As we enter 2023, it’s never been clearer that we are living in a world created by a global pandemic. It upended how organizations operate and then accelerated how businesses responded to years of evolving customer behaviors.
What we’re seeing already – and will see more of in 2023 – are no longer reactive operational changes but tailor-made, organized approaches that champion total transformation. In fact, a recent white paper by Webhelp and Frost & Sullivan looked at why game-changing customer journeys are more important than ever as we shift into the next transitional stage.
As the customer experience (CX) world settles into its new routine, today’s transformational shifts aim to simplify and enhance the “new” customer journey, make service and support systems more effective, and create efficient processes for a now-cemented remote and hybrid workforce. And, most critically, support greater brand awareness and loyalty.
These advancements are being made possible by combining the best of modern technology, human knowledge, and recent experience. All of these elements are centered around the omnichannel experience – both the customer and the CX advisor (contact center agent) experience.
We live in a world of immediacy, and if brands can’t promise efficiency, people will find a different brand that can.
Let’s take a look at how digital transformation – creating the omnichannel experience – can help create and retain customer loyalty.
What Factors Are Driving Behavioral Change?
Several factors are driving the expansion of CX channels, impacting customer service dynamics and contributing to the shifts we’re seeing in the way brands operate today.
- COVID-19. According to Gartner, more than 40% of customer service and support leaders experienced increased service contact volumes due to the pandemic.
- The pandemic was a forcing function that changed the channels consumers used and how they attempted to communicate with the brands they love. Many of those shifts are here to stay. So, making sure these channels are optimized is a high priority.
- Advancements in technology. Consumer habits have changed drastically, not just because of the pandemic but because new technologies and platforms have introduced convenience and ease of use.
- Take shopping from smartphones for example – a PwC survey found that 41% of respondents shop daily or weekly via mobile or smartphone now, compared to only 12% five years ago.
- There’s also a generational difference that brands need to account for. Millennials and Gen Zers grew up as digital natives, and now 97% of Gen Z consumers are using social media as their top source of shopping inspiration.
- Consumer expectations. Even though human connection with advisors adds value to customer interactions, today consumers expect everything to move faster because it can, and because we’re better accustomed to a fast-paced world.
- Nobody wants to spend ages on the phone, going through different prompts, only to get an advisor 15 minutes later and repeat the same information. Not when artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled chatbots and direct messaging are available on web and social platforms allowing customers to share information and get answers quickly.
- We live in a world of immediacy, and if brands can’t promise efficiency, people will find a different brand that can.
What Changing Channel Considerations Mean for Business?
Omnichannel isn’t new but adoption was mostly gradual until 2020 when suddenly, in-person channels were unavailable, and the secondary phone channel for support and service sometimes experienced catastrophic failure.
In consumer commerce alone, a McKinsey report shows that 60% to 70% of retail consumers shifted to leveraging both in-store and online buying channels. Similarly, McKinsey reports that 46% of consumers tried telehealth in 2020 compared to only 11% in 2019.
Other industries like travel and hospitality, financial services, and others saw significant adoption of digital support and service channels as consumers scrambled to connect with brands.
New Demands on Employees
All these changes created a rolling impact on the CX community as companies worked to meet consumer demand for omnichannel engagement.
But creating an omnichannel experience doesn’t just change the way customers interact with a brand. It has great implications for those working in CX and contact centers as well — most of which no longer look like a room full of workstations but instead are skilled advisors working from at-home offices.
With the increase in channels customers are using to connect with brands, from traditional methods like phone calls and emails to more modern options like voice assistants and augmented reality services, companies need to ensure that advisors are correctly matched with the appropriate channels. They must also be well trained and have the resources required to optimize CX across any channel.
Having skilled employees managing diversified channels is now the standard for brands, not just a hoped-for consumer expectation. That means finding and hiring multi-talented CX agents who are adept working across phone, video, email, chat, social media, and in-person.
New Demands on Business Leaders
Many considerations need to go into activating new channels, from verifying and personalizing content to managing different options for user engagement, or even coordinating with potential influencers—the list goes on and is unique for every channel. In short, the complexity for teams tasked with providing engaging CX is mounting.
…it is relationships and the experience that matter most now.
Luckily, CX leaders have taken note of this, with 98% of customer service executives planning to redesign or transform their contact center operations within the next 24 months.
The days of tracking average speed of answer and call time are waning – it is relationships and the experience that matter most now.
Companies are less concerned with the format of a hybrid or remote operation and more focused on deploying the right people, tools, and technologies that can adapt, scale, and flex to support the workforce and adapt to customer needs and behaviors.
New Demands on Operations
As brands strive to meet and exceed customer expectations by offering more channels and increasingly unique interactions, they also need to navigate accompanying operational challenges. This includes effectively managing each channel, integrating disparate channels and systems to do so, and ensuring that the workforce is set up for success and able to adjust to the modern contact center.
It’s a tall order—but companies that are being planful and open-minded are finding success.
Advisors also need to account for the nuances and requirements of each channel…
As part of the redesign and transformation process, leaders are looking to provide advisors with technology that creates efficiencies and makes it easier to solve problems quickly, no matter the channel or where they’re providing that service from.
The right tools can introduce greater flexibility for advisors, empowering them to move quickly and without complexity across channels, and making it easier to capture and share valuable insights from every customer interaction, no matter the channel.
Advisors also need to account for the nuances and requirements of each channel, as interactions look and feel different if an advisor is on the phone versus responding to emails or engaging on social media.
What’s the Prize?
There’s a simple rule that has remained constant over time: people will remain loyal to a brand when the customer service is of high quality, they feel like the brand respects their time and acknowledges their value.
The brands that were able to navigate this complexity at the onset of the pandemic and provide a unified experience across channels naturally stood out, retained customers and pulled in new ones.
Now, the focus has shifted to managing and improving the omnichannel experience, ensuring that the overall approach and channels offered evolve as the company evolves—and that this approach not only benefits customers but has a positive impact on the advisor workforce as well.
How to Join It up across Channels for 360-Degree Customer View
With the right tools applied to different areas of the customer and advisor journeys, brands can streamline the entire end-to-end experience and create synergies across channels that help achieve the dream of enabling a 360-degree view of the customer.
- Empower advisors with the right technology. Many technologies can be used within the contact center to make the advisor’s job easier and more rewarding. From reducing repetitive tasks to automation and voice analytics, AI-driven tools can reduce stress, provide feedback, and free up advisor time to focus on problem-solving.
- Understand customer behaviors. Analysis of customer behaviors and data can shed light on what customers need at any given moment and how advisors can better personalize the CX, while still ensuring and respecting customers’ privacy. It can also help inform staffing needs and training to create stronger advisors.
- Be where the customers are. Today’s customers are engaging on TikTok, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, among other channels. Live conversations via asynchronous messaging tools are the new phones. Brands should consider their audiences and focus on new digital channels and in-app services where appropriate.
- Let advisors work from anywhere. Cloud and SaaS frameworks were critical for moving workforces remotely during the pandemic.
- Brands are now building on this infrastructure to support secure distributed networks of fully remote teams that can access the same resources and tools from the office or home. They can leverage online scheduling tools, training courses, and other resources that create an empowered advisor environment.
The pandemic undoubtedly initiated shifts for those in the CX world, ultimately creating an exciting path forward for organizations today as they set their sights on drastically transforming and embracing a CX-driven omnichannel approach. One that benefits the brand, the workforce, and the customer.