The following is a guest blog written by Amit Shankardass, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Teleperformance. Learn more about Teleperformance by visiting their website.
Sometimes the world moves so quickly that it is difficult to see which changes and developments are really important. Progress just happens and we often forget how things used to happen, even in the recent past. How customers relate to brands is just one example of an area of business that is moving faster now more than ever, especially in terms of how the customer experience shapes how customers feel about brands and companies.
In order to predict the future, it’s impossible to just extrapolate from the past, but it’s possible to step back from the rapid change, to take stock and evaluate just what has changed. With a deeper understanding of what has changed the customer experience and why, it is easier to understand how customer interactions may change in the coming years.
The industry analyst Gartner recently published a research paper suggesting that 89% of the companies surveyed are now competing with the customer experience as a key differentiator. Managing the customer experience has become the single most important task for executive managers, now with a higher priority than other traditional areas of focus, such as reducing costs or increasing revenue.
Why has this happened?
The simple answer to this is that the way customers communicate has changed in a short period of time. Two specific innovations arguably made the largest impact on mobile Internet access: (1) launch of the Apple iPhone in 2007 and (2) rise in popularity of online social networks. Customers are now comfortable publishing their views on products and services for the consumption of friends, family members, and followers, and they have immediate access to prices, reviews, and the ability to make purchases 24/7.
How did this happen?
Customer service used to be the interface between companies and customers via specific channels. The company would define how and when a customer could get in touch with a company by publishing a 1-800 phone number or an email address. Companies would also have clear opening hours when service is available.
This service paradigm has been reversed because of the innovations already mentioned. Now customer comments and requests for help proliferate across many channels, with the channel chosen by the customer, not the company. Companies now seek forums in which customers discuss their products because customer expectations have changed dramatically. A company that does not respond to its online community is considered to be ignoring its customers.
What are the implications for the enterprise?
The implications to-date have largely revolved around the need to expand the service function to encompass many different communication channels, embracing blogs, review sites, and social networks in addition to voice, chat, and email. However, a great change to corporate strategy is emerging, driven by changing customer communication habits. It’s increasingly clear that companies need to place the customer at the heart of their strategy because of the evolution in the customer journey, and they need to know what that journey looks like today as well as in the future.
Regarding what companies should do now to prepare for the customer journey of tomorrow, Stephen Loynd, Global Program Director of Customer Contact for Frost & Sullivan said, “In today’s rapidly changing world, companies need to adapt to the rise of new channels. We’ve done research that looks at the rise and decline of channels taking place today and over the last couple of years. What we see is that while e-mail and IVR are on the decline, channels such as chat, mobile apps, social media, video, and web self-service portals are all on the rise. Clearly, companies need to be thinking about how they’re going to adapt to this new world and what partners can help them with the journey.”
Customers expect that they can communicate and interact with their favorite companies and brands before, during, or after a purchase, or their interactions may have nothing to do with a purchase. Customers are building relationships with companies, no longer simply making service calls. This new type of customer relationship calls for organizations to rethink their interaction strategies. Any department that interacts with customers should ideally be a part of a single “customer relationship management team” to coordinate previously distinct functions such as marketing, sales, public relations, advertising, and customer service.
What started as a change in channel preferences, has led to a situation in which most companies will need to reorganize how they conduct business if they want to deliver a customer experience that meets expectations. Are you already planning how to make your business more customer-centric, and if not, can you continue to deliver services in a way that your customers expect in 2016?
This article is based on content from the Teleperformance ebook “Outsourcing Up!” published earlier this year. To read more about the book and to download your free copy, please click here: http://tinyurl.com/outsourcing-up.
To hear more about this topic and others like it, and for more information about Teleperformance, join us at Customer Response Summit Austin (Sept. 18-20, 2016).