Digital is setting a new standard. Are consumers winning or losing the game?
Consumers have come to expect a certain level of service from their digital service providers. Can we also meet those same expectations when that consumer is offline in shops, in the queue at the airport, or standing at the service desk of their financial service provider?
Companies are investing a great deal into their digital activities these days. They assemble large teams and redesign processes. More and more frequently, digital is even dominating the agendas at the Board level.
Consumers readily accept all the new possibilities and digital services on offer. We buy our new jeans in the train on our way to work. We submit heath insurance claims from our sofas in the evening. On a terrace in Spain, we purchase extra luggage allowances for our trip home. We search with our mobiles, make a choice, submit the booking and are properly informed about the next steps. It’s quick and easy, and we consider it to be completely normal – we know it’s possible.
Customers and employees: digitally connected
More and more, companies and their employees are being judged through the eyes of these completely optimised, digital customer experiences.
- In the hardware store, we ask a young employee for advice about the power drills they offer. What follows is a long silence, or we are read some basic text out of a sales brochure.
- In the train, a conductor comes by to check that our tickets are valid. We ask him if he knows at what time, and from which track, the international train from Amsterdam to Cologne will depart. He can’t find the information on his closed-loop ticket reader, so he grabs his own personal mobile phone to look up the information.
- When we check in at the airport, the service desk worker checks her computer terminal – a black screen with green letters – but she can’t find the extra luggage allowance we’ve purchased. We show her the proof of purchase on our own mobile, and the extra bag gets checked in.
These are just a few examples of situations that often lead to frustration and colourful conversations with the employee or the company itself. Hearing: ‘I can’t do anything about it. This is what it says in my system,’ leaves a bad taste in consumer’s mouths and makes it difficult for the employee to take pride in his or her employer.
How different would the experience be if we could make all of that digital effort and those consumer tools completely available to employees as well? So that the relationship between information and insight were equal to each other, and the actual conversation (and possibly additional, personal advice in context) could be appreciated again?
Last year, Steven van Belleghem wrote a great book about it: ‘When Digital Becomes Human’. He shows how the human dimension can make the difference in a time when digital services are becoming an increasingly bigger commodity and are setting the standards for service expectations.
Companies that have already made great advances in the digital customer experience, and are also able to open up their (device- and location-independent) internal systems for their own employees in the same user-friendly way will gain the next advantage in the market.
The rapidly growing Coolblue, whose strategy involves a continued focus on customer enthusiasm and service with a smile, has also equipped all the employees of their brick-and-mortar shops with the latest means to create happy customers.
How amazing would it be if the young employee at the hardware store had access to all of the information and reviews that we can read at home? And, in addition to that, if he could be directly, digitally connected to his (more experienced) colleagues? Then, he could truly add personal value.
Think of a conductor who can not only tell us when the next train to Cologne departs, but also can directly book us seat reservations and sell us an upgrade to first class. Or, in the case of complicated transactions, like applying for a mortgage, consider an employee who can look at the digital information we've already filled in, and discuss and calculate the different scenarios, together with us, to find the best solution. That’s called ‘collaborative decision-making’.
In all the places where the customer- and employee journeys intersect, there are new opportunities for better service, a better customer experience, engaged employees and even more profit!
Immediate, correct information and insight prevents irritation and creates space for a real, human conversation. Employees won’t ever need to apologise, are proud of their employer and are ready to add real value.
In our opinion, it’s not about ‘digital first’, but rather ‘digital everywhere’. Only when the offline experience matches the online expectations, can a business truly claim to serve its customers well.