Shopping trends and consumer behaviours have changed dramatically since the pandemic.
Spending patterns have been significantly altered by homeworking and the enforced closure of physical stores has accelerated the growth of e-commerce. Furthermore, the adoption of remote working technologies has altered omnichannel customer service in previously unimaginable ways. But which of these trends will have a long-term impact on businesses?
Homeworking is here to stay. A 2021 World Economic Forum report indicated that around 12.3 per cent of Europeans now work from home, compared to just five per cent before the pandemic. These consumers no longer have to fit online orders or customer service calls around commuting and office-based hours, so they expect businesses to be there whenever they need them. They also expect to be able to interact with brands via various channels.
Businesses are already adapting to cater for consumers’ increasing reliance on e-commerce and remote service provision. One key change for 2022 will be the role of customer service hubs, which currently serve as the first point of contact people have with a brand. The responsibilities of these contact centres have broadened significantly during the pandemic, so it is now inefficient and expensive to rely solely on the agents to deal with every customer query.
Instead, organisations using Microsoft Teams as the backbone of their IT architecture can extend their contact centre capabilities to anyone in the business with the help of solutions like Anywhere365. Once implemented, Anywhere365’s solutions make it possible for any employee – from customer service agents to managers and subject matter experts – to become part of a customer dialogue in any channel, at any time. This expedites and enhances the dialogue experience for both customers and employees, while driving profitability.
According to Gartner, more than 40 per cent of customer service and support leaders have experienced a rise in calls since the pandemic. With research showing that customers look to other brands if they are unable to get the answers they need, now is the time for organisations to invest in implementing a great self-service strategy.
Use of self-service has increased dramatically in almost every sector over the past few years. The ability to instantly access the right information empowers customers and enables brands to demonstrate their knowledge, credibility and the fact they value their customers’ time. However, to deliver an efficient and enjoyable self-service experience, they must adopt the right technology and tools – and offer them via customers’ preferred channels.
Self-service options should be displayed prominently on apps and websites to steer customers in the right direction. Organisations must also create valuable, consistent, up-to-date and customer-focused content, as well as predefined response templates that are as personalised as possible. As with all their omnichannel customer service activities, businesses should keep a close eye on analytics too. They can use these insights to identify bottlenecks, issues with user experience or barriers to engagement on particular channels.
Chatbots and voice bots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) technology are quickly becoming a popular tool for enabling self-service. The days of slightly creepy and stilted chatbot interactions are long gone; today’s tools deliver a much more natural and intuitive experience for enterprise dialogues. Plus, they can save contact centres, sales teams and others a significant amount of time and money.
Chatbots and voice bots provide customers with around-the-clock access to instant and personalised responses to their questions. For example, they can guide customers with answers to frequently asked questions, deliver automated status updates on orders or service requests, and manage complaints. Bots can also qualify sales leads, onboard new customers and generally advise and assist the consumer.
However, to be able to provide these services seamlessly, bots must be informed by data from customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and other enterprise systems. Anywhere365 integrates into more than 30 different data systems, including Microsoft Dynamics 365, to enable organisations to continually improve the customer experience and collect valuable insights into consumers’ behaviour.
The changing role of contact centres and the omnichannel customer service trends that will emerge in 2022 offer exciting opportunities for forward-thinking, ambitious brands. The pandemic has highlighted the need to prioritise delivering the right omnichannel customer service. It’s shown how critical it is to ensure that all the tools and approaches are customer-focused, cost-effective, and fit for purpose. And it’s clear that brands failing to do so risk alienating customers and sending them into the arms of grateful competitors.
There are three steps organisations can take straightaway. First, they should devote a significant amount of time to understanding new consumer behaviours. Next, they must explore how these behaviours might impact their customer base – both now and in the future. It may be beneficial to involve people from different departments such as marketing, customer support and IT in the discussions. Once they have all these insights, organisations are ready to plan and execute a strategy to take their omnichannel customer service to the next level with the help of partners like Anywhere365.
Gijs Geurts is CEO of Anywhere365
This article was originally published in the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.