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It’s hard to imagine a time when humans survived without Google and Amazon delivering information and products as immediately as the laws of physics allow. Today, customers experiencing slow load times, same-day shipping delays or a lapsed customer service response can wreak absolute havoc among businesses. After all, it’s no secret that we’re living in a time where consumers expect everything to be on-demand.
And understandably so. Since Amazon first sowed its success through the democratization of consumer ease and changed the way we view what’s possible just about anything can be delivered to your house within 24 hours. A car can show up for you within minutes. A new wardrobe can arrive within a day or two. Groceries can come within hours. Whatever TV show or movie you want to watch can pop up on your screen whenever you want it to. There is no such thing as delayed gratification anymore.
Instead, with every great on-demand experience customers have with one brand, they expect it to be replicated by other brands, regardless of industry. CBInsight’s analysis of the world’s 360 unicorn companies revealed that 23 out of 310 private companies who were valued at $1 billion by January 2019 belong to an on-demand industry. In fact, even businesses that don’t traditionally think of themselves as on-demand have consumers that now expect an instantaneous and “always on” experience.
The on-demand expectations of customers is no longer solely about the purchase and delivery of products and services. These expectations have permeated throughout all touchpoints of customers’ experiences with brands, in particular customer service. And while Amazon may have increased expectations for customer service by kicking-off the on-demand economy smaller niche Director-to-Consumer companies like Zappos and Bonobos truly changed the customer service game. This evolution has begun not only impacting traditional retailers, but also traditional brand across industries from hospitality to health care to insurance. As this trend continues to evolve, businesses need to keep these five things in mind.
- Customers expect you to know them. When a customer reaches out to customer service they expect you will know who they are, what their current and past orders are, who they spoke to last and the potential reason you are contacting them at the time. The experience of repeating information again and again is over as customers expect the onus to be on the business to personalize the interaction from beginning to end while delivering results. In today’s economy, personalization matters, especially as more companies try to compete in the on-demand market. The brands that will succeed are the ones that make personal connections with their customers and treat customer service interactions as conversations that add value, not as tickets that need to be resolved.
- Customers expect you to communicate how they do. In today’s on-demand world the buying experience has become truly omnichannel. For example, you can go to the store to browse for TVs, then order your favorite online later that night after clicking-through an Instagram ad, and then return the TV to the store when you realized it was too big for the room. A similar omnichannel experience is now a requirement for customer service communication. It is not enough to just be available by phone, text, chat, email, and social, customers expect to have a single threaded conversation across all of them. Customers have no patience for having the same conversation over and over again with a rotating cast of agents even if their original outreach was through email, which they then continued on chat, and concluded via text. They want you to have a detailed log of all of their interactions that equips each agent with the context of the current conversation, their history with your brand, and the capability to handle any issue that arises. If you think customers will be understanding if there is a breakdown somewhere in the communication chain, you’re wrong.
- Customers expect you to value their time. Convenience is a critical driver of eCommerce and the on-demand economy. In short, the rapid growth of online shopping is being driven because people value their time and have decided, for instance, that they have better things to do than go grocery shopping at the store. For customer service teams this means quickly responding to an inquiry and rapidly routing customers to the right agent the first time. Once connected, the agent has the information they need to and the ability to provide answers and take action without a lot of back and forth and waiting. Brands that consistently demonstrate they value customers’ time by efficiently delivering positive outcomes create lasting loyalty.
- Customers expect self-service options. Making it easy for customers to find answers and resolve issues themselves is akin to online shopping for customer service. This means having a robust, well-organized and easily searchable knowledge base and support site for customers to quickly find what they’re looking for online without having to directly contact customer service. And even if they do need to contact a brand, it is important to enable them to complete simple tasks, such as updating an address, before getting to an agent through bots powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Providing efficient self-service not only aligns brands with their customers’ on-demand mindset, but also frees agents from the pressure of a growing queue to focus on delivering standout service during the critical and high-value conversations that require their personal touch.
- Customers expect the same old reactive service. While customer expectations have been transformed in the past two decades the brands that care enough to take a personalized, proactive interest in their customers can still surprise. Whether it’s alerting customers to a mix-up with their delivery or another snafu before they realize it. Sending a personalized note to a long-time customer. Or engaging a dormant customer to understand why they have stopped purchasing and then providing unique offer based on their past purchases to incent them to try again. Proactive customer engagement is often the last thing customers expect and that non-demanded service is what can separate the great experiences from the good, today.
The sooner that businesses of all kinds accept that customer expectations for instant personal gratification is the norm, the better. That way, you can spend more time refining your customer service practices to give consumers what they expect and demand, as well as a pleasant surprise or two, in the most seamless way possible. At that point it becomes on-demand service in an on-demand culture.
July 10, 2019 at 09:22AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs