Focus on your digital customer contact

Alexander Wijninga

Alexander Wijninga

| 5 min

There’s been a growth spurt in the digital world of customer service, thanks to everything that’s happened over the last two years. As a result of the pandemic, business operations had to evolve, and quickly. Since offline contact was largely discouraged, many companies logically sought to move operations online. These changes have changed the expectations of today’s consumer: so much so that marketing has a new term - “the digital-first consumer”. The importance of offering digital customer contact is second to none.

This article unpacks this phenomenon. What is digital customer contact, why is it important, and what can we learn from data underscoring the importance? Also - how do you implement or optimise your digital customer contact?

The ‘digital-first consumer’

First things first: the ‘digital-first consumer, who might that be? There are a number of perspectives that describe this new consumer. The buying habits of customers have shifted online, this trend seen not only in Europe but also in the Middle East and in Africa. Research states that 64% of companies surveyed have experienced ‘exceptional’ growth in the desire for customers to get digital customer service and increase availability of service (source).

The behavior of this digital-first consumer is far less predictable than before: 47% of companies surveyed agreed their existing customers are showing new patterns of buying behavior. Additionally, 30% of respondents say they’ve seen a decrease in the number of loyal customers. This means companies need to work even harder to stand out, attract customers, and keep them loyal. Ensuring the ultimate customer journey for an optimal customer experience is more often a need-to-have than a nice-to-have.

What is digital customer contact?

What does ‘digital customer contact’ actually mean? Put simply, digital customer contact is every online interaction a (future) customer has with your company. This isn’t just (social media) channels like Facebook, LinkedIn or email, but also interactions with your company’s website.

All of the digital contact moments your customer has online with your company contribute to their overall experience of your brand. Ensuring a positive online customer experience has become more important than ever too many companies.

Digital customer contact: what’s important?

The numbers don’t lie. Research shows that 91% of customers would be more likely to make another purchase after a positive interaction with customer service. The do’s and don’ts of digital customer contact might be a challenge for some companies. The digital landscape offers endless possibilities. With some knowledge and a little creativity, you can also set up your digital customer service optimally. Below we’ll share with you a few important trends for digital customer contact in 2022.

Trend: Speed and availability

Did you know there’s research that shows young people would rather go to the dentist than call customer service? We were also surprised at this preference, even though we’d choose the latter. Calling customer service on the phone is typically associated with office hours, long hold times, calls getting transferred, needing to explain yourself multiple times, being put back on hold while your information’s being looked up…

This experience is in stark contrast with the digital world we live in. The fact that you can start a conversation when and where you want is one of the reasons consumers prefer online communication.. It’s faster and more efficient for customers,  making the experience easier and thus also more customer-friendly.

Tip: Be where your customers already are

Our advice? Be where your customers already are. Not only where, but when. The customer, especially the ‘digital-first consumer’ is used to being able to reach out online at any time of day, on any channel, and preferably at any time of day. They’re not willing to wait for a response ‘between three to five business days’. Moreover, this is likely one of the reasons why customers are today more likely to switch between companies. When customers don’t get what they want right away, they pack up and move on, is what our clients tell us.

Trend: A personal experience breeds trust

Online contact means (in most cases) that the things about contact that make it ‘personal’ aren’t part of that interactions. Facial expressions, tone of voice, hand gestures - these are all factors that contribute to the experience a customer has with your company. Online contact only has text and emoticons to try to replace these factor. We’re communicating online more than we ever have, and yet there’s still a big gap in terms of what’s communicated and what’s understood. Luckily, there are a number of ways to still make online contact feel personal.

Tip: Use Emoji to show empathy

Maybe it sounds far-fetched, but using emojis and punctuation secretly do way more during a digital conversation than you might think. Imagine: you’re chatting with a customer service agent about an order that’s not yet delivered. When the agent responds with ‘I’m looking it up now’, this feels different than when the response is ‘I’m looking it up  now! :D’.

Tip: Consider your choice of words

Companies do their best to care for their (potential) customers. An engaged, empathetic customer service agent is generally considered to be someone who provides good service, even if the answer isn’t what the customer wants to hear. When you go the extra mile for your customer, they’re more likely to be a returning customer. 68% of customers expect companies to show empathy, but only 37% of those surveyed indicate that they’ve actually felt empathy from those companies. That’s why, especially with choice of words in typed text, you should clearly indicate to a customer that you can understand his or her personal situation.

What does a chatbot have to do with customer contact?

Companies have seen a massive uptick in the volume of incoming customer questions. In order to answer these questions are quickly as possible, they’re choosing to automate customer service more often. A chatbot can be used to respond to question on every digital channel, and provides customers with an answer in seconds. This means chatbots meet two of the most important success factors to digital customer contact: a broad availability and super quick response times.

A successful chatbot

We consider a chatbot successful when the bot meets the goals the organisation set who built it. Automating responses to frequently asked questions means that the customer service team has more time to handle the more complex cases - no more copy/paste work. This doesn’t mean answering FAQ is the only goal of chatbots. There are also lead generation chatbots, marketing chatbots, HR chatbots, or other creative ways to use a chatbot. No matter how you decide to use a chatbot, it can play an interesting role in how your company approaches digital customer contact.

Offering personal service with a chatbot?

There are many misconceptions about the personal aspect of service provided by a chatbot. Your conversation with a chatbot can absolutely be personal, but this depends on how the chatbot is built. We have a number of clients who’ve based their digital employee’s personality on one of their employees, like the AMP Group. They’ve adapted the chatbot’s tone of voice and profile photo to reinforce the personal touch. If the chatbot doesn’t understand a question, the conversation is transferred to a human employee. This approach allows customers to get fast and personal service when they reach out to your company.

Still curious?

Watermelon offers the opportunity to centralise all your digital customer contact on a single platform, and then implement a chatbot to service customers. You’ll build the chatbot yourself on our chatbot platform, where you can then launch and easily optimise it. There are also customer profiles available to make service even more personal, and performance statistics to help make service even more efficient. Want to learn more? Set up a demo!

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