The changing nature of customer demands – how can we predict the next trend?

4th February 2020 | Aileen Allkins

The rapid pace of technological change has completely revolutionised the business world. Long gone is the norm of face-to-face contact between customer and company – we are in an era that presents challenges and opportunities in how we build customer relationships.

It is vital for businesses to understand changing customer preferences and assess how they currently – and predictably – could affect operations. Implementing the right changes now could be the difference between flourishing and floundering. Any business wanting to future-proof should consider the three trends that have made – and will almost certainly continue to make – a big impact on customer interactions.

The need for speed

An estimated five billion people mobile phone and over half of these are smartphones. Our constant connection has fostered a need for instant gratification and instant information. Businesses are under immense pressure to make consumers feel like they are always available – introducing technology to lessen wait times and prioritise speed.

Amazon’s constant communication with customers turned fast and simple customer experiences into the norm. This laser focus on communication with the customer, which Bezos calls “True Customer Obsession” has been vital to its success and expansion into the B2B world with Amazon Web Services.

However, unlike Amazon, many companies have struggled to keep up in the online landscape and have been left behind. A recent study found that 56% of British customers would stop using a service if there was slow customer service and many businesses have not been quick enough in updating and improving their customer support experience.

We are on the cusp of the roll-out of 5G and customers are about to have faster internet at their fingertips. Businesses have no choice but to realise that the need for rapid response systems has never been greater.

Personalisation

With an appropriate strategy and smart technology, businesses can tap into the wealth of consumer data quite literally at their fingertips. It opens up the opportunity to provide a personalised service – because no customer wants to be provided with an identikit reply.

Smart businesses are providing systems that help customer service agents know exactly who they are speaking to, the products consumers use, as well as access to any previous conversation had with a company. As this has become the new norm, there’s an expectation that any customer service agent we speak to will have access to this type of information – and disappointment if this isn’t the case.

Segment’s 2017 state of personalisation report found 71% of consumers find impersonal experiences frustrating. One-to-one personalisation was initially found to be a bit nerve-racking for customers, but as it is becoming more mainstream it has been widely accepted – although reports that uncover the human element of data analysis, privacy and personalisation (such as Amazon staff listening in to Alexa recordings) still raise eyebrows. Businesses must invest in this bespoke service; there is little value in training the frontline on scripts alone. Organisations of all sizes must ensure they are providing its customer service teams with the correct tools and training to have a personable, tailored conversation with a customer.

Brand personality

Finally, it is vital for a brand to add colour and personality to its communication style which can be applied depending on the circumstance. A great example of this is the rise of communication over social media. Younger generations are more likely to communicate through social media as their first port of call. Offering a standard or slow response across these channels can negatively set you apart from your competitors – as response times are displayed so prominently on Facebook Business pages. Creating an appropriate personality for your brand through social media communications is vital and it’s remiss to not consider this in a customer strategy.

An example of a company who appropriately changed their customer service offering is Salesforce. Upon realising the importance of various channels of communication, they changed their customer service offering. Today, Salesforce encourage employees that “when a text message comes in, the phone rings or a social media post pops up, it’s kind of like a customer coming up from behind and tapping the agent on their shoulder.” Customers don’t want to be treated like a commodity and this Salesforce strategy is testament to this changing demand.

Offering personality at the end of a text, phone call or social media post provides customers with the feeling that they are important to the organisation and that their needs and opinion matter. These small adjustments will be extremely beneficial for businesses across all industries and sectors.

It is unlikely that the pace of change is going to slow down any time soon. There are always new trends on the horizon, and it is rarely right to try and ‘do a bit of everything’ with a customer strategy. A few rare businesses will be able to set trends by raising customers’ expectations, but for the majority, simply keeping in line with the competition is a good approach.

Through continuous analysis and research, businesses can position themselves to recognise what trends are taking off, which are raising the bar, and which will be right for their specific customer base.