The following is a guest blog written by Richard Shapiro, Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR). To learn more about their solutions visit their website at http://tcfcr.com/.
The most successful weapon to fight customer attrition is creating a personalized customer experience that is unique to your business and the individual customer. According to Accenture, the “Switching Economy” is up 29 percent since 2010 as companies struggle to keep up with the non-stop customer. Does the loyal customer still exist? The answer is yes. Companies with a customer centric culture coupled with a customer experience strategy can create loyalty. Loyalty in turn advances a higher percentage of repeat customers.
The Customer Experience trends for 2016 are:
1 – Self-Serve Help Will Be The First Choice
Consumers choose to find answers to their questions using an assortment of self-serve options. For 2016, companies should ensure their FAQ’s are completely up-to-date, featured prominently on their website and listed as a menu option on the IVR. Customer service associates are primarily answering questions based on data provided in a company reference guide; sharing the same information with consumers will help them find answers faster.
2 – Reliance on Community Forums
Companies and consumers are relying on community forums to find fixes. Super users frequently have more experience and insight than agents on the nuances of specific products and services. Companies have come to embrace third party experts as an expansion of their service offerings and in 2016 customers will rely on community forums more than ever. These forums will help support the trend towards self-serve.
3 – Consumers Find Social Media Posts Get Speedy Responses
Consumers have learned their issues are resolved almost instantaneously when they post complaints on social media. Why should consumers take the time to send an email voicing their frustrations when a response may take a week to receive? The good news for the consumer; they have the company’s attention. The bad news is the world now has a record of a quality defect or poor service delivery.
4 – Multi-Channel Servicing Will Continue To Increase
The 80’s were a simpler time with two primary channels of communication: face-to-face and phone. Now, companies must respond to and keep track of email, chat, text, apps, etc. Consumers are not only using multi-channels to communicate, they are vaulting from one to the other making it difficult, almost impossible, to monitor and serve consumers. It’s an especially laborious when company budgets remain tight and the cost for technology increases exponentially. However, technology now exists to get a snapshot of a customer’s channel history and companies must invest in order to avoid customer frustration. Customers do not like to repeatedly explain their issue and recount a chain of events.
5 – Predictive and Personalized Technology Is Required For A Good Customer Experience
Technology to enhance the customer experience is not sufficient unless it is predictive and personalized. Consumers are pleased when they call a company for an order status and the company’s systems recognize who is calling and can anticipate their inquiry. However, erase the mindset that using technology to force self-serve is a positive outcome. Employing technology to make the customer experience easier and faster will become the new norm. Smart technology saves time and enhances the journey.
6 – Voice Recognition Is On The Rise
Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and Apple’s Siri rely on voice commands. Speech technology has come far and is continually being perfected. Typing your search query into a browser will become passé; asking for information and seeking advice through the spoken word will become the norm. This trend coupled with the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence will make companies want to invest more in these technologies.
7- Wearable Technology is Not Just Costume Jewelry
Wearable technology will allow retailers to provide a level of service specific to individual consumers. While there are tremendous privacy concerns, consumers will eventually regard this technology as must have and not an invasion. Wearables will also allow a company to recognize loyal customers and reward them with incentives based on their buying preferences, gender or age. Emotions can be detected through bio chemical feedback. How a company responds using the data will determine if there is a positive impact on the relationship between the customer and the brand.
8- Video Chat For Pre-Sales Support Will Increase
While the use of chat was one of the major trends for 2015, video chat, especially for pre-sales support, will increase. A picture is worth a 1000 words. When video was first developed, its primary purpose was to help create a more personalized experience. Now, videos of common fixes or cool features will not only provide a better customer experience but increase sales by higher close ratios.
9 – Apps for All
More companies will invest in customized apps for their business. The app will make it easier to track consumer purchases and channel activity. The app will also be used to promote new product offerings or incentives to loyal consumers. As reported by Brett Relander in his Marketing Trends for 2016, he highlights Krispy Kreme and their Red Light App notifying customers where hot donuts right out of the oven are located. Companies will have to keep the information up to date and fresh, incorporating innovative and engaging features to keep savvy customers interested.
10- Even Faster is the Latest Innovation in Customer Response
Now Walmart is experimenting with drones. What would Sam Walton think? We live in the age of the instant economy where speed is a differentiator. However, consumers will no longer just rate the company based on product delivery turnaround time but want to do business with companies who also have speedy turnaround time to resolve issues and answer questions. Answering emails 24 hours later is literally yesterday’s news.
11 – Incorporating Social Responsibility is Part of the New Norm Business Model
Millennials lead the generation pack with their desire to buy from companies who are socially responsible. TOMS sells shoes and their mission is “One for one, a belief that getting and giving can be one.” They walk the talk by donating one shoe for every shoe that’s purchased. They call their loyal customers fans and encourage them to incorporate TOMS into their worlds. The business model core is giving. They don’t have their corporate philanthropy in the back office. It’s front and center.
12 – Protecting Customer Information is Paramount
Consumers expect their data to be secure. Companies who fail to protect consumer data have lost significant revenue in the short term and loyalty long term. It’s not only frightening for consumer information to be comprised, it’s a hassle to obtain replacement cards and change automatic recurring charges. Some large U.S. retailers are stepping up efforts to use personal identification numbers or PINS and new credit cards are embedded with computer chips to reduce counterfeit card fraud. But the banks are resisting change and don’t want to invest in the new technology. More than 80 countries around the world use chip technology but the U.S is lagging behind. Less than one percent of credit cards issued in the U.S. have chips.
13- The Entire Household Is Included In The Customer Service Family
Verizon Wireless, Amazon Prime and Netflix understand the value of marketing to the entire household and are building data based on the individual members of their Family Plans. The model provides seamless service for everyone involved and makes it easy to hand the baton from one generation to the next. Marketing to households is now; extending customer service to family members based on their unique preferences will be the norm.
14 – Customers Demand an Authentic Response
Companies have finally learned that social media is just another channel of consumer communication. When social media gained its foothold, companies were in semi-panic mode and hired experts to monitor and respond to posts. Fast forward, companies are taking back responsibility to respond to their consumers and employing their own agents. Consumers are not looking for “corporate speak” but friendly and personal dialogs. Representatives are being encouraged to evaluate the characteristics of posts and respond in the same tone and messaging.
15 – The Leveraging of Human Emotions
There are new technologies emerging everyday. But keep in mind that customers are people first and customers second. Perhaps now more than ever, it is vital to listen to a customer and understand his or her underlying emotion, being tuned in not only to words but what is behind them. No one walks into a store, clicks on a site or calls a contact center unless they are “hoping” for something. Yes, everyone wants a pilot to be experienced and technically competent to fly the plane but when he or she welcomes passengers, assures that the flight will be smooth and on time, the stage is set for a good experience. People feel comfortable, relaxed and hopeful for a good flight. Extend that analogy to the marketplace. Technology will always be in flux, but emotions remain a constant. Those companies that can incorporate the human component into their service design will be more successful.
16 – The New Era of The Endangered Customer
The second decade of the 21st century is witnessing a convergence of forces moving customer loyalty to the edge of extinction. There has never been more competition. Customers are empowered by increasing control over the retail process, as the digital, global marketplace delivers ever greater choice and saves them time, money, and hassle. Consumers are enticed by third-party resellers like Amazon and Google. Start-ups such as Uber did not exist before 2009 and the company is now worth over $50 billion. The smart phone provides our communication and entertainment and is the vehicle for competitive marketers to reach out and touch your customers anytime, anyplace. The challenge for companies and brands across all service categories and channels today, from ecommerce, contact centers and brick-and-mortar, is to engender loyalty – but the loyal customer is an endangered species.
It’s almost Turkey time, the Christmas season, and beginning of a new year. Have your teams huddle around the white boards and brainstorm about how prepared they are for the latest trends. Creating the quintessential customer experience is the differentiator between your company and your competitor. Remember that understanding how the customer feels is just as important as what they are saying.