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Customer 5.0 in the digital era

07 June 2018 by Marvin Mitchell
Putting clients first is a matter close to the heart with many vendors. Despite this, some vendors have recently been guilty of neglecting the tools they use to attract clients.

What vendors do nowadays involves forging distinct and prolonged ties with the clients. The question then arises as to what constitutes the nuts and bolts of suitable relationships. Arguably, it has much to do with demonstrating empathy, relevancy, and honesty. Additionally, interaction cannot be delineated from these three attributes.

The world is shifting towards the convenience age at high speed; unique services and products offered are no longer antecedents of consumer loyalty. Rather, customer loyalty is dependent on how conveniently and effortlessly consumers can utilize the services and products. This is fairly remarkable because it means a shift in the paradigm, or altering the dynamics of business opportunistically. Vendors are now able to distinguish themselves from competitors and take the lead in markets by surpassing the expectations of customers.

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You have the right to remain impatient

Today’s customers are characterized by full mobility. They can be considered impatient simply because they can be. They seek whatever pleases them and seek it promptly. Customers today are accustomed to numerous options – thanks to competition within the market – and command many alternatives to shift to other brands or solutions when they encounter frustrations. In view of this, brands should avoid perceiving customer service teams merely as expenses, but rather as opportunities for enhancing consumer loyalty.

This becomes indispensable as movement to the future takes effect. With the availability of innovation and technology, contact centers would become channel-less, implying that the real touch point employed is irrelevant. When such age is reached, consumer-centric contact centers would have the capacity of seamlessly resolving consumer queries, with contextual information of customers being exchanged in the entire company – whereas those that demonstrated reluctance in embracing the digital revolution would lag behind their rivals.

It all has to do with individuality. And this mechanism is persistent in several areas, including local micro-business: the pub owner and bartender at my local, and me. Maybe not the best of examples but I understand my local bartender, and he understands me. This is the ancient consumer 1.0 interaction.

Thank us very much

However, with firms expanding, coupled with the advent of mass media and advertising, 1.0 interactions have become rare. The globe has shifted towards a setting where one-to-multiple marketing is predominant. The name of a brand or company started dominating marketing communication, thus heralding the influenced consumer 2.0 era.

All vendors dispatch their marketing messages, and eventually this irritates the consumer. Every vendor attempts to affect the purchasing behavior of the customer, whether through bells and whistles, or attractive packaging coupled with pretty bows on top. This constitutes the mass media era. It was considered communication, even though it was conveying. Whispering, shouting, silent or loud, but often steering clients down a specific path.

In this kind of communication, product functions and features were the main storyline, and when customers lost interest, the focus shifted to emotions and solutions. Mass communication was fine-tuned psychologically and placed in different segments. The scene was filled with showbiz celebrities. However, firms merely kept conveying, and consumers continued receiving. Customer-focus constituted the closest vendors could get to the clients. Although the vendors were focused, their thinking remained egocentric. Rather than prioritize the needs of customers, vendors still reasoned based on their procedures.

The customer really does know best

The one-to-many marketing age is gone, and firms must come to terms with this reality. The entry of omnipresent mobile Internet coupled with iPhones has transformed everything. A total shift in the paradigm has been actualized. From this moment on, the consumer is the antecedent. In view of this, the assertion by Steve Jobs likening the iPhone to having an individual life in their pockets is misplaced.

The customer of today is in charge of their life. The dominance of the smartphone is indisputable. Ascendancy characterizes the empowered consumer 3.0. Today’s consumers can be likened to nectar-filled flowers, where firms – like bees – begin to gather around. The consumer selects and makes their preferences, or not, within a short time frame, or a lifetime. The reality that greets loyalty can solely exist when there is no discontinuity to love affairs. This era may be considered as many-to-one. From a personal perspective, communication media should accurately be used at the expense of the word social media.

Notably, the new-age consumer remains a bit confused. She/he needs to get accustomed to their newly acquired strength. Consumers immerse themselves in multiple decisions, and thus regularly seek products that fit the mantra of ‘I understand best.' Additionally, vendors are having to venture afield because the majority have remained adamant about one-to-many modes, and are unable to provide a variety of individual solutions because of intervention by customers. Customers are exhausted, they want the bells and whistles to stop, and fatigue is also taking its toll on the vendors.

Becoming the marketing department

A mechanism for getting out of the restless disparity exists. The hyper-connected world has pointers everywhere on the issue. Consumers are relating to each other, depending on their fellow travelers, and can thus undertake decisions on their own. Consumers are seeking better business shortcuts for speed, sincerity, and transparency, and depend largely on peer-to-peer networks consisting of like-minded individuals.

Consumers are not merely consumers; today’s consumers could also be considered the Sales and Marketing Sales department, as well as the infrastructure. Examine how Facebook, Airbnb, and Uber are using customers as brand marketers and ambassadors. This form of marketing could be considered many-to-many (customer interaction 4.0). Equal partnership characterizes the entry of the vendor and customer on retail platforms.

But a dilemma exists with regard to the manner in which solace could be found within the customer-driven world. The sole means of regaining internal solace is via one-to-one interactions. This implies that vendors discard their corporate behaviors by de-branding themselves.

Emerging business platforms are addressing this pattern. They are removing superfluous middlemen. They take into account the unfulfilled demands. They enhance the transparency and simplicity of the entire selection process. They facilitate network power. For instance, Tesla gained huge strides in the automotive industry without conducting mass marketing. The success story at Tesla is solely premised on the network’s power, as well as on the community that is supportive of the brand.

I’m telling you for the last time

In the past, conventional contact centers had a voice-only channel that was rigidly routed as the alternative to consumer support and service. Customers were compelled to use one communication channel, and thus several inconveniences existed. This is no longer the case because contact centers have several channels that offer support to clients including chat, email, and phone options.

Nevertheless, the absence of context sharing between channels presents an issue, usually necessitating clients to express their inquiries and information repeatedly. When frustration strikes on the part of frantic customers, their brand loyalty diminishes. As leaders of contact centers make future plans, they should initially comprehend the major changes in consumer expectations emanating from the prevailing conditions of the digitized world.

The three basic practices of handling Customer 5.0 include:

 1. Automating whenever and wherever possible: However, organizations should not overlook humans. While chatbots constitute an effective means of streamlining inquiries, which necessitate agent participation, the technology still needs active learning within the context of customer service. Without information from customer-agent conversations, machines are unable to comprehend how standardization of the process might be undertaken.

2. Balance unstructured data, including chatbot transcripts, IVR recordings, conversations, and web chats: Clients seek to perceive vendors as human beings; thus vendors should treat each client individually. This implies that all consumer expectations are comprehended preemptively. Because such expectations differ from one customer to another and for every context, challenges are created.

3. Vendors can only succeed if they employ technology to understand their customers deeply: For instance, they gather information about customers, analyze it and apply it in a proactive manner, at the required time and under relevant conditions, and through appropriate means. Notably, the choice of channel rests solely on the customers. To avert negative sentiments from customers, as well as mistakes, vendors should automate processes.

Apart from that, vendors ought to dispatch sales personnel to reinforce constructive emotions and even inspire passion. Moreover, vendors should reason from the perspective of human-to-human interactions and understand their customers in and out, but without expecting them to become predictable. This means dullness should not be allowed to set in as the surprises keep flowing. Notably, the ‘wow’ effect should be invoked as often as possible. Only at that juncture can vendors directly engage customers in one-on-one communication (customer communication 5.0).

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806–1861)

Do you recognize yourself as Customer 5.0? Does knowing that you are doing the marketing for companies whose products and services you buy make you feel empowered, or enraged? Is automated customer service a good thing, or your least favorite thing as a consumer?

Share the love or release your rant in the section below – thanks, Marvin

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About the writer
Marvin Mitchell
Current VP Customer Support at Kongsberg Digital where our mission is building long lasting relationships with our customers. We view best in class support as essential to KONGSBERG’s growth and success and strive for a customer support experience recognized as unique in our industry for its exceptional level of quality and expertise.