We all know that e-commerce sales are growing: in the US and Europe by around 16% a year, and in Asia by 26% a year. We are all well aware of the rise of mobile: by 2015, more U.S. consumers will access the Internet through mobile devices than PCs. And the remarkable growth of social media is hardly news: within 5 years, social media interactions at call centres will be equal to the number of voice interactions.
But what does all this mean for those organisations aiming to deliver the best customer experience in the years to come. How should they react to the changing nature of their customers and employees? We have identified three major trends that will continue to affect customer experience over the coming years.
Generation Y is here
Generation Y, also known as Millennials, now aged between 12 and 32, make up more than 2.4 billion of the world population. Generation Y already spends $200 billion a year, and by 2017 they will have more spending power than any other generation.
There are four elements to consider when optimising customer experience for this increasingly important group. Firstly, make it easy for them to research the products they are considering – and offer personalisation along the way. Generation Y seeks out only the information that is relevant to them. Therefore, brands need to help Millennials focus on the products and features that matter most to them.
Secondly, Generation Y shares what it likes, including its great experiences. Sixty percent of Generation Y produces and uploads online content, including photos, videos, wiki entries, blog posts, micro-blog posts and product/service reviews, compared to 29% of non-Gen Y. Millennials buy with their eyes. So use video and images where possible and make it easy for customers to share great experiences.
Thirdly, Generation Y lives online and is used to a 24/7 environment. So, brands need to be available in the right channels, at the right hours, with the right response times. Finally, Generation Y might have fewer dollars to spend than previous generations but it is willing to spread that spending out over multiple pay periods, so train customer service agents to offer promotions and incentives to come back.
Multiple customer interaction channels
The use of virtually all interaction channels is growing, with customers creating more interactions than ever before. In fact, consumers now use an average of six different channels to contact an enterprise. Companies need to be present on these channels.
Despite this, voice still remains a primary contact channel as it is where most people will revert to if unable to achieve resolution via another channel. Voice interactions have the highest cost, so it pays to invest in new channels so that customer queries can be resolved there. It both enhances the customer experience and reduces costs.
Chat offers many benefits from lower cost to real-time interaction, shopping cart abandonment reduction, screen sharing, and the ability to multi-task. It is little surprise then that market adoption of online chat is growing rapidly. Companies need to train agents specifically for chat interactions, so they can construct a conversation flow with the right voice and tone.
Corporate use of social media is switching from pure marketing and public relations to also incorporate customer service. With a large pool of Generation Y, hyper-connected, social agents, we help clients launch or supplement their social media support efforts. This includes social listening and monitoring, responding to requests on Twitter and Facebook, and proactively sending out posts to prevent calls coming into the call centre in the first place.
The role of culture
The final big trend we see, which underpins everything a company does, is culture. Few corporate leaders doubt the benefits of a strong company culture. They know it can help recruit and retain the best staff, motivate employees at all levels to act in the best interests of clients and the company, encourage quality customer service, and drive the business forward.
Yet, culture cannot be easily developed, nor can it be easily replicated. That’s why the right culture – focused on what matters most to the organisation – can be a significant differentiator among companies providing similar products or services. Culture also has a big impact on the frontline – and therefore, on how your agents interact with customers.
Today, culture means being social. We need to “work socially” in order to better connect with our employees as well as our customers. An example would be our internal social network T-Life which includes features like Schedule Swap – where agents can swap shifts with other agents with similar skill sets serving the same client - which make a great difference to agents’ lives. T-Life also allows agents to monitor their performance, chat with management and supervisors, take surveys, provide feedback, post comments and pictures, arrange car pool and even order coffee to their desks.
The importance of corporate culture is a remarkable addition to corporate priorities. We worked with Frost & Sullivan on a white paper that aims to quantify the link between the development of an effective company culture and its contribution to increased profits.
The joint study confirms that a positive corporate culture increases employee engagement which in turn means that fewer people leave, which has positive effects on customer satisfaction, and the end result is top-line growth.
Change offers great opportunities
Whether it is the rise of Gen Y, the proliferation of customer interaction channels, or the increasing importance of culture, the world is changing fast. These changes are creating new opportunities for companies to embrace change and adapt.
By Philippe Ougrinov, VP Sales & Marketing at TELUS International Europe.
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