Without getting too heavily into the pop psychology of the topic, everything a customer does carries some kind of weight — most of it significant. That's true no matter which markets you serve, and it'll only grow more important as advanced tech and cultural changes put more power in the hands of consumers.
So what's an organization to do in the face of an evolving business-consumer relationship? Simple: listen. As the last few years have shown, keeping up with changes in consumer behavior goes a long way toward keeping your customers satisfied. Here are just a few lessons companies learned from their clientele in 2016 and 2017:
1. Consider How the Customer Reaches You
In terms of consumer perception, the landline telephone has moved from must-have to rarely used over the course of a few decades. This is largely due to the advent of cellphones, especially smartphones — when you have a device that can effectively access the sum total of human knowledge, that beige box on the kitchen counter starts to look a little dated.
For the enterprise, the meaning here can be boiled down to a single high-level idea: People want service that mirrors the technological capability in their pockets. From companies offering in-app video conferencing to organizations handling the bulk of their customer interaction through Facebook messages, it's a brave new world. It may seem like common sense, but this idea underscores several items on this list — so pay it some thought as you move through 2018.
2. Convenience is King
Healthcare provides a perfect snapshot of the influence so-called "convenience culture" wields. Though the industry is considered slow to change, the broad proliferation of new models — walk-in clinics, for one — shows that there's always a place for a product or service model that makes life easier. Instead of dealing with long waits and archaic insurance billing rules, the average person can walk into a pharmacy, receive affordable care from the attending practitioner, and fill the prescription they receive right under the same roof.
If you can find some way to simplify your customer's life, you should do it without hesitation. A restaurant chain could offer call-ahead reservations through an app or an online ordering suite, for example. Meanwhile, another organization could implement customer relationship management (CRM) integrations that make service calls faster and less painful. Approach the client-facing world with a convenience-first mindset and you'll be surprised at what you find.
3. Smart Companies Avoid Social Media's Wrath
On the topic of CRM, the unique risks of a social media-dominated service landscape highlight the value of digital workplace solutions in the contact center. Although most companies are keen to provide a good experience to buyers, extending the same to nonsales aspects of the business — especially those where customers are likely to be a little irate to begin with — is less luxury and more must-do.
You're only one poorly handled help call away from being put on notice online, with outraged customers vowing never to purchase from you again. Thus, a system that puts the entire customer relationship in front of your reps doesn't just make for shorter calls or higher net promote scores; it lessens your company's risk of having its name dragged through the mud.
If customer actions have pointed to a single idea in the past few years, it's that nothing is permanent. Even if 2018 doesn't produce once-in-a-generation technology like smartphones to shake things up, it's all but certain something new will capture consumers' attention and force businesses to keep pace.
4. Consistency is Key
And here's another benefit of digital workplace solutions like CRM tools: They allow companies to keep the same "voice" no matter where the call is routed. This can be a huge boon in a climate where every aspect of the experience is meticulously engineered — and a great way to turn disgruntled clientele into satisfied customers.
The right solutions can turn your reps into multitool assets, giving them a holistic view of the customer's history, various notes, and other data no matter what platform they use. They should also let you engage with those customers however they choose — all of which circles back into a consistent experience in the first place.
5. Collaboration Doesn't Stop at the Workplace
Customers affect the products and services you offer, dictate the tone of your branding, and influence the language of your promotional efforts. But is their role abstract or direct? Technology has made it easier than ever for customers to give input and insight into the products they use, giving companies access to data the average designer or marketer might've killed for just 10 years ago.
Think of ways you can include customer input alongside market research and other measures. Whether it's a design-your-own scheme or a brain-picking session with your more influential purchasers, visibly embracing input benefits people on both sides of the counter.
6. Get Comfortable with Changes in Consumer Behavior
If customer actions have pointed to a single idea in the past few years, it's that nothing is permanent. Even if 2018 doesn't produce once-in-a-generation technology like smartphones to shake things up, it's all but certain something new will capture consumers' attention — and force businesses to keep pace.
Take smart speaker technology, which emerged as a novelty and now enjoys a comfortably large user base. The devices integrate with third-party apps, and the enterprise world has followed suit. Other examples, like the large-and-growing collection of IoT gadgets, abound as well. Whatever ways you choose to communicate with your customers, be sure to keep an ear to the ground for what they're adopting, because sooner or later, they will expect you to meet them there.
Ready to upgrade your call-in communications? Let Vonage Business help you match the trends that matter.