As someone who embraces all things digital, I find it surprising how few firms have grasped the increasing expectations of customers in a digital world.
I frequently try to conduct my business online, but due to incomplete functionality, end up having to speak to a ‘real person’.  When I dial the number, I’m asked to enter my customer details.  When I’m finally put through, I’m asked yet again to provide my customer details and more often than not, the person I’m speaking with has no visibility of what it is I’ve been trying to do online and therefore, I have to take them through the entire journey again.  Frustrating, to say the least.  I see three key areas organisations can focus on to improve the digital experience for their customers:

  • Providing a single view of the customer;
  • Using social media for customer support; and
  • Leveraging customer insights.

This post focuses on the first of those – providing a single view of the customer.
In today’s increasing mobile world, organisations must realise that their customers are trying to interact with them across multiple channels dependent upon such factors as their location, the time of day, and what they are trying to do.  Back in June 2011, E-Tailing Group published their “4th Annual Customers Insights Survey” in which they noted that 72% of consumers want an integrated marketing approach.  In this multi-channel environment, it is absolutely essential that companies maintain one view of the customer so they have the visibility of what the customer has been trying to do and where they were trying to do it.  This will not only improve the customer experience, but will benefit the company through increased insights into their customers and which channels are preferred by which customers for which activities, informing future business strategies – which I’ll explore more in Part three of this blog series.
As a customer, I not only expect to be visible to the companies I choose to interact with across all channels I choose for those interactions, but I expect consistent experiences – messaging, tone of voice, etc. across each of those channels.  For organisations, this customer expectation means that all channels must connect to a single customer database. A customer’s details should exist once and against those details, information can be captured on how that customer has engaged across the organisation – across campaigns, products, support, etc.  That single database must be accessible to all customer-facing roles in the organisation, be they in Marketing, Customer Services, Technical Support, the Social team (if they sit separately) – any and all employees that are expected to interact with customers in a manner that’s of value to the customer and to the company.  The one customer database will be a single source of customer truth for the organisation.  That source of truth will enable customer-facing teams to gain the level of knowledge on each customer necessary to make them feel understood and valued in every interaction.

A single customer database and the visibility it provides to an organisation to enable their customer support, also enables true 24 hour support.  If an organisation declares itself to provide 24 hour customer service, that’s just what it must provide.  What the customer expects is that if they ring an organisation at 22.00 to raise an issue, that issue will be resolved.  What they don’t expect is to be told that the team that handles that issue is only available between 09.00 and 17.00 but that the issue will be logged with them.  That’s not 24 hour support, that’s a 24 hour message service.  Getting it wrong in the digital age, particularly the age of social networking, can result in negative attention for an organisation.
My next post in this series will address the issues of customer expectations around customer support through social channels. In the meantime, please do continue the debate with your comments below.