“Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience is… Now!” was based on a cross-cultural study of 10 000 participants across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It reveals a holistic and updated understanding of consumer buying habits, and what those habits might look like in 2030. There are several stand-out discoveries from this report which indicate the ways in which Covid-19 might have created a new type of customer.
61% of customers stated that they were willing to spend more on brands that delivered good customer service during the pandemic. 49% of shoppers even prioritised the quality of customer service over good prices and discounts. This new priority was predicted by a Walker study which found that by the end of 2020, customer experience will act as the most significant brand differentiator, surpassing product and price. Good customer service then appears to draw in the most customers and persuades them to spend the most. This is even more important now, at a time when many businesses are struggling to survive and customers are spending less and less.
Poor customer service, on the other hand, represents broken customer promises and appears to leave a long-lasting negative impression on consumers. A third of customers reported that they would never use a brand again after just one bad experience. Likewise, 9 in 10 customers said they would leave their old provider after up to five bad customer service experiences. While good customer service nurtures customer loyalty then, poor customer service puts the customer’s loyalty in jeopardy. It is of great concern, therefore, that only 20% of customers report that they are very satisfied with their customer experience.
Good customer service means a variety of things to a variety of people. 44% of consumers prioritised service availability and quality, 27% prioritised a responsive and friendly service and 37% prioritised convenience. A third of customers wanted compassion and responsibility from the businesses they use. Good communications and flexible returns policies were also important to customers. Adding to these findings, a survey of customer service professionals found that 93% of respondents reported that customers today have higher expectations of customer service than ever before. Customers expect staff to be friendly, and constantly available to assist them. They expect response times to be instant, and they expect their interactions with the brand to be personal.
Digital services may be the key to delivering the level of customer service that consumers expect in 2020. This is especially relevant in a context where stores and workplaces have been closed due to national restrictions, and the public is being asked to stay at home. During the lockdown, it was no surprise that online retailers rose to one of the top three performing industries. They were able to meet customer needs that otherwise could not have been met without those online services. 15% of consumers have become ‘digital adopters’; using digital services for the first time. Industries offering essential services such as healthcare organisations, grocery stores and education providers boasted the highest share of digital adopters. Another study found that more than four in ten consumers across Europe reported that they had purchased something online that they had only previously bought in-store. In order to provide the highest level of customer service, therefore, it is essential for brands to keep up with changing consumer behaviours, and meet the digital needs of the customer. This is especially as 70% of digital adopters plan to keep using digital services after lockdown ends.
“The challenge is not just about “being more digital”- Manuel Tönz, Customer Experience Advisor, SAS. To truly transform the customer experience, the digital infrastructure of a company needs to create personal experiences for the customer. A study by Accenture revealed that 75% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand that recognises them by name, knows their purchase history and recommends products based on past purchases. Furthermore, customers are comfortable with companies using their data to create this type of service. This is only possible with CRM to store and analyse customer data.
To personalise the customer experience, even more, brands need to tailor their efforts around the customer journey. This means tracking and seeking to influence every step of the customer’s journey, from becoming aware of the brand to make a purchase. To be successful, companies need to take an omnichannel approach that includes the company’s website, social media channels and email as well as letters and face to face contact. For that reason, brands need to integrate their online and offline data, as well as their online data across multiple digital channels.
To provide excellent customer service it is therefore important for a company to not only have a digital presence but to use digital services to understand the customer and guide them along their customer journey every step of the way.
In summary, the “Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience is… Now!” report has revealed the ways in which Covid-19 has created a new type of customer. Customer service is now the single most important factor for most consumers. The best way for companies to meet this new priority is to use their digital infrastructure to tailor their business around the customer.
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