Let’s get real: once-transformative technologies that allowed businesses to respond to consumer needs with speed and agility no longer elicit the oohs and aahs they once did. While new technology continues to emerge, the digital transformation of recent years has conditioned consumers to expect ultra-responsive, technologically-powered customer service, but they want more than that. Below, we break down the consumer trends that will reign supreme in 2019 and how businesses can rise to the challenge.
Consumers Expect Brands to Know Their Personal Preferences
Netflix knows that you love British legal dramas starring a strong female lead – and in 2019, that’s okay and not at all creepy. While consumers once looked upon eerily accurate targeted ads with suspicion, they’ve become conditioned to personalized experiences. On every website they visit and in every email they open, they’re presented with messages that seem perfectly tailored just for them. In fact, consumers have become so accustomed to businesses only shooting relevant messages their way, that 71% of them feel frustrated when their retail experience feels impersonal.
While this expectation may have been created in a retail environment, it doesn’t end there. From dining experiences to consumer service interactions, consumers crave personalization on a subconscious level. If your consumer service agents are working from a one-size-fits-all call flow, consumers will notice, and they’ll likely leave the interaction feeling frustrated. The solution is simple in theory and complex in practice: enable your frontline agents to take the wheel and deliver an authentic experience to every consumer they interact with. This may mean putting less training emphasis on following process and more training emphasis on learning to use all available resources to uncover the ideal resolution for the individual they are interacting with. It may mean recruiting for a higher degree of empathy than you would have five years ago – and/or testing specifically for active listening skills (Are you still prioritizing typing speed in your hiring tests? Hint: Every Millennial and Gen Z on earth can type faster than your average Baby Boomer.)
And then, of course, you need to empower agents to make decisions. As customer service leader Paul R. Jones told us: “It comes down to empowerment and decision-making. My agents know I expect them to make a decision. Bottom line: make a decision that you think will resolve the problem and it’s okay if it’s not the same decision I personally would make… teach them how to improve while simultaneously empowering them to make their own decisions and hold themselves accountable for a customer’s experience.” (Sidebar: Is it possible to effectively test for decision-making capability in the training classroom? That’s a hard yes. You sure can. Get in touch if you want some info on how we do this. We’re recognized as a world leader in testing for applied knowledge in the contact center environment.)
Also read this: Customer Journey Mapping in the Contact Center
Consumers Want Brands to Use Their Power for Good and Not Just Profit
No matter which way you cut it – 2019 will be a year of change. Everywhere, people are standing up and using their voice (and their consumer power) to drive the change they want to see. In today’s age, staying neutral on a topic can actually be one of the more polarizing decisions. Silence is deafening, and apathetic brands are sounding alarms in the minds of consumers. In fact, more and more consumers are drawn to legislative brands, or companies that are using their reach to make a difference. Consumers expect the brands they support to be more engaged – that means going beyond an annual charitable donation or community service day. Brands need to be comfortable rubbing some of their customers the wrong way, in favor of forging even stronger bonds with those who stick around. In 2018, Nike gave us all a master class in taking a stand.
Your company’s commitment to making a difference needs to be engrained in your frontline agents. From social media, online chats, emails, and phone calls – they’ll be the ones inundated with concerned and hyper-vigilant consumers holding your company accountable at every turn. How your brand responds to these concerns can be a high-stakes, make-or-break situation. Again, in our opinion, it comes down to recruiting and training. In an outsourced solution, you need to be sure your partner (or prospective partner) is truly capable of adopting your brand and brand voice. Your agents have to be living and breathing your brand values on the frontline. Get the agent profile right, and your outsourcer will be starting from a position of strength with agents who naturally align with your brand and values. Get the training right, and agents are operating from a position of strength – knowing how to put those values into action for your customer and for your brand. Check out this guide if you’re interested in the “how to.”
Instant Gratification is the New Normal
A 24-hour email service level is almost laughable to a Millennial or Gen Z consumer. They want their resolution and they want it now, by chat or social media preferably.
Continuous connectivity has accustomed all of us to expect immediate gratification – and “consumer unrest” is mounting. People are no longer satisfied operating by a business’s playbook; they want businesses to operate by theirs. Consumers facing an issue aren’t interested in waiting days (hours?) for a fix and they aren’t looking to compromise. To some extent, this mindset is a product of businesses continuously attempting to outshine their competitors by providing customers with better, faster service. Now, there’s no turning back.
If there is one group of people that bear the brunt of consumer unrest, it’s contact center agents. Although they’re not strangers to de-escalating situations and calming frustrated customers, communicating with empathy is critical in 2019. In training, agents need to understand that anger is an expected step in the customer journey, and by remaining calm, transparent, and understanding – single call resolution is possible. Again, this also requires your business to give your customer service team the power to make decisions on the fly.
Also read this: Can You Train Contact Center Agents in Empathy?
Consumers are Hungry for Honesty
Consumers have learned to be skeptical. We’re constantly navigating minefields of data misuse, fake reviews of products, and top-secret algorithms controlling our digital ecosystems. In a world built upon interactions where consumers are viewed as a commodity, people just want honesty. If they feel like just another cog in the wheel, they’ll leave – like 37% of people do after just one negative customer service experience.
In 2019, technology should support your team’s ability to make an impact, not attempt to do the job for them. By breaking down the smoke and mirrors and fostering real connections between your customer base and your customer service teams, your businesses’ reputation can soar. In 2019, you’ll see AI being leveraged to enhance the relationship between consumer and brand. Those seeking to leverage AI for the sole purpose of driving cost out of their business will be left in the wake of those seeking to delight consumers with elegant and easy access to support. If you’re going to RFP for an outsourced customer care solution in 2019, read this first.
At Blue Ocean, our customer experience solutions are a perfect blend of innovative technology and authentic human connections, giving your customers the level of service they crave. Let’s talk about how we can help!