Four Pivotal Ways Digital Services Can Keep Pace With Ever-Changing Customer Expectations

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Jennifer Arnold [feature image] is the chief commercial officer at digital experience platform Squiz. In this piece, she gives her top tips on how to stay on top of customer’s digital expectations.

For months, online channels have been the primary if not only means available for many organisations and customers to engage, making digital services the heartbeat keeping society, government, education and the economy functioning.

As a result, public and private sector marketing, communications and digital teams have faced growing pressure to move faster, be more responsive, increase support and cope with budgets and resources being pulled in multiple directions. Although Australia is out of lockdown, those teams can’t sit back and relax because they now need to accommodate changing customer priorities around digital engagement and services.

There are four pivotal ways that they can do that, and the first starts with acknowledging that in this hyper-digital era, using personalisation to deliver more relevant, streamlined services is more critical than ever. However, striving for full one-to-one personalisation can be an expensive pursuit for marketing and digital teams, and one for which it’s hard to show a high ROI, so it’s important to focus efforts on the ‘make or break’ moments where personalisation can deliver the most value. It can be as simple as a COVID registration app remembering your details so you don’t have to enter them with every visit to a favourite cafe, or as complex as your energy provider’s website proposing alternate electricity plans for you based on your household energy usage patterns.

Queensland’s Griffith University, which is ranked in the top 2 percent of universities worldwide, is one organisation that sees the importance of delivering personalised experiences. It puts personalisation at the centre of its strategy to build and maintain engagement from the first touchpoints with prospective students, right through their education journeys, and beyond when they’re graduates. As an example, its myOrientation app delivers customised Orientation Day schedules for students and tracks their progress, as the University has seen that students who complete the orientation activities tend to be more successful in their transition to university life. It also reduces the drop-out rate in the window between when a student accepts a place in November and starts courses in March. The app and the University’s personalised Student Portal were critical for maintaining engagement with students this year when courses and orientation had to be delivered online.

As organisations of every kind have shifted their offerings online, we’ve seen consumers become frustrated with those that haven’t ‘kept-up’ by providing good digital experiences. In today’s environment, where many businesses are struggling to hold onto every customer they can, getting the digital journey right can make the difference between surviving or thriving.

Our digital dependence also means organisations need to get better at reassuring us that our personal data will be used responsibly. Headlines around major corporations and governments being hacked have populated the news for years, leading to recent concerns about how our online behaviours and profiles are being used by nefarious interests to try to manipulate us. As a result, these days we’re paying far closer attention to what personal data is being requested and why, and how it is going to be held and secured.

As a start, organisations need to ensure data they request is within the context for the product or service they are providing. For example, if you are ordering an Uber, asking for your immediate location is entirely within context. However, if you are paying an overdue tax bill, a request for your immediate location may set off alarm bells.

Customers want to know that when it comes to their data, the power is in their hands and they want choices as to how and when they share it. In recognition of this, organisations can opt for a progressive profiling approach; instead of asking for all of a person’s information up front, it only asks for what is needed to deliver the product or service. For example, on sign-up just an email address is required, then more information as the customer progresses onto additional products and services. Details like purchasing behaviour, address information and support requests can also help businesses understand more about the customer, without necessarily asking them more questions. This is also where opt-in and opt-out options become crucial.

When asked to sign up or opt in, not only do we want to be assured our data will be stored and used responsibly, we want to know what benefit we will get in return, be it receiving more relevant information or allowing for a more personalised or smarter digital experience. Transparency around this point is becoming highly valuable to customers and a key foundation of trust.

Customer experience discussions have long been about ease of use, accessibility, reliability, security and personalisation, but when it comes to delivering online services (in particular), responding to the need for speed has become more critical than ever. Rapidly changing circumstances over the last eight months have put a focus on the importance of speed for those delivering critical information and digital services and those relying on them.

The ability to speed-up proved to be a challenge for many marketing, communications and digital teams that didn’t have the skills, structure, digital infrastructures or or tools to adapt quickly. This has created the catalyst for organisations to enable greater self-service for marcomms teams, equipping them with the technology to independently create more digital content, manage more channels and easily make changes. Being less reliant on other internal teams or external agencies not only means they can move faster and be more responsive but also reduce costs.

While the reality is that our entire society is never going to be 100% online due to preference, ability or access, the increased dependence on online services means organisations need to invest in making online channels more inclusive, accessible, simpler and smarter for all, especially if they want to keep people using the online services now Australia is opening up again. This means holding a lens to digital accessibility issues like language, ability, user interfaces and mobility.

With so many Australians using digital channels for the first time in 2020including tech novices or non-English-speaking Australians who might be less confident and comfortable onlineorganisations have had to ensure they offer adequate support and accessible assistance to keep these customers  online. Core to a digital experience people will return to is strong online support in the form of tutorial videos and chatbots, for example, as well as quick and easy offline support options. Instructional communication must continue to evolve and be clearer, simpler and smarter, with as few clicks as possible.

If done well online, traditional support channels like call centres can turn their focus towards value-added services and generating new revenue streams.

Those of us in the digital space are no strangers to disruption, but when COVID-19 hit we all had to scramble to create or enhance our digital presence. Although we are now past the peak of the pandemic panic (at least in Australia) it’s clear the world will remain unsettled for some time to come and customer needs and expectations will continue to evolve.

Navigating the path towards an optimal digital experience will require organisations to take a considered approach in how they can deliver full and valuable online engagement. This means planning their journey towards a digital platform that delivers all the conveniences of personalisation, builds trust and confidence, operates with speed, and acknowledges the various accessibility and support requirements of a growing and diverse audience.

 

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