As digital continues to shift customer experience expectations, today’s brands and retailers are facing an increasing number of customer interactions on an increasing number of engagement channels and an ever-increasing set of customer expectations.
To further help companies understand changing customer preferences and behaviors, Verint, the customer engagement company, has released its annual digital customer experience report, which analyzes the impact of the shift and the engagement strategies being implemented by enterprise brands. The company’s report includes surveys of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers and more than 200 executives from businesses with at least 1,000 employees.
According to Verint’s research, the customer experience has fundamentally changed and as businesses try to meet evolving challenges with limited resources a new approach is needed — one that considers a holistic customer journey.
“The problem has changed, so the approach needs to change as well,” said Jenni Palocsik, vice president of marketing insights, experience and enablement at Verint. “It’s not enough to simply provide additional channels to meet customer demand. Nor is it enough to just provide point solutions as add-ons to telephony-centric systems. What’s really needed is a holistic approach to CX automation.”
Verint’s report found that 77 percent of businesses feel that consumer expectations for effective engagement digitally are up. However, when asked directly, the company found that the sentiment was shared by just over a third of consumers who report a preference for using digital channels to contact companies. The authors of the report said that this difference likely suggests that “while organizations believe that customers are being more demanding, it’s possible that they simply expect great digital experiences as standard.”
Moreover, the researchers point to the significance that just a single poor customer experience can have on consumer behavior. In its survey, Verint found 69 percent of consumers would stop doing business with a company following a negative interaction.
“Customer churn is a detrimental blow to any business,” said Palocsik. “It’s not just about losing a sale, it’s about eroding trust, breaking established relationships, and the ripple effect of negative word-of-mouth. Every customer lost is a signal to re-evaluate, innovate and improve customer engagement practices. The research emphasizes the escalating demands on businesses to offer prompt and effective responses as customers now expect immediate and frictionless engagement on their platform of choice.”
Upon receiving an “exceptional customer experience” via digital channels, 80 percent of consumers said they are likely to become loyal customers of a company. At the top of consumers’ priorities for a good experience, the report revealed a high value on prompt company responses with 65 percent ranking it as the most important or second most important factor in a positive customer experience. Receiving a response to a question related to service issues “easily” was also ranked as a top or second priority by 47 percent of consumers.
Overall, Verint’s report found that digital engagement channels continue to gain popularity. Half of the company’s consumer respondents say they have reached out to a company via social media or through private messaging channels, which the report notes is a 13 percent increase from its report just last year. With this broadening of digital platform usage in mind, the authors of the report advised companies to consider this as an opportunity to leverage customer data to deliver more tailored and personalized experiences.
At the same time, companies reported to Verint that the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) has become a key part of their customer engagement strategies. More than half (55 percent) of businesses said AI has a central role in how they are thinking about customer engagement now with an additional 27 percent saying they have plans to expand AI use in the future. Sixty-nine percent said AI technology will “significantly influence their customer experience approach,” especially in virtual assistants for self-service.
With AI still in the beginning stages for many, Verint’s researchers advised companies to devise a smart implementation strategy which will likely include extensive research and development processes. The company’s consumer survey reveals of the 74 percent of respondents who have engaged with chatbots, 64 percent say it was a negative experience. The most prevalent challenges in using chatbots were failures to answer the consumer’s question (71 percent) and the misunderstanding of intent (64 percent).
With nearly half (46 percent) of businesses reporting legacy systems to be a “major barrier” when trying to implement digital-first customer engagement, Verint advises companies that now is the time for a new approach. For many (43 percent) this means the adoption of social media and private messaging channels within their service teams in the next year.
“To meet rising customer expectations for swift responses and immediate issue resolution, businesses need to take their AI strategies beyond just deploying basic chatbots,” said Palocsik. “Automation is now an integral feature of modern customer engagement. Businesses must also incorporate advanced technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning, coupled with comprehensive intent understanding libraries. This amalgamation of technologies will help streamline responses to sophisticated customer interactions.”
As companies make moves to incorporate AI into their holistic consumer strategies, Verint urges organizations to keep in mind the importance of a seamless experience. AI holds great potential and performance is key.