Customers are taking control of their relationships with companies, and that is having a profound impact on the Customer Experience. Customers want immediate, thorough, and successful omni-channel customer care. They use Web self-service, mobile apps, and social media before contacting customer service. When customers do reach out to companies, they expect agents to know their needs, preferences, and problems from the self-service, and from previous interactions, and to resolve them without escalations or repeated contacts.
Naturally enough, many customers insist on being connected to the “best agents”: those proficient at solving similar problems, or with whom they had previously interacted, rather than the “next available agents.” Customers also will go to web sites or on social media while conversing with agents.
At the same time, the smartphone is becoming customers’ preferred interaction device. Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the number of smartphones shipped in North America will nearly double over the next few years, from 213 million in 2013 to 410 million in 2018.
In this environment customers are turning to online channels. A 2014 Frost & Sullivan survey reports that chat, mobile app, social, video, and Web channel usage will increase, while IVR, live agent, and email demand will decline; for good reason: online channels provide immediate, visual, shareable, and easily referenced communications. They also allow agents to send links, images, clips, and documents inline. When combined with remote support, online channels become more effective by enabling agents and customers to interact with each other while agents are solving technical problems on their computers or smart devices.
It is not outrageous to predict that online and Web-based channels will eventually become the standard means of customer interaction. The online-savvy, next generation consumer is becoming the mainstream decision-maker. Meanwhile, voice and video are being supported online through browser-based WebRTC: which eschews separate traditional telephony and its attendant infrastructure.
But successfully providing online channels is not without challenges. Each application has to connect seamlessly and securely and with associated solutions, such as analytics, CRM systems, knowledge bases, and multichannel routing. Applications must also be intuitive to use and easy to deploy. New solutions like WebRTC are still in their infancy. WebRTC agents must be carefully selected and trained for online channels, particularly with social channels, as these are public conversations where agents act as spokespeople and have brand responsibility.
A new Frost & Sullivan webinar with LogMeIn, “The Future of Customer Engagement: Keeping Pace with the Connected Consumer,” on Wednesday Dec.3 at 1pm ET will dive into the factors that enable a successful Customer Experience through online channels. We invite you to join and also to participate in the session’s interactive Q&A. The webinar will look at the related issues of supporting connected devices, also known as “the Internet of Things,” the role of demographics and the rise of new channels, and the growing importance of Customer Effort (CE). Please register here to learn from and to take part in this important dialog.