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Opinion: Balancing the digital revolution

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Wynand Smit, CEO of INOVO
Wynand Smit, CEO of INOVO

Customers who prioritise digital channels as a means of interacting have fairly strong preferences. Recent research has revealed that they want personalised, fast, intuitive service. And yet, those customers are also more likely to shift their business to other companies than older, loyal customers.

There are pros and cons to this for companies considering how to develop their communications strategies.
Here are some brief insights:

  • 8 out of 10 customers prefer personalised service (an increase of 52% year-on-year)
  • 2 out of 3 believe that online/mobile device service should be faster and more intuitive
  • People who prefer human interaction with companies are more loyal – 58% are with the same providers after 3 years
  • Digital customers switch companies – 49% are with the same providers after 3 years
  • The need for humans – 80% of respondents prefer human customer service interactions to digital alternatives
  • 83% believe that speaking to a customer service representative on the phone or in store will always be important.
  • 9 out of 10 customers have concerns about security and data privacy, even as the need for personal service increases.

The customers who prefer digital channels (email, social media, chat) are younger as a demographic, and more likely to use digital channels for basic interactions, but they’re still likely to revert to contacting a company by phone or heading in-store for more complicated transactions. Older customers generally prefer the phone or in-store transactions, also opting for the human element.

Digital customers are aware of the potential that technology offers, and they’re quick to point out where their expectations are not met, even if that means just shifting their business elsewhere. They get frustrated if it takes too long to reach their desired outcome from an interaction, and expect that technology within contact centres should be better-equipped to fulfill their needs.

Since digital customers make up approximately 80 percent of the market, companies could mistakenly commit all their strategies to implementing business solutions aimed at enhancing their digital offering within the contact centre. While this is essential as part of a growth strategy that recognizes technological developments and customer expectations around those, the human element, i.e., agents in contact centres, must remain a focus area of high importance, as both digital and non-digital customers have the expressed need to deal with companies via humans for a variety of scenarios.

The business strategy must take into account the need for developing a solution that can grow to suit both digital and non-digital environments, and that a multi-channel contact centre is functioning in an efficient, productive way that provides exceptional Customer Experience.

With the need for security and privacy, companies that provide those will see greater conversion to digital channels. Since technological developments grow faster than the consumer’s ability to fully understand the processes behind them, the Customer Experience must be seamless. Pain points such as having to make repeated contacts or having agents or processes that don’t personalise interactions leads to insecurity in the company’s ability to secure the customer’s information.
Although this seems difficult to balance, tools exist that take some of the difficulty out of providing these business solutions.

Tools operating off predictive algorithms and analytics can provide extensive information about the customer based on historical interactions, all of which contributes to building customer and business intelligence.
Essentially, companies must grow apace with the digital revolution and implement technology solutions that provide both the digital and human elements in the customer service environment.

By Wynand Smit

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