Customer Care for the Digital Generation – Are you Ready?
Most businesses struggle to provide great customer service, and a major reason is that the market is changing faster than their ability to keep pace. This is particularly true in the contact center, where legacy technology puts agents at a hopeless disadvantage with customers whose digital expectations are only getting higher. Cutting-edge technology is far more accessible to customers than it is to agents, and as contact centers continue to face operational and technical constraints, they have limited options for closing this gap.
This wouldn’t be problematic if the above scenario only applied to a handful of customers. However, the digital generation is coming in two waves, and they’re coming quickly. Based on data from the Pew Research Center, Millennials, also known as Gen Y, number about 75 million in the U.S. and now represent the largest population segment based on age. Coming up behind them is Generation Z – around 20 million strong – and as they start entering the workforce, they represent a whole new generation of consumers.
Taken together, that’s almost 100 million consumers with an unprecedented degree of tech-savviness. Having grown up with the Internet, their expectations and rules of engagement are very different from their forebears, known as digital immigrants. There’s a lot to consider when trying to understand this demographic, but here are three core expectations contact centers must address:
Digital Customers: 3 Core Expectations
1. Continuous engagement
Gen Y and Gen Z routinely communicate across multiple channels concurrently, and their channel preferences are different than those of previous generations. For them, phone and email are the choices of last resort, not first resort, and the mix of channels used is situation-specific. With so many applications and end-points readily available, they move in and out of channels as needs dictate.
2. Personalized services
The rise of the Internet has in turn given rise to a generation served by devices and services consumed in a personalized manner. Technology has enabled access to almost unlimited choice, and with so many personal devices and user-driven applications, consumers expect to feel valued and be known. When it comes to service, being digitally connected puts the customer in the driver’s seat, as they can readily go elsewhere if you can’t solve their problems in a personalized manner. The cost of switching from one product or service to another is generally low, so businesses cannot afford to provide cookie cutter service to their customers and take them for granted.
3. Great digital experiences
Not surprisingly, the way the digital generation sees the world and engages with it is through a digital filter. They very much want authentic experiences that make them feel connected to other people, but the quality of that experience is defined by the digital elements around them. For example, how easy was it to search and find the right product, how quickly could the purchase be made, how easy was the product or service to use, etc. In other words, the overall experience with the product or service is really important to them, but it’s the digital aspects that tend to set their expectations and determine what makes them happy.
Customer Care: 3 Strategic Responses
The above are just high-level examples, but they should help decision-makers focus on outcomes that really matter to customers, and working backwards, what the business needs to do to deliver them. Here are three essential customer care strategic requirements for supporting the digital generation:
1. Omnichannel for the contact center
The best way to manage multichannel communications preferences is to embrace omnichannel for the contact center. This topic is beyond the scope of my post, but the main idea is to deploy a platform that integrates all the channels used by customers into a common interface, with consistent treatment and continuous service. To be effective, agents need visibility into the customer journey and seamlessly switch among modes in real time. Not only must the technology be in place to support various applications and endpoints, but the details of the interaction – the context – must be consistent from channel to channel. This is what agents need to resolve issues on the first contact, and to provide personalized service. Contact centers have a long way to go to properly support omnichannel, but based on current research from Dimension Data, things are changing in a good way. Currently, 70% of contact centers surveyed have “none” or “only a few” channels integrated with omnichannel, but within two years, 80% expect that “most” or “all” will be connected this way (source: 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report).
2. Mapping the customer journey
This is another important layer to the omnichannel story, and it speaks to what defines great customer service, especially for the digital generation. Digital technology may well be a boon for consumers, but it also provides unprecedented opportunities for companies to learn about them. This is what mapping the customer journey is about, and when done well, it’s the best way to provide the personalization that is so important to Generations Y and Z. Aside from that, customer journey mapping moves the business away from a transactional model where all customers are treated alike, to one of deep engagement where needs are truly understood and then hopefully met.
3. Develop a holistic view of the customer
The above references to omnichannel speak to a broader and different way of thinking about the customer. Today’s constantly changing technology does not exist in a vacuum, and “digital transformation” is emerging as a framework for understanding the implications for business. A holistic view of the customer is part of this, and means that the entire organization – not just the contact center – needs to be oriented to support their needs. This represents a new model, where the contact center and office workers have a unified and holistic view of the customer. Research from Forrester has shown that a consistent, superior customer experience drives growth, revenue and increased loyalty. While the benefits are clear, implementing this this takes time and vision, but given the central role of technology in our lives, a sound digital transformation strategy is also needed. This is another area where businesses are lagging, evidenced again by the Dimension Data study. Their findings show that in terms of a digital business strategy, 51% of businesses either “don’t have” or one is “being developed”.
Clearly, it’s early days still for digital transformation, but as these strategies emerge, customer care will become better aligned with what consumers need, and it’s hard to imagine a better ROI for your next technology investment.