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The pandemic has sparked a new standard for customer engagement. Various lockdowns around the world have seen face-to-face interactions decline while online interactions have soared. This has perhaps been most clearly demonstrated in the growth of ecommerce — an ongoing trend, this was accelerated by COVID-19. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, online sales in Australia registered a 55% rise in December 2020 compared to the same period last year. As a direct result of these shifts, businesses need to find alternative, yet meaningful and effective ways to connect with customers, who at the same time are shifting their expectations.
For example, our own research at Freshworks, found that since February 2020, customer expectations in Australia and New Zealand have increased by close to 60 per cent. It seems that our always on and on-demand culture has influenced what we expect from the businesses and brands we interact with.
Mobile devices, apps and automation that allow customers to get what they want almost exactly at the moment they need it, have transformed our expectations and habits. In short, consumers have become more demanding, they want things here and now, however, this provides a massive opportunity to businesses that are able to service this demand.
Months and months of uncertainty have led to consumers seeking out more and more information. For businesses, this provides an opportunity to reach customers with relevant content through a range anytime, anywhere and in the format of their choosing. In order to keep up with these new habits and expectations, businesses must embrace technology to deliver the best possible experiences.
Organisations should use the wide availability of channels to their advantage. Instead of calling new customers, it’s about using social media and chatbots to do the talking. The aim is to build a relationship and help inspire and educate customers by sharing relevant content and expertise as part of a solution to their problem.
Also, with consumers travelling less, for marketing teams, this means reducing spend on out-of-home advertising and instead investing more into data-driven strategies to create targeted messages, all virtually — and across multiple channels.
As an industry, we need to reimagine the customer journey, ensuring we’re building new experiences that meet their demands. We can achieve this by making CX interactions personalised and recognising customers as individuals, rather than a collective.
It’s a well worn fact that this year, customers are expecting a personalised experience. This can be achieved by investing in systems that foster intelligent customer relationship management (CRM). Intelligent CRM systems are single sources of truth for businesses, providing a 360-degree view of customers, that capture and combine previous interactions and preferences in one place.
Technology has empowered customers to get what they want, when they want, and how they want it. Customers’ need for instant gratification has forced organisations to remain accessible and on-demand, 24/7. This is highlighted in Freshworks’ ‘The New CX Mandate’ report, which found that 67% of ANZ customer service leaders are investing more in live chat & messaging.
The importance of AI and chatbots (seen as the silent saviours of CX during the pandemic) will continue to evolve in the coming months — becoming even more heavily adopted. From life-saving health technology right through to retail chatbots supporting customers with the purchase of face masks, it has and will continue to transform the way we live and operate, while also bringing to the fore just how impactful the use of such technologies can be.
The lessons for businesses
Technology has never had a more important role to play. Businesses and brands need to truly understand their customers, or risk losing them. This enables them to provide a personalised experience both across customer-initiated channels such as a chatbot, or over email.
It also means investing in a unified CRM software which enables you to more fully explore customer data sets in order to enable personalisation. Looking ahead, proactive and predictive technology is going to be more relevant than ever, with AI and chatbots providing an extra layer of help when it comes to interacting with customers in the best way possible.
Despite the changes, shifts and accelerations of the past 12 months, one thing remains constant. The customer or end user sits at the heart of everything a business does. As we witness this new standard of customer engagement, it becomes even more important for businesses to use the best technology available to them to offer the best possible experience, by addressing their demands and personalising experiences to their needs.