Customer expectations and preferences can—and do—change rapidly, no matter the cause behind them. In some cases, a pandemic forces online shopping to become more popular than in-store shopping. In others, new technologies continue to develop and change the way we interact with others.
Your brand needs to stay on top of these customer experience trends in order to meet changing customer needs and maintain their loyalty. For many enterprise brands, customer experience can often be the only differentiator.
Here are some of the biggest CX trends that are shaping the way customers connect with brands. They aren’t limited to just one part of the customer life cycle. They envelop the entire customer journey, highlighting the desire for more convenient, human-centered interactions and the need for brands to properly leverage technology to get there.
1. Customers want a seamless, personalized experience between channels.
Today’s customers aren’t just looking for multichannel customer service. They want a seamless, omnichannel experience that enables them to engage with your brand on the support channels of their choice. And that’s not all: they also want to receive the same, personalized treatment from your agents and digital interfaces throughout their entire journey.
Personalization is more valued than ever by consumers, with 45% of respondents to one survey saying that they’ll shop elsewhere if a brand fails to offer a personalized experience. And omnichannel is inherently connected to a personalized experience because it allows your customers to choose how they interact with you.
True omnichannel isn’t just about offering multiple channels for service or shopping. They all have to provide the same level of service. Otherwise, you aren’t offering a real choice to customers about which channel they use.
Characteristics of a seamless omnichannel experience
Here are a few key characteristics of an omnichannel experience:
1. Data flow between channels
Customer data needs to be captured and flow seamlessly between channels so that they’re remembered in their next interaction with your brand. This is key to delivering any personalization—whether it’s additional recommended products, tailored offers, or more personal conversations with an agent.
Pro tip: Mindful Handoff allows brands to carry customer context in between channel interactions so that either AI can help the customer resolve their problem without an agent, and agents are better prepared for a helpful conversation.
2. Efficiency and maturity
Each channel needs to be robust enough to suit customer needs—and if not, there must be an efficient handoff to another, more suitable channel. While some customers might feel more comfortable initiating a conversation in certain channels, the reality is not every channel is conducive to solving complex customer service issues. It’s critical that when a customer needs to transition to a different channel for more in-depth service, that transition is seamless and efficient so that both they and the customer service agent feel empowered to tackle the issue.
Omnichannel should also place convenience at the forefront. Customers want answers to their support questions quickly, but when that can’t happen—say during business closing hours or when no agents are available—the followup needs to be as convenient and hassle-free as possible.
Pro tip: Mindful Handoff can help smooth the process by engaging with customers through text to collect specific information about their questions or service requests, then let them schedule a callback at a later time or date—putting the customer back in the driver seat of their busy schedule.
Growth implications of a connected experience
It pays off to build an omnichannel experience. Brands implementing a unified omnichannel strategy were three times more likely to report a significant increase in revenue growth and four times more likely to report significant loyal customers, according to a survey of over 600 marketers and customer support specialists.
And this doesn’t only apply to digital channels. The omnichannel experience should extend to physical channels, too, like brick-and-mortar stores. Regardless of where they are, customers still expect you to know who they are, their history with your brand, and their preferences when shopping on-site with you. This holds especially true for those customers who have demonstrated loyalty to your brand.
McKinsey argues that the key to delivering on this is to connect your digital and physical footprints to create a personalized omnichannel experience for customers, no matter where they interact. Pushing location-based app notifications that are tailored to customer preferences when a customer is at or near your store is a great example of this.
Achieve a fully personalized omnichannel experience by implementing a contact-center-as-a-service platform that seamlessly allows customers and agents to transition between channels. Mindful helps you align your communication channels with customer preferences and logs customer data between conversations to deliver a personalized experience
- A connected omnichannel experience is really all about putting customers in control.
- Don’t let communication in one channel bring down the others.
- At the end of the day, a customer-in-control approach improves customer experience.
2. Chatbot fatigue is the new IVR fatigue.
As businesses increasingly turn to digital channels to serve their customers, chatbots have quickly become a way to ensure ‘round-the-clock availability. And these chatbots are great for customers who are looking for straightforward answers to their questions.
As a conversation gets more complicated, however, it become tricker for the AI to deliver a satisfactory answer to the customer. The inability to actually get the right answers to their questions is one of the top frustrations a customer encounters, according to Drift.
Don’t frustrate your customers by making it difficult to solve their problems in their chosen channel. Instead, leverage your technology to provide self-service, but give them the option to easily connect with a live agent.
Jeremy Starcher, Mindful’s Vice President of Business Development & Hosted Strategies, has noticed a chatbot trend that is eerily similar to when customers try to bypass the IVR over the phone: “They’ll try to prompt the chatbot to pass them off to a live agent by typing in ‘talk to a person’ over and over,” Starcher commented, “similar to pressing 0 over and over when they call a support line.”
This trend also coincides with the rise in messaging as a bona fide support channel. According to Zendesk, no channel is growing faster in terms of demand than messaging — whether it’s in-app messaging, text, or social.
There are other ways you can successfully combat chatbot fatigue and deliver a better conversational support experience.
1. Use predictive software to identify customers who need to speak with an agent.
No matter how intelligent, chatbots can only help your customers so much before they run out of automated responses. When that happens, customers are often left frustrated at the lack of resolution and switch channels to get help elsewhere — costing the business valuable context and tracking data.
A better solution is to implement software that identifies when a customer is stuck in a conversation loop with a chatbot and then offers them a callback option. Walmart implemented Mindful for their chatbots to help their customers avoid the dreaded feedback loop. Not only does this reduce customer frustration, but it lets customer context flow between Walmart’s chatbot channel and their voice support channel—helping agents know exactly who they’re talking with and why.
2. Keep the chat window open.
Program your chat software to stay open, even if the customer leaves the browser window. The last thing a customer wants is to be stuck to their computer screen waiting for an agent to respond to their request. This becomes an even greater pain point when they get distracted by another tab for a few minutes and, when they come back to check the status of their chat, find out their session has ended without a resolution.
3. Train agents to read the chat transcript.
Customers are also frustrated when they have to repeat themselves once a live person joins the conversation. To create a smoother chat-to-voice transition, ensure your agents take an extra minute to read through the customer’s previous interactions with the chatbot to better understand the nature of their issue. Once your agent joins the chat, they should open with, “It looks like you’re having an issue with so-and-so today, ” so the customer knows they are caught up.
- Use smart CX design to create a better, smoother chat experience.
- Customers will still call your 800 number—so improve your IVR experience to keep them form smashing zero.
3. Internal agent empowerment will foster an outstanding customer experience.
As the face of your brand, your agents are a critical elements of the customer experience. Uninformed, overwhelmed support agents who can’t do anything to actually help are a top frustration for customers.
But you can better help customers by giving your agents access to customer info in real time and connecting them to the data they need to help out.
Customers can usually tell when agents are distracted from responding to their queries because the agent takes a few minutes to answer or they keep getting put on hold. Customers also hate having to repeat themselves when they’re transferred between agents. And it’s frustrating to be transferred at all, especially multiple times, because the original agent doesn’t have the resources or the access to solve the issue directly.
These are the external results of the underlying internal issues: Your agents are not empowered to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
Why can’t a customer get a fast enough answer? Because the agent has too many chats going at once. Why are they asked to repeat the reason for their call over and over again? Because agents don’t have access to real-time conversation data so they can get up to speed. Why are customers being transferred from one agent to the next after already waiting on hold? Because only certain agents have access to the internal systems to address their problem.
To combat this, equip your agents to serve your customers completely:
- Give more time back to your agents so that they can focus on delighting customers and answering their queries.
- Set a limit for the number of chats or conversations they have going at once so that they can give the proper amount of attention to each customer.
- Implement a contact center solution that provides access to customer and conversation data in real time and to every agent that might get looped in.
Pro tip: Transfers are inevitable, but they shouldn’t be the norm. Mindful Scheduler and Mindful Handoff can help you accurately and automatically route calls to the right department or agent the first time. With Scheduler, customers can use dropdown menus in the Mindful Callback website widget to clearly identify why they’re calling and who they need to speak to. In a similar vein, Handoff follows up with a text message to customers who’ve scheduled a callback, asking for more information about their question or issue to help them speak to the right agent at the right time. Both services can drastically reduce transfer rates and customer frustration.
And just like you would for your customers, identify pain points for your agents. Before Walmart implemented Mindful’s solution, it used a more manual system for callbacks, which overwhelmed agents with unsuccessful callback attempts. Walmart came to Mindful recognizing that the callback process wasn’t as simple as dialing a customer’s phone number and waiting for them to pick up. We implemented a solution that reduced strain on agents and gave some much-needed time back to focus on customers.
4. AI is playing a bigger role in the full customer experience.
Artificial intelligence is no longer being used just to carry out siloed pieces of customer service, like the IVR on a support line. This technology now plays a big role in creating a cohesive, enjoyable customer experience. But brands need to utilize AI to better help customers during their journey, including filling the gaps around automation with a human-centered experience.
Deloitte surveyed 11,500 consumers and discovered that what they find most helpful during their purchase journey are “timely offers” and “knowledgeable customer service.” They concluded that brands could use AI most successfully by getting the best offers in front of customers at the right time and providing their agents with the most helpful info to guide customers. Essentially, brands should use AI throughout the customer experience to achieve “harmony between human tasks and machine capabilities.”
The human-centered side of the experience is becoming more critical as brands are reaching the top of the maturity curve with what they can achieve through AI alone. Some have spent years maximizing AI. They’re deploying it in marketing, sales, and customer support. But the technology is still emerging and improving. It can’t serve customers’ every need on its own.
The AI dilemma: invest or pivot?
As AI becomes more prominent throughout the customer journey, there are really two directions that brands can go.
One direction it to continue to invest even more in AI, machine learning, and automation. To make up for the existing gaps, they can invest in research and development and technology improvements. But they’ll most likely end up over-indexed on AI and unable to pivot back to human tasks, as the Deloitte team suggests.
A better solution is to think about the entire customer journey and service experience holistically. Instead of just plugging in automation anywhere you can, leverage the benefits of AI to create a truly connected experience for customers. For instance, VMware uses AI to provide tailored recommendations to customers around security updates—but it also uses it to give its agents clearer guidance during customer conversations.
Pro tip: This is what Mindful does best! We enhance your CCaaS to not only make it smarter, but to ultimately make it more human—helping your brand create a more impactful and personal customer journey across the omnichannel landscape.
Summing up: Create a seamless customer journey by adjusting to customer needs.
Customer needs change as quickly as the technology we use to serve them. Continue to elevate your customer experience by staying on top of trends and adjusting to what your customers are looking for. If a new support channel is seeing a surge in demand, be sure to add it. If agents need more real-time data or access to internal scheduling systems, grant that to them.
Mindful can help you stay on top of all of these CX trends and more. Get a demo to see how it works for your brand.