Over the last decade, almost every industry has been on a constant journey to a more digital way of working. Still continuing today, the sharp incline is likely to continue for several more years, as organisations become aware of what technologies are being developed and how they can be of use to both them and their customers.
Wherever you turn online, you will see information advising you to look at the different digital technologies available, particularly to improve the customer experience. They will tell you why social media is a must or that live chat seriously needs to be considered – and this information is great. We provide it ourselves and we believe it is a fantastic way for organisations to become aware of exactly what is available.
But what it does not do is offer advice on the wider topic of digital technologies and how you should go about integrating them into your organisation’s customer experience.
With this two-part series, that is exactly what we want to do, if not purely to give you a basic understanding of what is required when looking to make your customer experience as digital as it needs to be.
Understand what your audience actually wants
One of the problems seen with integrating digital technologies into the customer experience is that because of the choice available (and often the sense of urgency to move forward immediately), organisations often base their decisions on what others are doing or what they believe their customers want.
Just like any other new business process, however, a full and in-depth analysis of your target audience needs to be carried out to ensure you fully understand exactly what digital technologies they want to be able to utilise. The truth is you might just be surprised at your findings.
For example, social media is without doubt the resource of the moment and many organisations are being praised for their use of it within the customer experience. It can therefore be an obvious choice for others who have yet to implement it.
But what if your audience research discovered that your customers simply wanted a quicker way to interact and engage with you throughout the day? Again, social media can seem like the perfect solution – but what about live chat?
A much more structured tool, it allows for customers to speak to you directly when they are actually on your website. Whether they have a problem, a query or a complaint, they can talk to a customer service advisor instantly.
This is not to say that social media could not be useful – or should not be integrated within the customer experience at all – but that you have to understand your audience’s needs before you move forward integrating technologies.
Look at what resources you have available
Integrating digital technologies within your customer experience should have the overall aim of making the customer journey as simple and enjoyable as it can be. By doing so, to your target audience you will be seen as an efficient organisation who can deliver an experience on a variety of channels.
Without sufficient resources in place, however, this could be a perfect example of the swimming swan scenario – graceful above the water where everyone can see, but paddling furiously beneath the surface.
Although every piece of technology differs in its requirements, one of the most common reasons why they can be problematic for the organisation is that the difference between using them on a personal and a commercial level is not fully understood.
Take Twitter as an example. On a personal basis, you may update it half a dozen times throughout the day, talking to your few hundred followers and perhaps tweeting about a research study or news article you have come across. You are fully responsible for the content included within each tweet and because it is a personal account, there are no real expectations for you to respond to other tweets immediately (or even at all).
When you are using Twitter commercially, your approach needs to change drastically. Customers expect to see certain information from you. They have expectations on response times and the quality of the response. For example, if they have a complaint, you might think redirecting them to your customer service’s complaint management team is a sufficient response, but this defeats the object of using social media in the first place. You do not have to necessarily deal with the complaint on the platform, but you need to do as much as you can to help satisfy the frustrated customer.
The activity on the account also needs to be taken into consideration. On a personal level, you are unlikely to be receiving hundreds of tweets every day – but this could be exactly what you receive when using Twitter on a commercial basis.
And if it was the case, do you have the staff to be able to handle the workload? For smaller organisations, a small team may be able to integrate the work within their existing duties at the start, but even if it only requires the equivalent of one hour of work throughout the day per employee, this could mean relieving them of some other duties to be able to carry it out (subsequently increasing the amount of resources you need to have available).
Be aware of the financial implication / ROI
Linked in to the above point is the financial implication of utilising digital technologies and the return on investment you are likely to see.
Simply put, digital technologies within the customer experience should not be thought of as sales channels. Yes, they can enhance your sales process and improve figures, but their focus needs to be on improving the customer’s experience with your company. It is for this reason why defining the ROI can be difficult if you are trying to justify it financially.
Although a ROI can be defined, it has to consider a variety of aspects and enough research must be carried out to understand the initial and future benefits of the technologies.
Take live chat as an example. EConsultancy recently produced a blog post that looked at the success Sky have seen by integrating live chat within their website. Discussing various aspects, one of the most notable points was that they suggested live chat was not any more efficient than a traditional telephone call, as the online conversations often lasted longer.
However, what they did say was that not only could staff deal with more than one customer at once using live chat, but because they could provide more information (images, links to certain website pages, etc), they could ensure the customer better understood the answer to their question, meaning they were less likely to contact customer service in the future.
Therefore, although Sky have not saved any money initially by implementing live chat, it is expected that the number of calls to their customer service centre (which currently stands at just under one million every week) will reduce significantly as customers are better educated around the products and services available to them.
The satisfaction of customers should always come first when developing the customer experience, but it is understandable that an awareness of the financial implications and the return on any investment needs to be had.
Every organisation’s needs will differ, but the most important point to note is that you are unlikely to be able to produce an accurate potential ROI with digital technologies in terms of finances. Instead, you need to look at the benefits of improved customer satisfaction and how you can measure the success of the customer experience based on factors such as this.
It might not be a particularly traditional way of working, but the benefits could be just as clear – if your customer experience means customer satisfaction levels increase considerably, it is highly likely that your customers become brand advocates and positively recommend your company, which in turn could have a significant impact on sales.
The second part of this series will be published next Tuesday, 23rd October . Subscribe to the blog by entering your e-mail address into the box in the sidebar to receive the next post straight to your inbox.