Even in today’s e-commerce, app-driven marketplace, face-to-face interactions continue to play a key role in business. That was all thrown into a tailspin by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Faced with mandated social distancing requirements, many companies had to retool their sales and marketing strategies overnight. Initially the focus was on creating a safe and secure environment for customers to place orders and receive shipments. But soon attention shifted to nurturing business relationships.
That has led many companies to adopt a variety of digital engagement technologies, such as video conferencing platforms, virtual collaboration tools and cloud-based contact centers. These technologies emphasize a multichannel approach to communication that incorporates voice, video, chat, instant messaging, email and document sharing features.
Consumers Demand a Multichannel Approach
The trend toward multichannel communication started before the pandemic. The 2019 State of the Connected Customer report from Salesforce Research found that 40 percent of customers will not do business with an organization if they are unable to use their preferred communication channels. More than half (55 percent) would rather use digital channels than traditional ones.
The communication channels customers prefer depends to some degree on context, the study found. Customers may choose a different channel based upon where they are, what they are doing and what device they are using. Almost two-thirds (71 percent) have used multiple channels to complete a single transaction.
Simply having these communication channels in place is not enough — they need to be integrated. According to data from CommBox, 75 percent of consumers expect consistency across all interactions with a business regardless of the channel or platform.
Modern business communications systems and contact center platforms help enable a multichannel approach. These tools leverage a unified communications (UC) paradigm to tightly integrate communication channels so that switching from one to another is seamless.
Salespeople can leverage team collaboration platforms to spin up a virtual meeting space for sharing files and brainstorming with clients. A chat session can easily move to a voice call or video conference without the need to distribute separate links and access codes.
Cloud-based Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) solutions enable voice calls, web chats, emails and other interactions to be routed via a single queue so that agents can respond to customers quickly and consistently. Another benefit of cloud-based platforms — they can easily be extended to agents who are working remotely.
Streamlining the Customer Journey
Increasingly, organizations are using customer journey analytics to help ensure they are delivering a high-quality customer experience at every touchpoint. Customer journey analytics tools create a timeline of engagement by gathering data about customer interactions across all channels of communication. This makes it possible to identify sources of friction so that the organization can take corrective action to improve the customer experience.
That’s smart, given the heightened expectations of today’s customers — 84 percent of respondents to the Salesforce survey said that the customer experience is as important as the company’s products and services. The number rises to 89 percent when looking specifically at business buyers, with 82 percent of those customers saying they’re willing to pay more for a great experience.
Face-to-face customer interactions may have been upended by the pandemic, but companies cannot afford to neglect customer relationships. Digital engagement technologies can help establish a personal connection and deliver the type of experience today’s customer demands.