Agile omnichannel strategies for the post-pandemic era
An efficient omnichannel strategy is fundamental for customer engagement for both B2B companies as for B2C companies. What has changed as a result of the crisis and what is the role of data in all of this?
Published August 3, 2021
Last updated November 3, 2021
What already emerged as a trend in the communication between companies and customers in 2020 has accelerated further this year: Companies are speeding up their digitisation, and customer service is no exception. As a result, channels that are used for communication privately have also become more relevant in the business context. According to our latest Zendesk Customer Experience 2021 survey messaging via WhatsApp, for example, has increased by 451 percent in the UK combined between the beginning of the pandemic and February 2021.
As customers want faster and more intuitive ways of communicating with firms, companies need to keep an eye on such trends and develop a convincing omnichannel strategy based on their specific needs or to adapt their existing omnichannel concept. In a second step, all communication channels and customer interaction data then needs to be connected on a central, unified platform.
Staying in sync with changing customer needs
Customers are looking for efficient, time-saving solutions to their problems. Switching to messaging channels is one of the easiest ways for them to receive support quickly and effectively. And then support via messaging is not only worthwhile for customers, it’s also beneficial for companies, since messaging applications do not require real-time interaction, but can be used asynchronously. This enables service agents to resolve several requests simultaneously. According to Zendesk's last State of Messaging Report, 30 percent of companies resolve customer inquiries faster when they use messaging.
Providers of messaging tools such as WhatsApp, Apple's iMessage or Facebook Messenger have long recognised that their platforms can create more value for companies and are constantly expanding their offerings for businesses. Nevertheless just 18 percent of companies used messaging for B2B communication last year. Companies shouldn't miss jumping on the messaging bandwagon to provide their customers with up-to-date support.
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A good example for a successful implementation of an omnichannel approach that has grown with customer requirements and proven its efficiency under external pressure is Conrad Electronics. This retailer of electronic products offers seamless customer support on all channels and uses a knowledge database that provides customers and service agents with comprehensive information on their entire product range. Most recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company added WhatsApp as a communication channel for its B2B customers. They are also using automated chatbots to offer enhanced digital support without physical contact.
This kind of agility in customer service pays off: In the UK 43 percent of customers are more likely or much more likely to buy from a company that offers their preferred communication approach. Interestingly, this also depends largely on the age of the clientele: More than one in four (28 percent) of 18- to 24-year-olds would buy from a brand if it offered its preferred service channels.They are also more likely to search for the answer to their problem themselves before contacting a company’s support (69 percent). On the other side of the spectrum only 44 percent of the 55+ generation are keen to solve their issues themselves.
How automation and artificial intelligence can help
An agile omnichannel strategy can help managing your agents’ time more efficiently. One way to achieve this is to use artificial intelligence (AI). By integrating AI into their service, companies can automate simple, recurring inquiries and thus give their employees more time and space for more complex issues. This works, for example, via a bot that is linked to the company's knowledge database that can quickly and automatically suggest the information a customer is looking for via their preferred channel, be it chat, e-mail or messaging. If the customer can give feedback on whether the suggestion was helpful, the bot learns more with each request and can provide increasingly better assistance over time. During the pandemic, companies ramped up the use of such bots because of the increased ticket volume. According to the Zendesk Benchmark, 42 percent of companies were able to resolve at least ten percent more tickets in this way.
A platform that connects everything
The more channels you use to engage with its customers, the more important it gets to ensure a seamless interaction across all channels and to always keep track of things. All communication channels and customer interaction data should be linked to one another, be visible in a unified view and run on a central platform. Customers and companies alike will benefit from this way of connecting all channels and interactions.
Shopping across all channels
Customers have understandably neither the time nor do they want to repeat themselves when they approach a company multiple times and via different channels. Service agents, in turn, can use the data from the customer history, understand their preferences and thus offer them a much more personal, pleasant service. Customers will most probably come back because they feel understood and that their concerns are taken seriously in a competent way.
Ideally, other departments of the company are also connected to the platform so that your support can access all information relating to the customer - for example the status of their order - and use it for providing an excellent service. And the service can, conversely, also share relevant information with other departments, for example sales or product development.
Using customer data for intelligent decisions
If all departments are linked up, they can gain insights into customer interactions, which gives a firm the tools it needs to make well-founded, agile decisions at all levels. Even before the pandemic, the rapid expansion of digital channels already triggered constantly increasing customer expectations which, in turn, made it essential for companies to react immediately in order to survive in a volatile market. With the help of real-time analytics companies can now identify trends and better anticipate how customer behavior will change. This enables them to prepare for challenges and opportunities at an early stage. Then companies can use such analysis to find out what training needs exist for their own teams. In this way, they can make the work easier for their employees, increase productivity and ultimately improve the overall customer experience.
Futureproofing your strategy
With a holistic omnichannel strategy that incorporates new channels and technologies such as messaging and AI, companies can achieve even more than just offering their customers a good service. If you link all your touchpoints in a unified platform and know how to evaluate customer interaction data, you will lay the foundation for smart business decisions both on an operational and a strategic level that will set you apart from the competition and lead you into the future.