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How businesses can get ahead in our era of digital engagement

digital business
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

When the pandemic struck last year, it changed the business landscape forever. One area that needed to transform almost overnight was the way that businesses connect with their customers. As offices, shops and branches closed; all interactions became digital, propelling organizations across every sector to rethink their customer experience strategies like never before.  

With the remaining restrictions now lifting and the world starting to open back up, not everything is set to go back to the way it was. After a year of successful digital interaction, many consumers are unwilling to return to the more archaic days of face-to-face visits. Why would they, when they can buy goods, resolve issues and access services all from the comfort of their own homes?  

In fact, consumer comfort, trust and preference for the use of modern technologies to engage with brands is at an all-time high. According to recent research from Nuance, over half (55 percent) of UK adults believe they will interact with brands more through digital channels than face-to-face post-pandemic. There is no doubt we are entering a new era in the business-customer relationship. organizations across all sectors need to act now in order to ensure that they are able to capitalize on this sudden but lasting shift in consumer behavior and preferences.

A shift in priorities 

Whether it was for work, entertainment, shopping or even just communication, individuals around the world found themselves relying on digital technologies more than ever last year. The need to socially distance in order to protect the most vulnerable and limit the spread of the virus drove a never-before-seen surge in time spent online. In fact, according to Ofcom, UK adults spent an average of three hours and 47 minutes online each day. When you take into account that the report noted that roughly one in 10 people in lower socio-economic households as well as one in five over 64s do not actually have internet access, this figure is even more striking.  

Whilst some individuals initially struggled with the shift towards online communication, others thrived. In fact, Nuance discovered that over half of UK consumers (51 percent) would now actually choose to use apps or visit a brand’s website, rather than going into a physical branch to complete tasks such as shopping and banking. And it’s no wonder; the last 12 months of online interaction have had some unexpected benefits.  

For many consumers, the ability to access services by simply picking up a mobile phone or turning on a laptop has made the process a lot less time-consuming. There is no longer any need to travel and physically queue to enter a store or branch. Instead, the information they require or a resolution to their problem is just a click away. To add to this, according to Nuance’s study the majority of interactions over the past 12 months have been positive, with 58 percent of UK consumers rating the services they’ve access online as good or excellent.  

These positive interactions - and the convenience and speed that they have delivered for consumers - have set a new bar and, in many cases, there will be no going back. With an ever-growing consumer preference for online interaction, businesses must develop new strategies for delivering consistently efficient and effective digital experiences. However, in order for these strategies to be truly successful, there is one vital component that brands cannot afford to forget about.

Bringing the human touch to a digital world   

Despite many of today’s post-pandemic consumers preferring to communicate with brands online, we cannot disregard the importance of the ‘human touch’ when it comes to customer experience. As individuals, when we have a problem or even just a question, we all want to feel as if there is somebody listening to and helping us. During face-to-face interactions this is a given. However, when the interaction becomes digital it can be very easy to feel as if you are on your own. The challenge for all organizations moving forward will be maintaining personalized services and providing a frictionless, human-like interaction whether a customer chooses to communicate in-person or online. 

This is where modern technologies, such as biometric solutions, come in. For example, voice biometrics can use sophisticated algorithms to analyze more than 1,000 voice characteristics – from pronunciation, to size and shape of the nasal passage – to authenticate a user. Meanwhile, behavioral biometrics can measure the most minute details – such as how an individual holds their phone, how they type and even whether they pause once they finish a task. Both technologies can be used to validate whether someone is who they say they are immediately based on how they sound. This means that any interaction can be personalized from the offset, enabling individuals to feel as though they are a priority and are being understood. 

Often, those calling with an inquiry are either concerned or frustrated. The last thing they need is another barrier getting in the way of them accessing the right support quickly. By enabling almost real-time authentication, voice technologies are making customer interactions as seamless and convenient as possible. They are also becoming more trusted; with 45 percent of UK consumers feeling more comfortable using biometrics to authenticate themselves when accessing their accounts than they were before the pandemic.  

The best part is that biometric technologies are boosting the customer experience, without compromising on security. Customers don’t need to remember something specific and worry about that information being stolen. There is no longer even a need to be authenticated using a specific passphrase such as ‘my voice is my password’. Instead, biometric technologies are enabling organizations to validate a person’s identity through natural utterances. For customer experience, this has opened up a new door, championing convenience for the caller whilst protecting them from fraudsters. 

Over the last 18 months, organizations in every sector have been forced to reimagine the way that they interact with their customers and deliver their services. With the consumer preference for digital-only likely to grow, businesses must act now to get ahead of the curve and adopt the strategies that will set them up for future success. Modern technologies - such as biometrics - will play an increasingly important role in enabling organizations to deliver more convenient and personalized digital customer experiences than ever before.

Seb Reeve, Intelligent Engagement Market Development, Nuance Communications

Seb Reeve, Intelligent Engagement Market Development at Nuance Communications.