Convenience – A primary perception is that digitalization will save time and money by offering customers quicker, easier and sometimes cheaper solutions. The only way that companies can achieve this is when they understand what is convenient from a customer point of view rather than just a company perspective. Perhaps customers only have time to log queries after hours when they are home from work. Are there systems in place where they can easily log a query and have it answered timeously? By considering and incorporating the customer experience into the systems design, it can help simplify what you’re trying to achieve.

Regardless what we think or how far down the road of digitalization we are in our business, one thing is for certain. Digitalization is transforming the customer experience. If companies want to keep ahead in terms of offering great customer service, then a digitalization strategy needs to be a part of that. The one thing that doesn’t change is a strong customer focus. Even with digitalization, it’s still all about the customer.

For a free Contact Centre e-book by Carolyn Blunt see http://bit.ly/theFREEebook

Carolyn is Managing Director of Real Results Training www.real-results.co.uk and co-author of ‘Delivering Effective Social Customer Service’. Tweet @carolynblunt or say ‘Hi’ on Linked In https://uk.linkedin.com/in/carolynblunt