As social media and digitally-savvy Millennials take control of an ever-larger portion of consumer spend, many organisations are considering investing in technological automation tools that promise to take human agent interaction out of customer experience completely. As is too often the case, senior management are greatly attracted by silver-bullet solutions which promise to radically reduce the cost of customer service and experience management. In order to investigate whether automated systems such as chatbots and artificial intelligence-powered query systems are a viable alternative to live agent interaction across all age groups, Yonder Digital Group commissioned research among UK consumers.

The survey, which canvassed the opinions of over 1,000 UK consumers found that 87% will stay more loyal to a business, and will in fact increase spend with companies, that offer a real person to talk to when needed. Contrary to common perceptions, this also holds true for today’s younger generation, who are just as likely as their seniors to demand interaction with a human being at key stages of the customer journey.

The research further confirmed that limiting interaction channels to a few automated functions is detrimental, with all age-bands of consumers reporting that they expect a choice of options and channels when it comes to engaging with a brand. 84% of respondents report that they tend to stay more loyal and increase their business with companies that offer a choice of ways of getting in touch with them.

That said, technology does have an important role to play in terms of providing the business and real live agents with correct, up-to-date intelligence with which to tailor customer interactions and deliver top-notch customer experience. Businesses should have systems in place to help them understand customer preferences and behaviour across different touch points or channels, in order to tailor the customer experience to each individual.

Businesses should be able to show they have an analytics-based understanding of the customer journey, a rigorous approach with a measurable KPI structure which systematically tracks, measures and manages the customer experience. With access to a full profile of the customer it is possible to offer timely and relevant suggestions on purchases and rapid resolution of problems whatever the channel. In fact, according to recent research by global consulting firm, KPMG, 44% of millennials expect the customer experience to be seamless, regardless of what channel it is delivered through (Adapting your customer experience strategy to meet the expectations of the Millennial generation, KPMG Nunwood).

Digital-native Millennials also play a key role in driving the speed of expected interaction with brands and whether it is the same-day delivery of a product, or live-chat prompted by an email query, millennials have raised the bar for customer service expectations.  Millennials typically have a very low tolerance for error and will not put up with a poor customer experience, with 80% taking their business elsewhere if their queries aren’t answered quickly enough.

Not only does sub-par customer experience result in alienating existing customers, but it could also prevent the company from attracting new customers. Millennials love to share their experiences with their social media network and many particularly enjoy posting on Facebook and Instagram when they have just purchased a product, or have come across a special bargain. However, just as easily, these millennials will vent their frustration online about a company if they have experienced less than satisfactory customer service. Not only will they publish negative comments on social media, but they will expect a fast response from the accused business. In fact, though, there is a silver lining here as customers who receive personalised responses to a complaint on Twitter are 30% more likely to recommend that brand to others (Customer Loyalty Statistics: 2016 Edition, Access Development).

So, just how do businesses manage the customer experience, and especially the indignant millennial generation’s, while continuing to grow their bottom line?

The solution is to make sure that customers have access to a full-range of communications channels to resolve customer queries – both automated and human. Today’s customer journey is a multichannel one, which means businesses need to implement customer service channels which facilitate moving between digital and human interaction so the customer can reach the desired outcome, whether it is getting an answer to a specific query, or resolving a problem.

Technology is incredibly valuable, but Yonder Digital Group’s research confirms reaching a live agent at crucial points in the customer journey is absolutely necessary.  Eliminating all human interaction will not fare well with consumers, even digital-native Millennials.

Graham Ede

Graham Ede

Contributor


Graham Ede, Yonder Digital Group.