The expectations of today’s customers are constantly changing—the modern customer experience needs to go above and beyond traditional customer service methods. It must integrate customer preferences as well as their expectations into each consumer-brand touchpoint.
Meeting these expectations is no simple feat. In fact, recent research shows that 67% of customers say their standards for good experiences are higher than ever. Fueling this preference—and simultaneously benefitting customer-focused brands—is technology.
The emerging technologies of today will be powering the customer experiences of tomorrow. From augmented reality to voice assistants to cloud technology and more, there’s no shortage of new ways to connect with customers. And this list will continue to expand.
In order to create a positive customer experience, fuel brand loyalty and drive sales growth, today’s businesses must find the right digital tools. Here are four of today’s top technologies that can improve customer experience—and one you’re likely already using.
The cloud, and the tools backed by this technology, is common at business organizations today—and for good reason. The 2018 IDG Cloud Computing study revealed that when it comes to customer experience, 57% of survey respondents report that improving customer support or services is a top driver of investment in cloud solutions.
As technology advances, the amount of available sales channels increases. Consider all the ways consumers can make a purchase today: brick-and-mortar stores, phone orders, mobile apps—the options are endless. In fact, Aberdeen reports that 51% of businesses use at least eight different channels for customer engagement.
Omnichannel retail, which aims to provide a unified and seamless customer experience across all sales channels and enable customers to have consistent brand interactions, is expected to increase as new technologies become available. No matter what channel customers choose for interactions, brands are able to gather, centralize, and react to that data. Organizations are relying on cloud technology to manage these interactions and integrating every point of customer data into a central repository.
With traditional software, you have to physically be at your desk or computer to access your company’s resources. With cloud solutions, though, you can use them from any device with a network connection. That’s why millions of B2B companies are investing in cloud accounting software, online payroll management tools, and other similar resources.
B2B companies scale at a much more drastic pace than most B2C businesses. That’s why it’s critical to only use resources and tools that grow and contract with you. Because most cloud solutions operate on a subscription basis, a company is able to change their requirements at virtually any point in time. Their service provider worries about uptime, scalability, performance and risk, so you don’t have to.
Also, when implementing cloud-based tools, be sure to select a provider that operates on their own cloud versus companies that rely on third parties to access the cloud. Solutions without a proprietary cloud don’t offer the same ease of communication from one department to the next and may hinder your ability to use this valuable data to its full capacity.
Due to the proliferation of smartphones and mobile search features, today’s consumers are accustomed to immediate answers and instantaneous access to the web. Even so, consumer research reports estimate customers are willing to wait up to four hours for a response to their online inquiry, yet nearly 90% of these inquiries go unanswered by brands. Lack of response will inevitably become detrimental to sales conversions, revenue and brand sustainability.
Chatbots are an artificial intelligence-powered technology designed to engage in conversation with human users over the internet. They have quickly taken over customer service functions for a growing number of businesses as they are able to respond to customer queries and fulfill the modern consumer demand for instant support.
For example, TD Bank announced their chatbot, TD Clari, in 2018. The bank’s chief digital and payments officer stated that, “Customer expectations are constantly evolving, and we believe AI is key to creating exceptional, personalized experiences and adding real value to our customers across our digital properties.” Integrated with TD Bank’s mobile app, Clari offers deeper insights into a customer’s financial decisions, using AI to provide spending insights, information on TD credit cards, help with everyday transactions and also answers commonly asked customer service questions.
New findings in the Aspect Consumer Experience Index show that 61% of consumers feel that having Chatbots in customer service is the way of the future. Seventy percent (70%) of millennials report positive experiences with Chatbots, and many prefer Chatbots for the convenience and immediate gratification.
According to one report, Chatbots currently account for business cost savings of $20 million globally. And, that number is expected to rise. Findings from analysis firm Juniper Research show that Chatbots are expected to trim business costs by more than $8 billion per year by 2022.
Virtual & Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are game-changers in the way people communicate and interact. Their impact across an array of different fields is likely to expand as the technology matures and develops, especially in the area of customer experience, where AR and VR apps and other solutions are becoming more widespread.
The impact AR and VR has on B2B customer service can already be felt. They enable customers to educate themselves about your company and solve their own problems better than ever before. Additionally, this technology will redefine how your sales reps understand customers, providing them with a better understanding of what the customer is going through, increasing their empathy and enabling them to suggest better solutions to their issues.
Visual and augmented reality are starting to enable the visual customer journey too. Apps such as Google Lens allow customers to search by looking at an object and as they do, expect a visual (and mobile-optimized) journey. 5G is only going to propagate this and open the door to new experiences and resulting data that will require innovative engagement in the future.
Thanks to the growing popularity of devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, voice capabilities have also begun to add value in customer experience. Last year, eMarketer predicted 31 million people in the U.S. had shopped via a smart speaker.
As Danielle Reubenstein, executive creative director at POSSIBLE Mobile, told CMO by Adobe, “Brands should be using voice as a supplement to other experiences, and voice should continue to be relied on to engage consumer loyalty and facilitate actions.”
Purchasing experiences equipped with voice capabilities can serve as a useful tool to the customer as it leverages data and audio feedback to make a customer’s task easier or more seamless. With time of the essence these days, busy customers can use voice commands to indulge in a fast shopping experience. In return, customers offer brands greater loyalty and repeat business.
According to data from research firm Consumer Research Intelligence Partners, consumers that use their Echo to make purchases are among Amazon’s most loyal customers, spending an average of $1,600 per year, compared to the $1,300 per-year average of Prime customers, a figure 66% higher than the average Amazon customer spends in a year.
Since your customers are accustomed to using voice search in their personal lives, the natural progression is for them to employ it on the job. Although wholesale buyers typically make more complex product purchases and require alternate transaction methods than consumer shoppers, the B2B customer lifecycle still requires information gathering, customer service, and post-purchase assistance—which could be done more efficiently through voice-enabled technology.
Arguably the most important technology is still the smartphone. From the smartphone, customers have access the cloud. They can call numbers and send texts via SMS that are answered by chatbots. They can leverage VR/AR tools for incredible experiences and hands-on education. They shop, educate and interact with clients via voice capabilities.
But most importantly, customers want to know that their data is secure. The smartphone is still the ultimate enabler, gateway and getaway for the customer. They shop, research pre-, during and post-visit to the store, review products, share on social media and access loyalty programs through a single device. Keeping your software up to date is like “a vaccination for your smartphone”—updates let you stay a step ahead of hackers and the latest exploits they're spreading across the internet. Additionally, a virtual private network (VPN) can keep your data from being snooped on by other people lurking on the same public network.
As one Capgemini study states, "Consumers wish to use technology to help them engage with the store at every step of the shopping journey." However, it goes on to note that "a minority of digital leaders ... have implemented relevant digital initiatives in the majority of their stores and realized significant benefits.”
Finding the right technologies for your business will not only allow you to capture and convert your customers in a new way, but will also offer a business advantage over competitors who have yet to align technology with their customer experiences. Lead your customers to the new technology and tools at their disposal, and incentivize these customers to use them. This is a great way to engage both new users and recurring customers. Use the above tools to your benefit. Your customers will thank you for it.
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