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Younger Consumers Demand Digital-First Customer Experience

March 3, 2022

By Neil O’Hanlon, Senior VP of Account Management, itel

The world has gone digital. More than ever, we're spending vast portions of our life online, whether it's for shopping, social media, or just browsing the web. So why would we expect customer service to remain in the “phone age”. If you’re going to digitize your customer experience, do it fast. The “Swipe Right Generation” is gaining spending power, with Gen-Zs estimated worth set at $143 billion, and younger consumers will not forgive brands who fail to adopt new tech into their customer-facing channels. 

Who is the “Swipe Right” Generation? 

The first phone touchscreen was invented in 1992 and popularized in 2007, when the first iPhone was introduced. This was right when Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) were entering their prime purchasing years and the Gen-Z generation (those born between 1997-2012) was in infancy.  

These younger generations grew up, side by side, with technology. It became imbedded in their day-to-day lives, with 74% of Gen-Z spending their free time online and 55% using their smartphones more than five hours a day. 

With just a swipe of the hand, younger consumers are used to getting what they want instantly. They don’t have time to get on a phone to connect with brands. Now, they favor speed and convenience in their daily lives and expect nothing less from a company’s customer experience (CX).  

They want digital customer service options that are fast, efficient, and that cater to their preferences, and the brands that will truly excel will be those who can complement their customers' lifestyles.  

Why Time is of the essence 

During the global pandemic, three quarters of U.S. consumers changed something significant in the way they shopped.  

The pandemic amplified and accelerated digital adoption, and one behavior that is predicted to remain is the preference for digital customer service channels such as email, text, messenger apps and live chat.  

In Salesforce’s recent report, “State of the Connected Customer”, 54% of U.S. consumers now expect brands to use digital platforms to enhance or expand customer engagement, with over 65% expecting brands to translate much-loved products and services into digital experiences.  

Gen-Z are one of the main drivers of this migration to digital offerings, with 76% preferring ease and convenience over brand. That means that expectations are high, and loyalty won’t keep younger consumers from jumping to a brand that offers a more convenient and frictionless customer journey. 

Why More Companies Aren’t Adopting Digital Fast Enough 

The benefits of going digital are well known. Digital CX options allow for 24/7 availability, they can minimize the effort that a customer has to expend to get what they need, and agents can be supported with helpful AI (artificial intelligence) and bots. From a company perspective, overheads are reduced, and you can gain significant savings and efficiencies by going digital. 

Brands also understand the urgency of digital adoption. When PwC conducted its latest survey of top U.S. companies, over 65% said their growth and profitability would suffer if they didn’t digitally transform quickly enough. And companies that focus on digital CX transformation can generate a 20-50% increase in customer satisfaction and sales revenues.  

So, why are companies hesitant to invest?  

Many organizations today, especially larger legacy ones, think it’s too much effort, it's too complicated. They may already use a mixture of different internal systems and tools, and for them to transition to a proper, unified digital service model, it will require a significant investment. 

A lot of companies think it’s going to cost them millions of dollars to build up their digital capabilities. But that doesn’t need to be the case. There are many tactical approaches that won’t break the bank. And my question in the end would be: can you afford to stand still when your customers aren’t?  

How to Build a Winning Digital Strategy 

With a solid digital strategy, there’s no reason you can’t transition 30-50% of your voice calls over to digital and the best way to migrate customers is to make it a more seamless, more intuitive experience.  

Here are a few things to keep in mind. 

Primarily, know where your customers are. There’s no point investing in Facebook’s Messenger, for example, if your customers are not there. Figuring out where you are going to get the biggest bang for your buck is key. This could mean a major change like integrating a new WhatsApp service channel or it may be as simple as adding a searchable knowledge base as a first step.  

Whenever you can, personalize the digital experience. Digital options allow you to personalize interactions on a whole new level. For example, a live chat session can show you the reason for a customer’s query, say a recent invoice. The agent can use that information to immediately help a customer, or to offer added resources, such as other team specialists or help articles. It allows agents to personalize each interaction. And the more information and insight you can use effectively, the more personalized you can be. Some of that can even be automated through AI.  

Look at your entire customer journey, from start to finish. Map out the most frictionless and effortless way for someone to navigate that journey. Process and technology must work seamlessly together.  

Optimize the agent experience to reduce customer friction. You don’t want customers to enter their information in live chat and then be asked for it again once they reach a live agent. Everything should be presented ideally in a single interface for the agent or salesperson, so they can see the complete customer journey across all touchpoints.  

Be hyper focused on the customer experience. Even with the greatest technology and the greatest platform, if you’re not focused on delivering the best CX, it won't work. Consider creating a dedicated channel experience team that can stress test every aspect of your digital interactions, like a mystery shopper.  

Find a Partner to Help You Digitize 

Just remember, you don’t need to invest in every single digital space. But whatever digital channel you choose, do it mindfully and strategically, and make sure customers can get the resolution they need, as that’s ultimately what will power adoption 

itel can be an important partner in your digital transformation. We can help clients operationalize their data, so they can build a proper digital service strategy. We can also help with your day-to-day digital CX management, with teams of skilled digital agents and new high-tech solutions available through itel’s Innovation Lab. All of these can help you digitize faster.  

In closing, customers, especially younger ones, are going to gravitate to the companies that can digitally innovate and those that can provide resolutions and outcomes digitally, as well as those who develop new and exciting ways to interact with a brand.  

If you don’t start offering seamless digital experiences to your customers now, you could get left behind.  

Want to learn more about itel’s digital CX capabilities or connect with Neil O’Hanlon, itel’s Senior VP of Account Management?

Contact us and connect with our sales and operations team.  

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