How will consumers interact with brands in the near future? What channels will they use and what sort of experience are they looking for? A new report, ‘The coming era of on-demand marketing’, from consultants McKinsey aims to shed light on these questions and to help companies prepare themselves for this changing world.
Essentially McKinsey believes that emerging technologies will mean that consumers demand a radically different, personalised experience from companies. Sensors in devices, the Internet of Things, the rise of Big Data and the ubiquity of smartphones will accelerate the current shift in the balance between consumers and brands, adding a physical dimension to previously virtual transactions.
And customers will want this experience in real time and almost everywhere. In this on-demand world, consumers will judge brands by their ability to deliver heightened experiences, which McKinsey define as interactions that offer high levels of value and are radically customised and easy to access, across the entire customer decision journey.
Driven by ubiquitous search, social media and mobile devices consumer demand will rise in four key areas:
- Now: people want to interact anywhere at any time
- Can I: they want to do truly new things based on the information companies hold on them
- For me: they expect data to be used to deliver a personalised experience, based on their needs
- Simply: They will expect all interactions to be easy
So what can companies do to prepare for this future? Based in a combination of the McKinsey report and Eptica’s own experience there are five key areas to focus on:
1 Work together
Bring together teams across disciplines and departments to meet customer needs. The rise of social media has shown that the customer journey is not the responsibility of a single department – everyone will need to work together to meet customer needs moving forward.
2 Embrace the physical world
Cheaper, smaller sensors and advances such as QR codes mean that consumers can now interact with the world around them as part of the experience. For example, smartphones can be used to tap and pay for coffee or travel. Look at how you can make the experience better using these emerging technologies.
3 Use data to personalise the experience
Consumers are leaving ever deepening digital footprints, leading to potential concerns on privacy. However McKinsey’s research found that customers are willing to provide more data as long as it is used to improve the experience by personalising it.
4 Make it simple
Smartphones and tablets have radically changed how we interact with technology with touch and speech-based inputs increasingly replacing keyboard and mouse. While you cannot replace every interaction with touch, ensure you make it simple to navigate along the customer journey, removing roadblocks from the path.
5 Be omnichannel
As McKinsey pointed out, companies have embraced multiple channels but not necessarily linked them together. This leads to an uneven experience that infuriates customers who want to contact you on their channel of choice, rather than being forced to change their behaviour to fit your structure. At a basic level link your customer service and CRM systems so that you can identify consumers and their preferences however they contact you.
The customer experience is crucial to business competitiveness now and in the future. Companies therefore need to put it at the centre of their plans in order to succeed going forward.
From the start the aim has been to provide updates and opinions on the customer service market, highlight best practice and show how customer needs are changing. And the market has definitely been transformed. We’ve moved from multichannel to omnichannel and new (at the time) technologies such as mobile and social media have matured to be central to the customer experience offered by every organisation.
The good news is that how companies interact with their customers has never been more important – businesses recognise that good service delivers increased sales and greater loyalty.
Since April 2011 we’ve had an incredible 31,120 views of our 195 blog posts. This means more people have viewed the blog than the population of Monaco! On a monthly basis the average is 1,200 views, a figure which is still growing. And while the UK makes up 36% of the readership, we’ve had visitors from 148 countries around the world. 15% of views come from the US, 5% India and 4.5% France.
We’ve looked through our archives and put together a list of the top 5 blog posts from the past two years:
1 Email customer service – why does it have to be so hard?
Research from the 2011 Eptica UK Multichannel Customer Service Study found that the UK’s top 100 companies were failing to deliver adequate service on the email channel. Unfortunately when we repeated the research in 2012, we found that email service had further deteriorated.
2 The key trends for customer service 2012
Based on presentations from the Eptica International Customer Summit, this post looked at the consumer and company customer service trends for 2012. Take a look through the post – the majority of the points are equally valid today for organisations looking to offer an excellent customer experience.
3 The cost of customer service failure
Fail to answer a customer’s question on one channel and they will either move to a competitor – or migrate to a more expensive channel. The result? Higher costs and angry customers. Recent research from Forrester backs up this post – 60% of customers switched from the web to the email or phone channels if they couldn’t find an answer to their question online, while 17% went to a competitor.
4 AirAsia mobile customer service app is a bestseller
With over 50% of the population now owning a smartphone, mobile is front of mind for customer experience teams. Leading low cost airline AirAsia has pioneered mobile customer service with an Apple iPhone app that relies on that same Eptica knowledgebase as other channels to provide customers with a consistent, accurate response to their queries.
5 Who should run social customer service?
Customers increasingly want to use social media to interact with businesses. With potentially thousands of customer interactions on networks such as Twitter and Facebook, which department within a company should be in charge of social customer service? The blog looks at different approaches and comes up with some recommendations for keeping customers happy.
As always, do let us have your feedback – what’s been your favourite post and why?
Guest post by Dominic Tavassoli, VP Product Management, Eptica
Picture the scene: you wake up one morning to find that your lovingly crafted company Facebook page is covered – horrors – in questions. Not the sort you wanted, such as “I love your brand, where can I buy more stuff?” but actual customer service questions and complaints! What do you do? Try to answer them yourself? Call support? Delete the complaint… and suffer a backlash ten times worse? Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned…
This sort of nightmare scene will become increasingly frequent as customers of B2C but also B2B companies realise they can get much prompter service by posting a public rant via social media than sitting on the phone for “the next customer service agent” or waiting 24 hours (or more) for an email answer.
Companies and organisations need to address this situation before their brand image suffers. Every unanswered technical question is a stone in their garden, the voice of every unhappy customer now heard by hundreds, thousands of prospects, and marketing doesn’t have an unlimited budget to compensate with brand awareness activities. Your marketing database will obviously also quickly become useless if you can’t stop losing customers to bad service.
Your users expect fast, high quality answers whichever channel they use. From our experience, there are three ways marketers can team up with customer service to enhance the customer experience and safeguard their brand image.
- Implement a true multichannel Web Customer Service solution, so that all social media and Web questions and complaints immediately get routed to the support team for fast expert resolution. This will ensure your Facebook page and Twitter feed demonstrate your commitment to every customers success.
- Add a Self-Service Knowledgebase to your Web site home page, so your customers don’t need to look far for the answers they seek and never need to take their complaints public. This is a true win-win as the knowledgebase, automatically displaying the latest hot topics and tips, will drive those elusive repeat visits to your Web site
- Keep an eye on the Customer Service reporting and analytics, so you can proactively address latent pain points and budding issues with marketing tactics such as webcasts, white papers, and agenda items for your next event… or even a blog post.
Customers increasingly want to interact with companies through social media. Whether that’s getting their issues sorted quickly, asking basic questions or sharing their experiences of good or bad service/products, for many social media is now the channel of choice. Speed and ease of use are some of the factors driving this – our own 2012 Eptica Social Customer Service Study showed that 26% of UK consumers complain more now they can use social media. Nearly a quarter (22%) believed social media meant their queries would be dealt with more quickly, even though in many instances this wasn’t proved to be the case.
So social customer service is something that every organisation, large or small, needs to consider. Most people agree on this. Which brings the next question – who should run customer service on social media?
This is where companies and approaches begin to diverge. Essentially there are three groups running social customer service in different companies – marketing, customer service teams and customers themselves.
Marketing and PR teams were early adopters of social media, recognising the ability the channel has to connect with customers. Consequently by default in many companies they’ve become responsible for social customer service. However they simply don’t have the skills and training to answer customer service queries – particularly as volumes of enquiries increase. The risk is that inconsistent information is given out through this silo-based approach – and of course marketing staff are prevented from doing their real jobs as they are too busy answering customer queries.
Customer service teams
It seems obvious that social customer service should be the responsibility of existing customer service departments. This means companies can provide an integrated, consistent approach across channels – a key metric for customers according to Forrester. But to deliver this customer service teams need new tools and training to ensure they can monitor social media, liaise with marketing to avoid duplication and integrate the likes of Twitter and Facebook into their everyday operations.
Some companies essentially see social media as the chance to outsource service to the customer community. Let consumers help each other and there is no need for organisations themselves to get involved, saving time and money. While in the case of many technical products early adopting customers are happy to help each other, but through this approach companies lose control of the whole customer relationship as well as missing out on the chance to learn from the queries they receive. If no-one helps solve a customer problem the company itself will ultimately get the blame – and potentially lose future sales, making it a false economy.
A lot of the debates/battles on who owns social customer service have taken place internally within companies. However the Eptica study found an overwhelming consumer preference to talk to customer service teams. 68% of UK respondents, and 61% of those in France said that customer service departments should be responsible for social customer service. Only 13% of Britons (and 14% of the French) wanted queries to be answered by marketing. Indeed in both countries more people (25% in France, 19% in the UK) thought the wider social media community should answer queries and complaints, instead of marketing.
Social media is too big and has too many customer touchpoints to be left to just one department. But it is clear that customers want their service queries and complaints to be dealt with those best positioned to solve their problems – and that’s the customer service department.
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