There is no doubt that customer expectations have risen consistently in recent years. These expectations are increasingly digital, a trend accelerated by Covid-19, where customers not only wanted, but needed, to complete their journeys online.
As consumers, we are highly tech-savvy and we always expect a seamless purchase for whatever we are looking to buy, whether that’s a product from Amazon or car insurance online. Any issues or frustrations in the customer journey can lead to a loss for that business and a gain for their competitor, potentially for the long run. This consumer behaviour is now well established in the B2B space as well, with customer experience and satisfaction increasingly a board level agenda item across both B2B and B2C.
What truly makes for a good customer experience? According to PwC, it is speed, friendliness, convenience and consistency. No small ask for any company, but it is those that can use technology to more effectively solve for these four key areas that will win new customers and improve retention, which in turn will drive growth.
As consumers, we’re impatient. Large e-commerce players recognised that speed of service is how you win customers from competitors and consumers expectations have kept up. Now we expect a seamless and fast experience from all our vendors.
In order to be able to offer that speed, companies need to be able to reduce human intervention to an absolute minimum, which means using technology to automate as much of the existing journey as possible, from sales right through to customer service. For example, at ECI portfolio company, Avantia, the digital non-standard home insurance company, they have developed an intelligent home insurance product which is able to deliver the most effective online quotability of any household insurer in the UK. This means Avantia can quote for 98% of the market in under a second, whereas most non-standard insurers require further information or paperwork from the customer. Automating processes so that they can be wholly online reduces friction for the customer and also allows businesses to scale more effectively.
Whether it is Netflix serving you up the right shows for your tastes, being able to get Salesforce tech support when working late into the evening, or getting the same buyer journey on your mobile to your desktop, convenience is critical. Our experiences in the last year has made this all the more apparent, with delivery to office no longer an option, flexibility of hours more prevalent than ever, and more digital tools needed to serve an increasingly complex work/life balance.
How are you using technology to service your customers in the way they want to be served, and where can their further actions or questions be pre-empted, to reduce hassle? Looking at ECI portfolio company Travel Chapter, they think extensively about how customers would like to search for holidays. For example, customers don’t have to choose a location if they just want to look at available places across the whole of the UK for certain dates, something key in the current market where there much of the market is booked up, and where many customers are first time staycationers, unsure of exactly where they would like to head for their holiday. Similarly, they group properties into collections such as ‘Green’ or ‘Quirky’ for people looking for some inspiration and there are a number of other location filters, such as all-important ‘Pub within 1 mile’.
Thinking about key customer questions or needs and being able to service them to reduce further steps on their behalf, at any time of the day, from wherever they are, is a sure-fire way to win customers and retain them for longer.
Whilst customers are looking for an increasingly digital experience, we’ve all been frustrated when you do need further help and there is no “Contact us” option at all, or when the chatbot starts taking you around an eternal loop with no solution.
So whilst speed and convenience is important, many customers would prefer to operate a hybrid model, where they can have a purely digital experience if they want, but there are real humans they can talk to easily, particularly if they have more complex queries. Take ECI portfolio company, Bionic, as an example. They use a mix of technology and human interaction to service SMEs looking to switch their electricity, gas, insurance, telecoms or finance providers. It’s the reason behind their name; they are tech-enabled human experts, that combines the speed and convenience of digital with the clarity, trust and friendliness of human voice.
One of the more complicating factors to the entire customer experience journey is that customers are becoming inherently more confusing in how they operate, utilising multiple different channels to buy or communicate with customer service teams. At the same time their expectations are increasing, and they expect the same experience whether they are chatting online, by email or over the phone. Also, any information they provide should be a seamless data flow, so that the same information doesn’t have to be repeated if they contact you via a different channel an hour later. These channels are often the primary brand touch-point and face of a business, who may not have the bandwidth or capabilities to manage this in-house, so they are increasingly using technology solutions.
This is where ECI portfolio company, Moneypenny, often steps in. Moneypenny is a tech-led communications provider, delivering telephone answering, live chat, switchboard and multichannel customer services to SMEs and large multi-national corporates. Whether its telephone answering or livechat, Moneypenny works to reflect how businesses want to speak to their customers, so their outsourced services becomes a seamless extension of the business. In addition, other companies use Contact-Centre-as-as Service (“CCaaS”) software solutions in their customer service teams to automate part or all of the customer journey. This gives the customer consistency and also creates efficiency by enabling customer service employees to concentrate on the more complicated issues, which in turn improves customer satisfaction. During the uncertainty of Covid-19, the demand for contact centres has risen as customers look for reassurance, meaning that efficiency gains are even more important than ever.
Whether it’s outsourcing technology or an in-house platform, technology is enabling companies to improve the customer experience across these four areas, something that is already key to driving growth and loyalty, but will become ever more crucial in the years ahead.