Unhealthy and disjointed digitisation is damaging customer supportby
Despite digital customer service improvements and a higher number of contact channels, the UK’s biggest brands are still struggling to provide adequate customer service. The reason? Poorly implemented technology and a lack of personalisation.
It is increasingly clear that many digitisation efforts that began in the pandemic are "unhealthy" and "disjointed", according to new research, which reveals that while there are increasing numbers of engagement options for customers, many consumers believe it is actually more difficult to receive support than before.
Conducted by customer engagement specialist Twilio, the research examined the methods of contact offered by 100 of YouGov’s most popular UK brands and contrasted this against consumers’ surveyed experiences.
The results revealed that whilst the dash to digital brought about by the pandemic has led to digital improvements – with 48% of the top 100 companies currently utilising online chatbots as a customer service channel – the majority of companies are still failing to fully capitalise on the customer experience benefits that digitisation allows for.
One of the key areas in which companies are falling short is their inability to effectively take advantage of first-party data. In doing so, they are not only limiting their ability to gain a better understanding of their customers and provide a more personalised service, but they are also missing opportunities to engage with customers.
This lack of personalisation and customer consideration is made clear in the findings of the report. Despite 87% of customers wanting to speak to a customer service agent directly, one in five companies don’t have a customer service phone number accessible via their website.
One in five companies don’t have a customer service phone number accessible via their website.
Moreover, of those companies that do have a dedicated contact number, 37% of them are not freephone lines.
Whilst it is to be expected that digital offerings will have replaced more traditional methods such as phone lines – with 36% of companies offering online chatbots, 12% email and 7% in-app communication – if these channels are not user-friendly and sophisticated enough then they may be doing more harm than good.
Unfortunately, this appears to be the case. Although automation tools do offer the opportunity to streamline customer engagement, 55% of customers surveyed believe their queries aren't being dealt with efficiently.
On top of this, 39% of customers feel that it is more difficult to reach UK companies now than it was in the past, even though there are more channels available than before.
More is less
So why are consumers still receiving a poor level of customer service, despite the vast digital improvements and increased number of contact channels.
For Twilio, it is a classic case of quantity over quality. In the rush to provide any sort of service during such unprecedented circumstances, many of the systems that companies brought in during covid were either not fit for purpose at the time or have quickly become obsolete.
The pandemic itself also changed customer behaviours and needs. Having spent considerable periods of time in isolation, customers want to find personal connections and interactions wherever they can.
To keep abreast of today’s consumer needs, companies must update or replace their existing systems with nuanced, personalised customer engagement strategies.
To keep abreast of today’s consumer needs, companies must update or replace their existing digital systems.
Whilst this may sound like a costly and time-consuming process, there are some basic changes that companies can make to start improving their personalisation.
Businesses are currently over-reliant on customer service options that don’t offer the opportunity for personalisation, with 54% offering generic FAQs and 19% using contact submission forms.
While these options may be necessary, many are losing out on the chance to better understand customer needs via the first-party data that could be gleaned here, for instance through using a Customer Data Platform (CDP).
“We all know that feeling when we need to get an answer from a company but we’re forced to jump through hoops to get the response we want,” explains Samantha Richardson, customer engagement consultant at Twilio. “This frustration is usually a symptom of an unhealthy digital ecosystem.
“Many organisations aren’t taking advantage of first-party data tools like Customer Data Platforms (CDP) to build an engagement strategy, so they aren’t reaching their customers in the right way. Personalised, data-driven customer engagement can allow brands to interact with customers on their terms, remove friction, encourage dialogue, and ultimately improve their lifetime value to the business.”