Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Keeping pace with digital customer service demand in a post-pandemic world

By Sridhar Iyengar, MD, Zoho Europe

2020 has changed the landscape of UK business drastically, and keeping up with changing government advice on remote working, the introduction of new technology, and a subsequent overhaul of IT infrastructure, has created an extremely turbulent and stressful experience for employers and employees alike.

Some sectors have been impacted more severely than others, with retail and hospitality facing severe loss of revenue and the prospect of having to shut their doors for good. Alternatively, the financial sector, healthcare and professional services to name a few, have, for the most part, done well to shift their operations to an online environment.

The digitalisation of UK organisations has hit an unprecedented level of acceleration due to the coronavirus, with thousands of businesses adopting SaaS software, cloud infrastructure, and smart applications to cope with newfound demand for online services, and the transition to remote, or at least flexible, working. In fact, recent data even showed that the UK has jumped forward ‘five years’ in consumer and business digital adoption, in a matter of around eight weeks.

As a result, digital acceleration initiatives have given customers a taste of faster and more dynamic services in more areas than just online retail, and it’s very likely that this rate of digitalisation will only continue its upward trajectory, even beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. This is because the main driver of this trend is now moving away from safety and protection from coronavirus, and more towards the faster service speed and sheer flexibility enabled by digital solutions.

Consumers are also growing increasingly accustomed to a contactless and instant experience, with research from McKinsey showing that 75 per cent of people using digital channels for the first time intend to continue using them when things return to ‘normal’. 

As a result, throughout 2021, as consumers are spoiled with faster and more convenient digital services, expectations will increase, fuelling more demand for personalised experiences, instant gratification, consistency and ease-of-use, with these expectations increasingly bleeding over from typically consumer-facing businesses, to B2B companies and suppliers.

Furthermore, customer retention and strong client relationships have grown more vital than ever. This is partly because, with limited resources and a weakened economy, more companies are placing a higher emphasis on upselling and cross-selling to existing customers, simply because it is a cheaper and more efficient method for building revenue.  

It is impossible to fulfil either of these growing demands well without the insights from data and analytics which can inform a strategic Customer Relationship Management programme. 

Customer Relationship Management tools

CRM has transformed in recent years. Previously the jurisdiction of sales and marketing teams only, it has now grown in sophistication to ‘customer experience’. This spans across the entirety of an organisation – every team is responsible for acquiring data and collectively building greater visibility, in order to inform business strategy and contribute to responsive action to any shortfalls or weaknesses in a given service or department. Every team member can impact a positive customer experience. 

To deliver a superior customer experience, a toolkit which enables communication and collaboration across teams is required. This should also give a seamless view of each customer interaction and the context of each, in order to create a full picture of the customer journey.

Some organisations may decide to use advanced low-code tools to build their own, which can help this process of collaboration, as it can help evaluate, gather and share all correspondence that different departments have with the client as well as their purchase history or any other insights. This will ensure that customers never have to repeat themselves during any interaction with the company — whether that’s with customer support reps, servicing staff, or sales teams.

Data & Analytics

As more aspects of the customer journey move to an online environment, businesses which are not making use of the abundance of data now running through their systems, are missing a trick, one which could mean the difference between identifying and tackling market trends, or failing to keep pace with rapidly developing customer expectations.

Data and analytics, which can commonly be abstracted, blended and observed using Business Intelligence tools, can provide decision makers with an informative overview of aspects such as sales drivers, marketing effectiveness and levels of customer engagement. This, in turn, can help to inform the direction of a company strategy and provide businesses with a full understanding of which aspect of their customer service requires new investment or refinement, and where savings can be made, all for a comparatively low cost.

Similarly, data and analytics can allow organisations to observe spikes in data or demand, and, when used effectively, can even allow them to forecast trends and predict market movement, for example, allowing them to stay ‘ahead of the curve’, and become a market leader in their respective sector.

With accelerated digitalisation trends across organisations, offering a durable and effective customer experience is more important than ever, and is required to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive climate. All businesses will have done extremely well to have already adapted to remote or socially distanced working. However, in order to not just keep up with, but exceed customer expectations, a full digital toolkit which incorporates the tools of every department which has customer touchpoints, including data and analytics tools, collaboration tools and a robust CRM system is required in order to drive success. In order to create a seamless customer experience, those organisations who choose tools which operate on the same platform will be most successful. That way everyone in the organisation sees a full picture of each customer and can adapt to serve them in the best way possible in order to exceed demand and expectations.