More than one in every five South Africans (23%) believes you don’t need customer service representatives anymore and that all customer service should be done online.
The results of a study of 2 000 consumers in South Africa, published by Verint Systems, with support from Opinium Research and research and advisory firm IDC, shows that in terms of leading customers on a digital journey, speed, insight and desired outcomes are the biggest factors.
More than 80% of the South Africans interviewed stated that customer service online and via mobile devices should be faster, more intuitive and better able to serve their needs, with 72% indicating that they like the option of using online virtual assistants and online chats to get a faster outcome to their queries.
According to Rob Howard, vice-president and GM for social communities at Verint, digital channels play a big part of any decision a consumer is making.
“Digital channels, in particular online communities, enable consumers to take less risk in their choices and decisions, as they can learn from those that have gone before them and preview how they will be treated as a future customer.”
He says consumers expect the businesses they interact with to offer numerous digital channels. “I don’t necessarily care if they are on Facebook–as that isn’t where I want to interact with them–but I do want them to be on Twitter, and I do want to have a place where I can interact on a more personal level with that brand.
“For example, if I’m buying a new triathlon bike: I’ll look for the brand on Twitter, I’ll read reviews on Amazon, and then I’ll visit their community to ask product-specific questions from existing customers. From this collective set of interactions, I’ll form a buying decision,” says Howard.
He says it comes as no surprise when analysts routinely report that upwards of 70% of today’s sales start online. There are three specific challenges that organisations must overcome as they shift away from the traditional marketing funnel and toward the customer’s experience.
“Today’s consumer is better educated than ever – with information readily available on our phones. All of this rich data originates from digital channels: Twitter, online communities, ratings and reviews all continue to feed the wealth of product knowledge immediately available at the user’s fingertips.
“Customer service is the front-line leader for helping to ensure a great customer experience. Organisations must recognise that everyone is in customer service, not just the customer service department. We’ve seen this with some of our customers who now lead internal training sessions for everyone in their company to instruct them how to interact with customers on Twitter and the company’s online community.
“As a consumer, I want the ability to interact with your brand. I want to give feedback. I want to read reviews – both positive and negative – and have the ability to provide my own commentary. Give me the opportunity to share my experiences and embrace my feedback. When you do, you’ll find it is yet another way to impact my experience as a customer,” says Howard.
Understanding and embracing digital channels are no longer optional – digital is simply table stakes for today’s successful organizations, he adds.