Driving customer loyalty in a digital world

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Today’s customers are more empowered than ever. Forty-one million people in the UK own smartphones, and 70 percent of consumers freely admit that this rise in technology has made it easier for them to take their business elsewhere when expectations are not met. And companies are responding by innovating faster than ever. By 2020, it is estimated that 85 percent of customer interactions will be powered by chatbots, and companies are opening up additional self-service channels so customers can quickly and easily get the help they need. Whilst technical innovation is vital for businesses to maintain a competitive edge, are organisations implementing new technologies so quickly that they do not understand the potential impact on the customer experience? The answer may be surprising.

A new survey titled “Are you Listening? The Truth About What Consumers Want in a Digital World,” revealed some extraordinary findings about what motivates customer behaviour as companies race to adopt new technologies. So what do customers really want? First, they want a great product. But that product must be backed by stellar, personalised service. In the race to innovate and adopt new solutions, human workers will be more important than ever, and a successful customer experience will balance the convenience of technology with the personalisation of the human touch.   

But first, product

It is no secret that the customer experience is critical to building brand loyalty and some customers will pay up to 16 percent more for a better service. However, experience alone will not drive loyalty because customers still want to get value for their money. Having an exceptional product is still the number one way to influence purchasing decisions and keep customers coming back: 61 percent of survey respondents said a great product or service is the best way to earn their loyalty, while 58 percent are driven to complain if a product or service was not what they expected.   

With mobile devices in the palms of their hands and sky-high expectations, consumers can easily research and comparison shop to get exactly what they need. Shoppers routinely peruse aisles while viewing similar products on their smartphones, and many consumers consult product or service reviews on top of that. No matter the service, a shoddy product will never earn loyalty, so companies must lay the right product groundwork before deploying experience-enhancing technology. 

Human versus machine 

While chatbots and other automated solutions may make it easier for companies to handle an influx of inbound questions or issues, companies cannot rely on technology alone. And that’s because technology can’t replace human nature. Human nature is how people think, feel and act. To build loyalty, organisations have to cater to all three. Why? Because customers want to build an emotional connection, and building that connection starts with customers feeling heard: 74 percent of customers are more loyal to a company if they can speak to someone, and 31 percent are driven to complain if they feel like they’re not being heard. 

When customers don’t feel listened to, it can have dire consequences. Fifty-four percent of customers do not trust that their issue will be addressed if there’s no option to speak to a live person. On the other hand, 60 percent feel their voices are heard when they speak to a human. As companies continue to deploy automation technologies, those solutions cannot become roadblocks that prevent customers from talking to people. In fact, they must be the opposite. To capture the emotional side of human nature, all roads must lead to people, and technology should be implemented in a way that makes it easier than ever for a customer to speak with a representative. Not only will customers be happier and more engaged, companies will have a direct line into customer wants and needs.

The balancing act

So how can businesses find the right balance of technology and the human touch to understand the true voice of the customer? It’s about deploying technology with a purpose and doing so with the customer in mind. Customers are certainly open to innovation, and 76 percent think technology helps create a good customer experience. However, they don’t care unless they see the benefit: 48 percent of respondents only think innovation is important if it improves customer service. And employees are also on board: 41 percent of contact centre agents agree that new technology implementations will mean that humans will have fewer administrative and routine tasks. Both customers and employees know that technology can be a powerful tool, but there must be tangible benefits for all parties.   

To be successful in a digital world, organisations must map the complete customer journey and implement solutions that support the path customers want to take, all while alleviating manual burdens from human employees. With the help of speech analytics and quality assurance methods that support self-service options, businesses can derive insights that paint a complete picture of customer behavior. When they understand customer wants and needs, they can create a technology strategy that gives customers easy access to self-service channels and human representatives when they need a personal touch. 

As more digital solutions become available, companies must exercise discernment when deploying new systems. Technology can certainly enrich the customer experience and make it easier for customers to get the answers they want, but it will never be a substitute for human representatives. The agents in the contact centre have the power to appeal to human emotions, which ultimately build valuable connections with customers that turn into long-term loyalty. When technology is used to remove mundane tasks and instead empower agents with information, customers have access to a team of representatives who can create the personalized experience they crave. 

When tailored service is coupled with a great product, companies can gain a competitive edge. With the help of robust technology that is deployed with human connections in mind, organisations can find success—and happy customers—in a digital world. 

Kris McKenzie, Senior Vice President and General Manager for EMEA at Calabrio 

Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock