Today’s digital world offers consumers more methods of communication than ever before. Driven by millennials and generation Z, the likes of text, messaging apps and other forms of social media are reshaping the way people maintain interpersonal relationships and communicate with their friends and family around the world.
This ever-growing reliance on technology in our personal lives is also impacting consumer-to-brand communication. For example, a digital-first preference and the ability to jump between multiple different channels – a natural part of personal communication – is now being applied to businesses as well.
Along with the traditional phone method, customers today can tweet, email, chat online or communicate via Facebook Messenger if they have a question or complaint. And the preference for these channels is increasing. Ninety percent of Gen Z and 84% of millennials use digital channels as their communication method of choice, with only 10% and 16%, respectively, preferring voice.
Digital-first, always-on communication is something consumers now demand. This is especially true amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, where tensions are high and interaction volumes have increased sharply. According to data collected by NICE inContact 78% of UK contact centres have reported an increased interaction volume of all types, with 51% reporting an increase in digital interactions.
That’s why it is now critical for businesses to embrace the convenient, efficient and human nature of person-to-person conversations. By doing so, they will build more effective brand connections during this crisis and drive customer loyalty for the future.
Brands today have no choice but to overtake consumer communication expectations. The problem many face is that they often lag behind consumer trends. Digital channels offer unique value to both consumer and company, yet many brands have failed to connect the digital channels that their customers live in.
Being able to provide an omnichannel experience – one that supports multiple traditional and digital channels that enables movement seamlessly between them while maintaining context of the interaction – is now a key business differentiator. However, according to the 2019 Dimension Data CX Benchmarking survey, only 8% of companies have all channels connected, while a full omnichannel strategy is a reality for just 7% of businesses.
What’s more, the NICE InContact 2019 CX Benchmark survey found that less than a quarter (24%) of business globally give themselves an ‘excellent’ rating on allowing customers to switch seamlessly between different channels.
Businesses have to transform their customer communication. The flexible nature of cloud platforms allows for rapid adoption of new channels and a more seamless flow of data between channels, so everything can work together cohesively. Cloud platforms give customers a greater voice in indicating where their preferences are, enabling brands to scale certain channels up and down as needed. It also empowers agents to be more effective as they work remotely.
Providing the digital-first seamless omnichannel experiences that customers expect isn’t about winning the race to capture the greatest share of consumers within each digital channel; it’s about offering each the option to use what they do in their everyday lives and improving the customer experience. Without the cloud and the flexibility it brings to add new digital channels quickly, businesses cannot effectively connect with customers how and where they want to connect. As a result, businesses will struggle to retain customers because they’ll switch to a company that uses their preferred channels.
Speak their language
With a cloud infrastructure in place, businesses can start to add a personal touch. In the age of digital communication, there’s an end-to-end spectrum of how individuals engage that spans generations.
For example, according to our company’s study, nearly 60% of Gen Zers and millennials have contacted customer service departments via private social messaging. But this figure drops down to 38% of Gen Xers, 19% of baby boomers and 16% of members of the silent generation.
Due to this diverse range of consumer preferences, it’s important to match the right people together, both internally and externally. Factors such as demographics, location, age, and digital-sets all provide a unique variable that could potentially make or break a brand perception. Rather than force customers into a channel that might not come naturally to them, brands must focus on offering broad support and adjust over time as consumer preferences change.
For example, by offering a diverse array of social channels (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) – and allowing people to easily move between them – customers can opt for their specific preferences. This will allow for more seamless interactions, while increasing customer satisfaction.
Furthermore, businesses can use artificial intelligence (AI) to help agents understand the context behind interactions. Although this is easy to manage on a one-to-one basis, it’s much harder for businesses that are fielding 100,000 calls a week and countless more digital interactions across channels – such as in the current environment.
AI can bridge this gap by providing critical context for agents and enabling them to personalise responses while navigating across different channels. This provides a much more scalable approach to human experiences, helping agents understand sentiment and nuanced communication preferences that could make all the difference when responding to customers.
Elevating the customer experience
Ultimately, COVID-19 has forced us to rely on brands and customer service teams more than ever. It’s therefore critical for businesses to speak the same language as their customers in order to deliver real-life interpersonal relationships at scale. The most successful organisations will be the ones that are digital-first, can track customers as they move between different channels, and have the insight to provide personalised experiences tailored to unique preferences and communication styles.
Businesses must connect with customers in the digital world that they live in and offer them engagement on their terms. Those that are able to successfully deliver a digital-first, yet personal, service will be the ones that elevate the customer experience through meaningful engagements – powering customer loyalty for the months and years to come.