During the COVID-19 pandemic, homebound consumers became digital-first natives as they turned to self-service channels to manage their lives and satisfy their shopping needs. And while a digital transformation was already underway, the past two years were a tipping point that heightened consumer expectations for instant gratification and digital self-service.
In the on-demand world we’re living in, where brands like Amazon, Netflix and Uber have conditioned consumers to expect everything to be always on, responsive and fast, “we’ll get to you when we can” isn’t an option anymore. Customers want service, responsiveness and results, and they want it all now. This is especially true in the retail industry. Consumer expectations have taken a quantum leap as more and more customers turn to ecommerce in lieu of brick-and-mortar locations.
When customers engage with their favorite brands, the common denominator with every engagement is the demand for instant gratification, regardless of channel. Whether it’s resolving a problem, making a purchase or return or any other need, customers expect speed, efficiency and a seamless interaction — all while expending minimal effort. It’s critical for brands to meet this demand to maintain brand loyalty, and they don’t have many chances to get it right. Research from PwC shows that one in three (32%) of customers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.
Instant gratification means optimizing self-service channels for fast and frictionless support. Accordingly, to keep pace with customer needs and expectations, CX leaders should be managing the customer journey early and often.
The reality is this: When a customer needs help with a problem, their first thought isn’t to place a call to a contact center. In fact, our research found that more than 65% search Google and 24% will check the website. Only 4% call first. That means 96% of people are attempting self-service channels before they connect with an agent. Bottom line: service doesn’t begin with traditional channels. It begins with self-service. As a result, when thinking about instant gratification, a traditional service approach focusing solely on agent-assisted channels misses the full customer journey and set of needs.
Let’s explore four often-overlooked best practices that can help meet the customer demand for instant gratification.
• Optimize customer content for frequently searched queries and FAQs. Optimize this content for search so that it appears at the top of Google results, easily surfacing what customers need from your website.
• Optimize your chatbots to make your self-service smarter. According to NICE’s 2020 CX Transformation Benchmark, 90% of businesses don’t think chatbots are smart enough for consumers to use regularly. The wrong chatbot technology can’t accurately process customer context, and these basic options create undue friction. But leading technology powered by more purposefully built artificial intelligence (AI) makes self-service smarter, transforming even complex interactions from, “I don’t understand,” to “Here’s the answer.”
• Optimize the agent experience to support a seamless customer experience. For assisted interactions, you can’t deliver instantly if customers wait while an agent navigates multiple screens and folders for the answer. Unified technology is the answer. But, trending today and for the immediate future, are also AI-powered knowledge bases and AI-powered coaching, which give the agents the right actions and answers faster, making both the agent and customer feel good.
• Leverage analytics: Data analysis is critical to providing consumers with multiple digital-first DIY solutions. These insights can help anticipate customer needs, predict potential roadblocks and provide multiple pathways toward a resolution without any unnecessary stops along the way. By harnessing data through AI, companies can turn insights into results in real time. This can give customer service agents the information they need in the moment to pinpoint opportunities and make decisions, elevating the customer and agent experience. With the right tools, a seamless customer service experience can be built on data, not guesswork, and provide the ability to grow and pivot based on customer needs.
As the past few years have made perfectly clear, customer expectations are changing faster than ever before. Retailers need a platform that allows them to act smarter and respond faster. They need data to become smarter and offer a better experience to consumers.
It’s clear that widespread digital adoption means consumers no longer have patience for anything but immediate satisfaction. If they don’t already, retailers must appreciate the value of existing digital technology, which can deliver these ‘micro-moments’ of instant gratification — at scale on every channel — either through self-service that really works or well-prepared agents. This will have a cumulative impact on a more meaningful, lasting customer experience.
In order to meet the moment, retailers need to ensure they use all of the technology available to them to engage customers on their digital doorsteps, making every interaction a reason for them to come back for more.
Laura Basset is a VP at NICE CXone, where she leads a comprehensive go-to-market strategy for current and next-generation solutions. Throughout her career, Basset has a track record of defining business strategies and establishing best practices that drive revenue. She has worked directly with customers to establish contact center and customer experience strategies and managed global marketing for contact center and vertical solutions.