Defining the Human Age: A Digital and Ethical Challenge
By Marije Gould
Posted in Customer Engagement
Emerging technologies have significantly transformed customer engagement in recent years, from the rise of mobile reducing face-to-face communication, to artificial intelligence (AI) driving innovation across a range of sectors.
But it’s not just brands that have harnessed advances in technology—consumers have too. Whether choosing to shop online rather than in-store or engaging with a chatbot, consumers now expect to be able to interact with brands digitally.
To retain customers in this digital shift, brands must improve their operations in order to capitalise on the vast amounts of data and connectivity now at their disposal, to offer more personalised engagements.
A new report from Verint has examined the future of customer engagement, analysing today’s trends and exploring how these will shape customer engagement by 2030. It shows that customer retention has fallen by 16% in the last 3 years (from 61% in 2015 to 51% this year alone). Businesses face this challenge in conjunction with the rise of the more discerning consumer, for whom ethics and trust are becoming more important in their purchasing decisions.
The rise of the ethical consumer
The research shows that a company’s ethics are a major deciding factor when choosing to engage with an organisation; almost half (49%) of respondents are likely to switch providers for ethical reasons. Much of this can be attributed to the rise of “fake news” and scandals, which have taken a toll on brands in recent years; 40% of consumers trust fewer brands than they did in 2016.
With retention rates falling sharply across all age groups, it’s important that brands adopt the highest ethical standards. Failure to do so will ultimately hurt their customer retention rates.
The results for consumers aged 18-25 indicate cause for concern, as this demographic will become an even more vital and influential audience for organisations in 2030. Just 30% of customers aged 18-25 have been with their service providers for more than three years. To succeed into the future, companies have to be honest and transparent, both key qualities that must come through in every element of the customer experience.
Striking the digital balance in the human age
The rise of new technology will continue to influence how customers engage with brands. However, the research revealed that consumers do not want this thirst for digital innovation to come at the cost of the human touch in their service. More than three quarters (76%) of respondents said that they want human contact to remain part of customer service. And only 46% of consumers worldwide want organisations to use technology to predict preferences and deliver an experience that matches their interests or buying patterns.
Striking the balance between embracing new digital technologies, while maintaining the highly valued human element of customer service, will be vital. The research revealed that consumers preferred digital channels—such as online accounts—for more day-to-day activities, such as making a payment or transferring money (46%), making a change to account details (41%) and making a purchase or signing up for a service (32%). These functions were also where mobile apps are most used. That preference shifts to speaking to a human when the matter is urgent or when a customer wants to make a complaint.
There’s no question that digital innovation will shape customer engagement in the coming years. And while technology will continue to drive this—whether that’s via chatbots, biometric verification or social media, to name a few—customer relationships will still be built upon technology-assisted human service.
To be successful, businesses will need to be transparent with the customer data and digital services they provide, building trust and an ethical brand. They also need to offer the right mix of digital and interpersonal engagement options to provide speed and convenience, along with more detailed, human-touch service where needed.
Businesses that can achieve this will likely thrive in the human age of 2030.
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