5 trends in customer interaction

The digital transformation already was quick, but Corona made it even quicker. Organisations with intensive and large-scale customer contact were in many cases already ahead of other branches. Simply because customers have been in the lead when in recent years when it comes to embracing new technology. The pandemic has completely changed the way people shop, work and live. Driven by new circumstances, consumers are more digital than ever. According to research firm Gartner, this is just the tip of the iceberg: “By 2023, more than 60% of all customer service will be delivered via digital self-service channels, compared to 23% in 2019. More and more organisations recognize the need to make their processes more flexible and agile. This may or may not be supported by smart tooling and by making processes both smarter and more automated. With these interventions, organisations hope to be able to respond faster to opportunities and innovate faster. Philippe Van Nieuwenborgh is innovation manager at Dialog Groep and discusses the most important developments in this article. It is clear that the digital landscape is shifting and with 2021 around the corner, we present you the 5 trends in customer interaction.

Trend 1: Digital is here to stay

One webinar after another is being launched on innovative technology. There is so much technology on the market today that you often start from what you have instead of looking at what else is out there. Precisely because there is so much available. And that makes sense. But ‘Digital is here to stay’. So also force yourself to keep researching and following developments and see what suits your organization. What is close by? Innovation is about anticipating and continuously moving with your customer. Your customer now, will not be the same customer with the same needs in 5 years from now. The current situation in which we are all in, ensures that the digital transformation is evolving faster and more natural. Unconsciously you make yourself ‘digital mature’. Both as a consumer and as an employee, where you set increasingly higher demands and expect more. Digital must be fast, easy and personal.

Trend 2: Mobile first

The cell phone has been a fully-fledged computer for years and is being used for more and more purposes. For organisations it becomes even more crucial to find their way to their customers’ smartphones. An app on its own is no longer sufficient. It is inevitable that our cell phones are increasingly being used to replace physical counters. Organisations need to adapt their customer interaction accordingly. And not only for reasons of efficiency, but also to minimize the possibility of physical contact and reduce the spread of the virus. The move towards digital self-service is a fact, and the fear of doing this too quickly or fear of acceptance is really less due to Corona. As people, we can adapt very quickly. This has proven to be the case.

What you often see is that companies still send a form via email. You get this form in your mailbox and you have to fill it out. Often you have to print this form, take a picture of it and mail it back. It would be more logical if you can do this through other tooling and channels. This is an advantage for your customer, but the right information is also faster in the processing flow. This move towards self-service is only increasing, and a good experience is crucial.

Trend 3: Hyper personalisation

What we have been doing for years is making mass communication personal. But we are also increasingly seeing a shift from regular customer service and segmentation to an integral customer view and personalisation. Organisations are investing in the deployment of technology that enables them to use their customer data in a smarter and more targeted way. This technology consists of various components: artificial intelligence, analytics, virtual and augmented reality, location-based services, internet of things and voice. Through the right combination of different technologies, and good direction, organisations are able to implement hyper personalisation in the interaction with the customer. In all customer journeys. For marketing, that means individualised messages (that are appropriate in terms of relevance, channel and time); for service, that means taking more into account the context (time, nature of the problem) and preferences (such as channel); and for sales, this can lead to personalised products (something that is still in its infancy). Implementing hyper personalisation enables you to truly recognize, understand and help your customer. You’re constantly looking at how you can add value.

Trend 4: Bots that really understand you

The chatbots of the future are fully-fledged personal assistants who can deal with and understand emotions. These bots of the future can perform all kinds of tasks for you and are offered on every channel. This shift takes place from NLP-bots (Natural Language Processing) to NLU-bots (Natural Language Understanding). Soon you will no longer be able to recognize whether you are talking to a human or a bot. The current chat technology already makes it possible for bots to fully support the digital ordering of specific products or services. Think of hotel stays, taking out an insurance policy or physical products where choices and preferences can be specified. A logical next step is to be able to help solve problems, where the bot first tries to form a picture of the context and reacts to the (audible) emotion of the customer. But beware: to be able to do this, an AI bot is quickly thought of. However, this requires a lot of data and a long learning curve to understand this technology and use it correctly. You can now also gain experience with contextual bots and teach yourself “digital thinking” in order to better serve your customer more quickly.

Trend 5: From “I want to sell something” to “I want to value something”

Look closely at your data and use your big data to add value to your customers; an increasingly important trend. There is a shift from “I want to sell something” to “I want to value something”. Your service is no longer about selling, but mainly about adding more value to your customers. This ensures a long-term relationship with your customers. A concrete example: using various data models, you can already see that a customer’s phone usages is too low compared to what he pays each month. You can proactively offer to take out a more suitable subscription. In other words, it is not primarily about selling, but about constantly giving the right advice. Create added value for your customers so they stay with you. Use that added value at the right time during the entire relationship with your customer and not only when you need it. Ask yourself, do you want to be an advisor, or do you want to be a salesperson? Steven Van Belleghem even wrote an entire book about this: “The offer you can’t refuse”. In it he writes that giving a good product, service and/or price alone is not enough for most people. It’s all about offering it as simply, quickly and easily as possible. But even that is not enough according to Steven. In recent years, companies have been so busy optimising their customer journey; read: optimising the transaction to sell something. But it goes further than that. Every consumer and every person has a film of his or her life in his or her head. We have hopes, dreams and fears. It’s important that as an organisation you understand that, and see how you can add value to people’s lives. How can you become a partner in their lives? More and more organisations are therefore asking themselves how they can add value in society. How can you use the strengths of your organisation in society to solve certain problems? Think about sustainability. Sustainability is the new differentiator and influences the client in his choices. A combination of a good product, a frictionless customer interaction, being a partner in your customers lives and adding value in society, makes you really stand out from your competitors.

Would you like to know how you can design this in your own specific situation? November 19th we organize our annual event The Future of Customer Interaction (FOCI202), online. You are most welcome. More information can be found here.

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