Fast, more personalised, accurate information… In the digital age, customers are increasingly demanding. In order to address increasingly specific needs, companies have no choice but to undergo their own digital transformation.
How has the digital revolution affected customer care? How can new technologies address these new requirements? What sort of innovations can companies get inspiration from? We found out from Julien Bonnel.
Julien Bonnel is head of innovation at Symag, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas PF, a software vendor and service provider for the retail business. His job is to define the company’s innovation strategy and product improvements in the medium and long term. And this requires understanding and anticipating market changes and clients’ expectations.
How has digital affected customers’ expectations?
The digital revolution is the result of a series of technological advances. The growing capacities of machines, servers, networks and the Internet have given rise to the cloud, the Internet of Things, smartphones. These tools have revolutionised economic models. We can no longer just think locally: the market – and competition – have gone global.
CUSTOMERS ARE MORE IN A HURRY AND MORE UNCOMPROMISING THAN EVER
These changes have affected the behaviour of the customers and users who have adopted an omni-channel strategy, which involves using smartphones a great deal. This has also influenced their expectations, particularly in terms of speed and response times: with these technologies, we’ve got used to being able to access information very quickly. When you ask a question, you can get the answer almost instantly thanks to a smartphone, with Google and Wikipedia.
Customers have also become extremely demanding in terms of quality of information. They can access much more content than they used to, and thus expect more accurate and personalised information from brands and retailers.
Yet paradoxically, just as digital and technologies are playing an increasingly dominant role in our lives, customers are looking for more human contact. The challenge today is getting them to feel at ease: the quality of the customer relationship and experience is therefore a real differentiating factor for companies, across all the communication channels, irrespective of whether the customer chose them or not.
How can digital tools be used to match these new expectations?
Before we look at how, I just want to stress that you shouldn’t see new technologies as an end in themselves, but as tools that can help address expectations and personalise the customer relationship. They can prove valuable for anticipating needs, improving response times and effectively contributing to optimising the customer experience.
IF USED properly, digital tools can be differentiating factors in THE customer relationsHIP
What’s more important than the tool itself is the strategy for implementing these new digital technologies and the rules that come with them: honesty and respect in all dealings with the client, striving for constant improvement, etc. Without a strategy or rules, digital doesn’t bring anything to the relationship and could even make it more complex.
To personalise the relationship, it’s also important to take into account the level of maturity of each client in terms of their appropriation of digital. What we’re noticing at the moment is that whilst some people are very comfortable with new technologies, others aren’t. So by adopting a multi-tier strategy, we can support the less digital-savvy customers, whilst challenging the more demanding ones.
=> Also on our blog: Digital transformation of the customer experience: companies still reluctant
Are there any examples that have made an impression on you lately?
There are lots of examples. In retail, for example, there are smart fitting rooms, which Ralph Lauren has trialled in the States. These allow shoppers to save precious time: they can try out different colours and combinations at once, and see what an outfit will look like in different environments and lights.
Another remarkable innovation: instant messaging and web chat, which everyone uses these days. This adds an additional dimension to customer care by ensuring instant answers to their questions. This can be done via chatbots, because the algorithms that improve the artificial intelligence of the software that processes these requests can personalise the relationship even more. But having automated tools doesn’t mean you can do without the human touch, to ensure a quality customer experience.
=> Follow Julien Bonnel on Twitter : @JBonnel
=> Also on our blog: Retail: with Step-in, Optic 2000 launches mobile to store