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Customer Experience in the Digital Age

Connecting with customers in the digital age is more complex than ever. The key is balancing your digital and physical experiences.

There’s no doubt about it – the world is now completely and utterly digital. With the number of physical human-to-human interactions being outweighed by digital ones, those human-to-human interactions have never been more important. For the Service Industry, digital presents new challenges for Customer Experience strategies. Providing both digital and physical experiences is the key to connecting with customers in this new age.

Life Online

Those who know me, know I am prone to a little exaggeration, but just take a look around you and you’ll agree that on this occasion, perhaps I’m not.

How many people were glued to their mobile device during your commute to work today? Chances are you’re probably reading this on your phone right now. How many were using their satnav while driving, Google maps or Citymapper to find their route. We are plugged in, logged on, tuned in. Many of us now consume our news through our phones, stay in touch through social networking apps and make new friends there too. We book a taxi, check in for our flight on the way to the airport, download a book to read on the beach (of the resort we also booked online). We order our groceries, pay our bills, buy our dog food, send some flowers. We turn on our central heating before we get home, have our dry cleaning picked up and then dropped off again, find the perfect pair of socks to complete an outfit. Ok, so that last one might just be me.

The point is, there is virtually nothing that we can’t do online. We browse, we chat, we read, we listen, we consume – we have, of course, always done this, but more and more, these activities are moving online.

If you must insist on some statistics to back this all up, how about these:

  • In 2016, an estimated 61 billion people made a purchase online – that’s 21.2% of the world’s population
  • A recent survey of over 24,000 people globally revealed that 56% shop at Amazon, and 39% said that social media such as Facebook and Instagram provides their main inspiration
  • By the end of 2017 it is estimated that 14% of Britons will purchase their groceries regularly online, with sales predicted to reach £11.1 billion by the end of the year
  • A recent report shows that 96% of Gen-Zers have a smart phone, and 70% state they mostly follow trends through Instagram

Customer Experience in The Service Industry

What does this all mean if you are a service provider? To me, the answer is simple. If the number of physical human-to-human interactions are starting to become outweighed by the digital interactions, then those human-to-human interactions that do occur are even more important. There has to be a point to them. They have to impress.

Let’s dissect this a little. Say you are a supermarket chain. With customers who are in-store, you have several touchpoints where a customer could interact with a member of your team, and therefore shape the view of the customer service provided by your brand. Now, contrast this with the experience of the shopper who buys online and has their order delivered. Their contact with one of your team is reduced to just one – the team member making the delivery – or at best two, if there is a query or complaint that requires the shopper to call your customer service line. It’s probably fair to say that these two interactions are operational in nature, and therefore the need to make these touchpoints really count is even greater. So, what do you do?

Investing in Your Front-Line

NKD recently worked with one of the biggest supermarkets in the world who wanted to ensure that their dotcom delivery team were providing the best possible service in every interaction with every customer. They made the decision to invest in the training and development of these frontline team members, equipping them with the confidence to have relaxed, engaging conversations with customers, and even deal with complaints as they arise. This was embedded with sessions for their managers too. The result?

  • 38% increase in customer compliments for the delivery team

  • 4% increase in sales results for stores undertaking the training versus those who were yet to roll it out

  • 3.8% increase in market share during what were extremely volatile times for the brand

Let’s take another example – digital as part of the face-to-face customer experience. NKD is currently working with a global hotel group who are on a mission to revolutionise the hotel check-in experience. Across one of their brands in the UK, they are doing away with reception desks and computers, instead arming their teams with small mobile devices and allowing them to freely use the entire lobby space. They can greet their guests, offer them a seat, and quickly get them checked in. The aim? To take the focus away from paperwork and process, and shift to an interaction between two people. Through a new engagement and training programme they are giving their teams the skills, and most importantly permission, to create a personalised service experience that doesn’t revolve around taking your credit card details for security (even though you’ve already provided them online) and instead focusses on ensuring you have everything you need for your stay. A bold and innovative move, especially when you consider that this brand very proudly places itself in the economy market. Their luxury counterparts should take note.

What Can Organisations Learn from these Customer Experience Successes?

For me, it’s about embracing the way digital is changing the landscape, how people live and interact, and how they want to access your product, and then building the customer experience around this. I’m not suggesting you have to go completely online – I couldn’t live without digital, but still believe you can’t beat the experience of being in a physical environment where you can touch and feel and interact with the product. I could get lost in a beautiful department store for hours (and have been known to!). But if digital is a big part of your business, or your customer’s lives, then you must find a way of seamlessly bringing it into your customer experience strategy.

I believe you have to commit to providing flexible, joined-up and personalised service – one size fits all just doesn’t cut it any more. Only then will your brand stand out as truly relevant and the go-to destination, providing a digital and physical customer experience that your customers are looking for.

To learn more about customers in the digital age, and how to give your front-line a life-line, download our Customer Experience whitepaper.