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Guest article: Serving the ‘Autonomous Customer’

Dr. Nicola Millard | May 2, 2013
How technology is super charging customers

One of the overwhelming irritants for customers is the need to repeat account details over and over again (70 percent hate this). Since customers are also wary of security online, they want to be able to identify themselves more easily and are opening up to the idea of being identified by techniques such as voice biometrics (with 56 percent saying that they would use this).

Customers are also a little cynical about official information on corporate websites and are often more willing to listen to "similar others" online for advice and product reviews. Fifty-two percent are likely to research solutions to problems online.

However, don't imagine that pushing more online will significantly reduce the workload of the contact centre or the retail store. Contacts tend to get longer, more complex and more emotive as 62 percent of customers use the Web for simple issues and want access to physical expertise, either face-to-face in store or over the phone/Web chat for more complex issues.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents say they want to speak to someone trained to answer more complicated queries - an expert, rather than a call centre agent who is scripted or knows little more than the FAQs. Eighty-one percent of customers say that a good experience with a call centre agent will positively boost brand loyalty as people will tend to buy from people, not faceless corporates.

Twenty-nine percent want to interact with organisations using social media. This is an interesting challenge because all conversations then become public. However, what starts in public may need to be resolved through more conventional one-to-one channels as it is not necessarily legal, practical or desirable to discuss customers' personal details in front of everyone else. This is where better integration of social and traditional channels becomes essential - what starts on a social channel can be pulled into a more private phone conversation or Web chat to resolve.

Younger smartphone users are getting very creative with their devices. Older (over 55) tend to use them simply as a phone! However, smartphone users tend to be more multichannel than those simply using online - using apps and location-based services but also challenging front line people in the retail store or contact centre as customers become supercharged by having the Internet in the palm of their hands.

In Asia Pacific especially, video is becoming a popular choice, with 31 percent of Chinese customers saying they want to use video to contact organisations while shopping online.

Know your markets

In a culturally diverse and rich region like Asia Pacific, the study revealed a number of fascinating differences in customer behaviours.

Australian customers are demanding, cautious and conservative in their approach to service - especially where security is concerned - and they are less inclined to interact with organisations using newer channels such as Web chat and social media. Seventy-nine percent struggle to get the answers they need from the contact centre.


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