As technology evolves, the expectations of customers are quickly changing. Modern consumers now look for a quick and effortless service, which is altering the way successful companies are run. To find out more about how customer expectations are changing businesses, I spoke to Davy Kestens, the founder and CEO of the customer experience software company Sparkcentral, and an expert on the future of customer experience.
The Uber generation
“People under 20 have never lived in a world without technology,” Kestens says. “Their brains are wired differently. The younger generations are used to a fast-paced service, and they expect this from businesses and companies.”
This younger fast-paced generation is what Kestens calls the “Uber generation.” When ordering an Uber, this generation is likely to get impatient and cancel if the Uber has not arrived within three minutes, and switch to a faster but more expensive vehicle. This kind of expectation is the same for all the services this generation uses. For modern consumers, the product itself is no longer enough – the most important factor in a service is how fast and easy it is to use.
In order to really understand the future of customer service, we need to look at what the younger generation wants. Kestens believes that even stable, established brands at the moment are underestimating just how quickly things are changing and how it will affect their business. To compete with other companies, brands have to step up their game and keep up with evolving technology to ensure their customers have the most effortless experience possible.
What impact will AI have?
“AI will make it a lot cheaper for brands to scale their customer experience, but it won’t necessarily make their experience better,” says Kestens. “AI should be used as an enabler, which can help companies to work quickly and efficiently, but should not be used as a way of building a brand.”
AI is not a magic solution to creating a better customer experience, but instead should be thought of as something to assist the business to run more efficiently.
Bots in business
Kestens believes that historically, companies have been using bots in the wrong way. Some companies have been using them to try to automate every aspect of the customer experience, with scripted dialogue that changes based on what the customer says. This only results in further aggravating the customer – with a tree-like structure of possible answers, they are not receiving a quick answer to their question.
Bots have not yet reached the point where they are similar enough to humans to provide good customer service, so using them in this way is the equivalent of getting an untrained customer off the street to work in a call centre – they are frustrating and slower than a real agent.
However, bots can be used to help an agent deal with a customer query more efficiently – they can collect data and then pass the customer onto the most appropriate agent to help them. For example, if your house burns down you will want to speak to a real person to know that they feel empathy for your situation – but you would usually be happy to enter your payment details to a bot and then be passed back to an agent.
Kestens sees a huge amount of potential in the combination of bots with live agents, to create an effective and fast-paced service which still has a human element to it.
Convenience is the new loyalty
Customer loyalty is no longer related to the brand: it is related to the experience. In many sectors, consumers no longer care about the logo or the brand, they care about a service being quick and effortless for them. This was proven with Uber this year: they had very bad press, but it has had absolutely no impact on sales and revenue because it is such a quick and convenient service for users.
Imagine that every customer has a 5-second attention span and build your business accordingly. To build a brand that will thrive with the growth of technology, reducing customer effort should be your number one focus.
Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer engagement in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his new book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is due to hit the stands this month.