Digital customer service (DCS) is the act of providing or receiving customer service through one or more digital touchpoints such as online self-service, messaging, email, social media, and live chat. It is a key step that businesses must take in the digitalization of customer experiences.
While customer service digitalization had been under way even prior to the onset of Covid, the pandemic instantly elevated it to the top of CxO agendas. We predict that demand will continue to grow exponentially not only for DCS but also for modern knowledge management that is up to snuff to meet today’s requirements for handling more complex customer queries and automate compliance at scale. Here are the megatrends we see for 2022.
In early 2020, digital customer service went from "important" to "imperative" when Covid hit the world. On the consumer front, even analog aficionados like older consumers became digital die-hards to avoid the risk of infection. Digital habits acquired in the pandemic era are remarkably sticky—to the tune of 70%, according to a survey by Oliver Wyman Forum across 10 major countries. The increase in the use of digital channels remains significant even today with more than 120% for getting virtual financial advice and more than 65% for online grocery shopping, compared to pre-pandemic levels. With new variants upending the return to "normal" everyone had been hoping for, demand for DCS will continue to remain strong in 2022 and beyond.
Consumers will want to accomplish more through digital channels, whether it is having a video call with a doctor or going through a loan application process end to end—from getting questions answered to filling out complex forms to uploading documents to signatures to eventual approval. Or they may want to get financial advice and sustained financial coaching from a bot, or get a smartphone fixed without ever having to go to a physical store.
Businesses had been adding digital channels over time with Covid speeding up the pace in 2020. However, companies found that the more channels they added, the more their customer satisfaction dove. The Forrester CX Index, which covers digital as well as phone touchpoints, did not show any "meaningful" movement in 2021, compared to the baseline in 2019 among US brands. Canadian brands were no different and none of the European businesses offered what Forrester grades as "excellent" customer experience in the 2021 CX Index. Chatbots, a much-ballyhooed DCS tool, ranked last in customer satisfaction with 57% of consumers getting confused by the answers the bots were giving, which were different from the answers they got at other touchpoints, according to a consumer survey by Dimensional Research.
Moreover, per Gartner, 81% of contact center leaders believe that many of their agents—between 30% to 80% of their agent pool—will be working from home by 2023, pandemic, endemic, or otherwise. Many of them will be gig or seasonal agents to boot. None of these WFH (work-from-home) agents will have the luxury of walking over to the next cube to get answers if they get stumped by a customer query, elevating the need for knowledge guidance for these agents.
Deploying digital channels is only the first step—it is like laying piping. What good is the piping if you don’t get the right content and knowhow that flows through it? Per Gartner, businesses will realize by 2023 that the lack of knowledge management will impair "further success" in digital CX transformation. No wonder they recommend a modern knowledge management system as the #1 tool to deploy or refresh for customer service excellence in 2022 and beyond.
The pandemic unleashed a tsunami of calls coming into the contact center. Unprepared, many businesses had no choice but to keep announcing that wait times will be horrendously long. Proactive outbound customer service, sometimes called "preemptive service", can help reduce incoming calls by anticipating what information the customer might need and disseminating it even before the customer reaches out to the organization. For example, it could be information relating to a transaction in progress or just completed, an alert about a bank account getting too close to the service fee threshold, or it could be useful advice that will eliminate the need for the next inbound contact for service (Next Call Avoidance).
Some businesses have ventured into proactive outbound service, but such operations have been siloed across channels and business functions, leading to uncoordinated engagement and inconsistent content, which creates customer confusion and drives more inbound calls.
Per Gartner, proactive (outbound) customer engagement interactions will outnumber reactive (inbound) customer engagement interactions by 2025. This is the time to get going with unified proactive DCS so you can get ahead of customer expectations!
Leaders are already ahead
Innovative leaders are already ahead of these trends, positioning themselves for experience-based differentiation and increased market share. Here are examples from our blue-chip clientele.
Get to DCS excellence in 2022
The DCS megatrends are like a tsunami—you can ill-afford to have a five-year plan to act on them. Fast deployment and quick time to value are critical success factors. Choose a solution partner with a proven track record in knowledge-powered digital customer service that offers rich capabilities out of the box, track record of success at scale, proven domain expertise, and easy, risk-free ways to adopt. That is the surefire way to go in a hurry from dilettantish to distinctive in DCS!
About Anand Subramaniam:
Anand Subramaniam is SVP of Marketing for eGain. Prior to eGain, Anand served as an executive in corporate and product marketing, as well as product management and pre-sales roles at companies such as Oracle, Intel and Autodesk as well as startups.
About eGain Corporation:
eGain customer engagement platform automates digital-first, omnichannel experiences across all touch points. Powered by AI, machine learning, knowledge, and analytics, our top-rated software optimizes customer journeys with virtual assistance, messaging hub, and desktop to serve customers, reduce cost, and improve compliance.
Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2022
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