How to drive customer engagement in a post-pandemic world
Regardless of industry, product or service, one of the drivers to achieving business success is having a strong customer engagement strategy with which to acquire and retain customers.
Due to the ongoing fallout from the pandemic, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years for businesses affected by consumer behaviour and buying habits.
The UK is now officially in recession and consumer confidence is historically low. In order to improve and grow, businesses need to focus on what they can do to rebuild and repair customer relationships in these final months of the year ahead and beyond. Part of this involves focusing on relationship building with customers, in an effort to win back spend and loyalty.
The challenge for support teams
The past few months have been a challenge for customer support teams, as they seek to provide the level of attention that customers require, whilst also working effectively from the safety of their own homes. On top of this, the pandemic has caused a multitude of new issues that customers are facing and require support with, as well as of course feeling stressed and anxious about everything that is going on. Combine all of this, and maintaining a positive customer experience starts to seem like an impossible task.
This is where improving customer engagement has a powerful role to play: two-thirds of companies compete on the quality of their customer experience and 96% of consumers agree that customer service is key to their purchase decisions. Ramping up customer engagement, therefore, has the potential to pay dividends down the line.
Customer interaction is key
Customer engagement can be defined as the continuous and valuable interactions between a business and its customers. Running a successful business is not only about attracting customers to your website, converting them, accepting their money, and thanking them for their custom. That’s crucial for ongoing success, sure, but engaging customers and cultivating valuable relationships long-term takes entirely more finesse and should be the focus.
Businesses trying to make a major impact on their industry, or niche, must therefore understand their core audience, pain points, budgets, shopping habits, goals, the most appealing options available to them, etc. before they can start to really engage them.
A successful company focusing on customer engagement will use this data to anticipate buyer needs and position itself as the ideal solution in light of this information. Catering to these target consumers’ requirements and delivering a quality service can help secure shoppers’ loyalty too; as highly-engaged customers are likely to keep coming back, make repeat purchases and recommend the business to others. So how do you do it?
Automation is the key to empathy and engagement
Anyone who’s ever called a support line and been greeted by a never-ending list of options, seemingly without an agent in sight or had to contend with an ineffective chatbot for that matter, will understand how frustrating ‘poor’ automated service can be.
This isn’t to say that there’s no place for a well-executed automation strategy, in fact, automating standard, repetitive tasks will promote speed, efficiency and effectiveness in your customer journey, as well as providing your agents with a better working experience. However, this automation must be introduced in a thoughtful way, with a clear strategy helping to shape its impact on your business.
The right customer service software can intelligently determine whether an inquiry can be handled with pure automation, if it needs the human touch, or if it can be done with a mix of the two. Contextual routing and sentiment analysis are just two of the features that can help you drive customer engagement and offer a superior customer experience.
As with most things in life, balance is key, and a combination of automation and human-to-human connection is important to many customers. That’s where empathy comes in.
Understanding customer needs
To become empathetic, businesses must understand their target customers and recognise which problems they are experiencing. This is fundamental to ensuring they are catering to the right people and trying to solve the right issues.
Customers’ pain points and situations may have changed dramatically since the onset of the pandemic, and acknowledging this is important. Many customers might feel vulnerable at the moment with a future that seems less clear than ever before. So, companies must work hard to deliver the level of service customers need and deserve. This means businesses must take a fresh look at their audience to identify any unmet needs and be more empathetic towards them as they adjust to a new way of life. This might mean slowing some processes to allow agents extra time to listen to customers on calls or live chats. Customers will appreciate this effort and it will benefit your business in the long run.
But, what about customer service agents themselves? Life may be more challenging for them, too. While more employees are returning to offices, many organisations are still working from home., which is likely to be a very different working environment than the office they’re used to. Businesses should be honest with customers about their new customer support set-up too and remind them that employees are doing their best in unusual circumstances; and thank them for their patience in advance.
The importance of omnichannel personalisation
Customers interact with multiple companies on a regular basis. Embracing more personalisation in your customer engagement strategy will help your audience feel more valued as they deal with you. That’s why 44% of consumers are likely to become repeat buyers after a personalised service interaction and 39% will introduce their friends or relatives to the brand.
Fortunately, customer service software empowers brands to deliver a level of personalised service not previously possible. For example, by unifying communications across phone, email, chat and messaging, agents can instantly access the information they need, all in one place. This access to a customer’s interaction history enables an agent to understand their previous issues, what promises were made and what their preferred communication channel is. They’re not greeting the customer cold and asking them to provide previously shared info.
With customer recognition features in place to enable personalisation, support teams can also collaborate and solve problems together, thanks to easy transfer and listen-in options. This reduces the time wasted, and frustration caused, by bouncing customers from agent to agent.
Short term adaptability leads to long term agility
COVID-19 has forced many businesses to pivot by making quick changes to their operations and processes. Routines that had become established were transformed almost overnight, as companies learned to adapt to survive. For companies who had already embraced remote work, the transition may have been easier. But many had to learn on-the-go. This increases the risk of delays and disruptions to services — including customer support.
Fortunately, flexibility and adaptability are the cornerstones of remote working, and embracing the right software solution empowers teams with the freedom to work from any location in the world as long as it has an internet connection.
Agents still have access to all the analytics and customer insights they need to offer a personalised experience, engaging consumers with a service tailored to their needs and communication preferences. This creates a stable foundation to build an efficient, effective, successful customer service network upon — regardless of where employees are located.
Managing workloads through intelligent routing
Through these trying times there will, no doubt, be fluctuating workloads to manage. Quality customer service software helps agents to cope and to pay equal attention to every communication channel. Employees can monitor all relevant channels in one place rather than switching between them again and again. This reduces wasted time and boosts efficiency.
Additionally, as intelligent routing prioritises inquiries based on their importance, agents are unable to ignore more complex interactions in favour of more straightforward ones. As a result, customers won’t be left waiting for a response while “easier” issues get addressed sooner. Lastly, businesses can expand their customer support teams to accommodate an increase in demand in a more cost-effective and fast way. They can set new agents up and increase efficiency without trying to find more office space.
As we near the last quarter of 2020, there is no doubt that it continues to be a tough environment for businesses to operate in. To survive and thrive, organisations will need to focus on developing and delivering the right kinds of customer communication strategies that will drive customer engagement and loyalty.