If the past year revealed the rising demand for everything digital—it also highlighted key aspects of the online customer journey that organizations have neglected. Until now, most companies have prioritized their digital investments around the revenue-generating aspects of the customer experience. Online account onboarding, e-commerce, and credit lending are prime examples.
However, when consumers require different outcomes such as payment support, the interactions are often still handled by call centers. We saw the consequences of this play out during the pandemic. As stay-at-home orders left call centers closed or understaffed, customers who needed help found themselves spending hours on the phone—or worse, were left without guidance.
This digital disconnect may be common, but hopefully not for long. Forward-looking companies are creating end-to-end digital customer experiences that benefit customers and the business. From improved customer LTV (Life Time Value) to cost savings, the results reveal that prioritizing customers at every turn pays.
The future of digital experiences revealed
The last year yielded many insights into how, why, and when customers engage with a business digitally. Faced with few options, customers turned to online resources in droves. And unlike years past, when younger generations have driven digital adoption, the crisis forced customers of all ages to engage with businesses online. Around the world, companies rose to the challenge. According to Experian research, nine out of 10 businesses currently have a strategy for serving their digital customers, with 47% implementing their strategies since Covid-19 began. The rapid shift to digital uncovered opportunities to reach new markets. For example, online grocer Instacart™ launched support services specifically for seniors interested in grocery delivery.
However, the sudden spike in consumer demand for engaging with businesses online also revealed significant gaps in the digital customer journey. Consider that only one in four consumers report that they can get help when they need it from a customer representative while online. We saw this play out in real-time after a global bank reached out because it needed a digital solution for payment support. The company had traditionally routed customers to a call center for help. But during the crisis, it was overwhelmed by demand.
While working with this bank on a self-serve solution that enabled customers to address their payment concerns online, the experience revealed something important about the future of digital experiences: Regardless of where they are in their journey, customers expect—and deserve—the same experience.
True digital yields a true value
Investing in a seamless digital customer journey is a long game, but it’s one that can pay off exponentially. As we’ve seen, organizations have prioritized digital investment that brings in near-term revenue. These include mobile capabilities that increase customer conversions or personalized offerings that boost the average spend. And make no mistake, digital solutions that meet these needs are essential.
But the customer who applies for a vacation loan may be the same one who later needs a payment holiday. Meeting these needs digitally, no matter what they are, engenders deep loyalty. Companies that support their customers during downtimes will gain customers for life and reap the benefits when those individuals are inevitably back on their feet again. The happy result is not only increased financial stability for customers but also improved advocacy scores and customer lifetime value.
Additionally, an end-to-end digital customer experience can yield unexpected cost savings. For instance, an organization we recently worked with was spending an average of $35 per customer interaction. Their customers accessed customer service representatives via many independent channels, incurring costs each time they connected. We provided them with a multi-channel digital solution that reduced the cost to between $5 and $7 that allowed several interactions and provided consistent experience in the process. In the end, the company was able to deliver better service at a much lower cost point.
From here to there
The goal of building an end-to-end digital experience is a worthy one, and there are a few components of a forward-looking digital strategy that will help ensure success. First, companies need to create systems and cultures that allow them to respond to changing customer demands. No one predicted that a pandemic would rapidly accelerate our digital shift. But the companies improved their digital capabilities to meet the need came out ahead.
Also, while customers experience the technology’s front-end, orchestrating and supporting that journey across a range of consumer touchpoints driven by different events is equally as important. Implementing decisioning tools that leverage data across systems allows you to create advanced analytical models that predict customer behavior, potential problems, and more. Organizations can then make decisions in real-time to support customers and the business when they need help, be it a global pandemic or an environmental event.
Lastly, taking advantage of emerging technologies can ensure your company keeps pace with the rapidly evolving expectations customers have for their digital experience. For example, AI-powered virtual assistants learn from every interaction and provide more personalized service than a standard chatbot that uses decision trees. These virtual assistants won’t replace humans but leveraging them to augment customer experiences offers additional support to customers and creates continuity across the experience.
The shift we’ve seen is about more than meeting the digital demand. At the core, it’s about leveraging digital capabilities to see, understand and prioritize customers at all points of their journey. Then we can offer them proactive solutions that make their lives better and strengthen our businesses along the way.