If there is one thing that has come to the fore the past year, it would have to be the customer experience. Not only have the bots risen to this demand, but customers have also become more discerning, more vocal and quite demanding. It has to become such that a business without a customer experience plan and strategy should not consider itself a fully-fledged business. In fact. contactless customer service is pretty much the norm now.
This is why when Freshworks recently surveyed 1,500 service professionals across the globe, with 600 of them from EMEA to understand predictions for CX in 2021, the big concerns were that customer expectations are rising and so are contact volumes. Over 80 per cent of customer service leaders have seen an increase in support volumes across digital channels like email, live chat and messaging, social media and website.
This also showcased the multifaceted business that focuses on SaaS products, and have a 360-degree view of the customer.
The state of customer service in 2020 Freshworks report points out the following:
– Customer expectations have increased with 63 per cent of customer service leaders observing a rise during the crisis.
– CX budgets are increasing globally with 56 per cent of customer service leaders noticing an increase from 2019.
– In 2020, it is predicted that CX will be all about agility with 65 per cent of customer service leaders worldwide embracing hybrid or remote working environments.
What happens is that customers come with basic needs. These are needs that must be addressed because it is the least the business can do. Then comes the segmented needs in the demographic. Locally, however, it is not this crisp. The market is rather fragmented. That being said, they can be divided into two – the tech-savvy, switched on crowd who expect your CX should come from a global point of view, and the semi-urban and rural customers whose knowledge is up and coming, comfortable with SMSes and use of simple applications that do not require a big change of behaviour. So if you are talking about CX, it helps to know what your market is, even though the chasm can make it tricky to navigate.
“My example here is Eneza, a tech company. They have simple SMSes to distribute their curriculum, but they also have a more sophisticated approach towards building the customer experience,” illustrates David Kariuki, Manager – Systems Technology/Ag. Manager Business Applications. “At KETRACO, we had to reengineer our processes to work in remote areas to ensure that our customers are safe,” he adds.
The financial services industry (FSI) also found themselves reviewing their technologies in 2020 to meet customer demands. “The current situation we are in where there is a lot of adoption of technology – there is a lot of social engineering going on now. We are seeing a lot of customers expecting faster responses to their issues, faster service when it comes to FSI offerings, and quite a number of other changes at HF Group. We are one of the oldest banks in Kenya and we are predominantly a mortgage house, but we are now a full-service bank. That has seen us adopt a lot of new technologies out there,” says Anita Chege, Head, Digital Transformation & PMO at HF Group. They have increased their customer base and increase value through tech. Remote working was, as is the case with almost everyone, a change they had to embrace.
CX inevitably raises the question of an omnichannel experience. Should organisations create this kind of experience for their customers? Is this the next step in CX? “Some key practical pointers organisations should consider before thinking of an omnichannel experience is around existing applications they have in their portfolio. A lot of them don’t support, for instance, tech such as bots. Changing your core banking system also is not something you just wake up and do. We have applications and products that allow for the rolling out seamless experiences,” states Chege. She adds that “the omnichannel experience requires a new set of skills for management making this a technical challenge, and it also raises the issue of collaborating with players in different areas of expertise. Also, work on your back end before you work on your front end,” observes Chege. The beauty of new technologies is an organisation does not have to start from scratch, but they can bank on SaaS.
With WFH (working from home) and remote IT support likely to stick around, customer service leaders need to be very strategic about where their focus lies. “Organisations can get into many different spaces with very minimal investment especially if they look at collaboration. Digital, is after all, incremental. You start small and continually grow as you learn and provide use cases for your customers. People expect a big bang when it comes to digital but this should not be the case. SaaS allows you to scale,” says Chege.
Kariuki agrees with Chege adding that, “The moment you have an IT desk and enable sales service, the amount of work automatically increases. Self-service is a key area to start with. Then you can move to chatbots and AI. Bots definitely allow us to get more information from our customers.”
ROI, when it comes to new technologies is something every CIO grapples with. What is my budget? What consists of new technology? What is the value I am getting out of this? “At the end of the day, the new technology improves your efficiency, cost savings, helps solve security vulnerabilities, and will all this pay off? It is also about understanding benefits accrued by the investment and not focusing only on the numbers. At its core, when we are calculating ROI we think, did I get more from this investment than I paid for it? But, over and above that, there is more to consider,” postulates Kariuki.
“Use cases when it comes to your customers is a critical reason when it comes to ROI. Also, one of the things a lot of organisations are still learning is that new technologies actually take time. Unlike the traditional way of buying products where you know after a year or so you will get ROI, the digital space is very different. It requires a lot of time. There is a lot of learning and a lot of iterations to be done before you get ROI from a monetary perspective,” concludes Chege.
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