An Introductory Guide To Your Company’s Digital Care Strategy
The way businesses interact with customers has changed drastically in the last decade, evolving from traditional marketing, sales and service relationships to an explosion of new digital touchpoints like mobile apps and social communities that blur the lines of traditional business silos.
As things evolve, companies are thinking through how to utilize these digital channels and touchpoints more effectively. No business function is immune, especially customer care. It’s expected that by the end of 2018, 65% of all support interactions will be digital. The fact is that there are dozens of strategies a business could take to reach their customers– the challenge is in selecting the correct one.
And as customers start to demand more and more services online, the digital choices companies make can have a profound impact on their business. To mitigate this, companies can conduct a Digital Care Assessment to understand which channels and strategies are best for their business and how to prioritize development.
A Digital Care Assessment (DCA) is a blueprint for businesses to identify the most effective ways to reach their customers by utilizing digital channels. It is a great way for a business that mainly provides customer service through traditional mediums, like email and phone support, to identify opportunities to efficiently automate and digitize their customer care.
The goal of a DCA is to pinpoint ways to reduce costs and, at the same time, provide a better experience for increasingly digital customers. In the end, the goal of this exercise is to project your company into the future–how will you be delivering care in two years? And, what can you do tomorrow that will start to make an immediate impact on your customers?
The digitization of customer care channels has been notable– and very effective– for many companies. American Airlines, for example, is focused on creating a seamless customer experience through their mobile app. They provide travelers with tools for their day-of travel plans, such as getting notifications for flight changes and weather issues. In their strategy, they’re delivering value by building what travelers need most – real-time mobile experiences and functionality to help effectively manage their trips on-the-go.
Smaller, local companies are also leveraging digital to facilitate interactions with their customers. Brightline, a South Florida train service has embedded digital throughout its travel experience so that moving through the train station, from checking a large bag to accessing the traveler’s lounge and buying a Coke onboard, feels like a constantly moving walkway. Customer effort what?
Another notable example is USAA’s strategy for digital customer care. Much of the banking industry has been slow to adapt to customer care through digital channels– a notion USAA is challenging. Their primary client base is active military members, veterans, and their family members– so in 2013, they rolled out a virtual assistant for these users. With this strategy, they’ve found that 70% of customers that use their tool don’t need to speak to a live representative.
The key to creating an effective Digital Care Assessment is evaluating which strategy would be most effective for your business. The strategies that work for American Airlines wouldn’t necessarily work for USAA, and vice versa. The power of your company’s digital transformation lies in data about your customers and business– so how do you evaluate this data to determine what is best for your business?
A great way to start the process is by creating a Customer Journey Map - or multiple maps to identify your customers' activities, both on and offline. Observe the data: are your customers communicating with you primarily via e-mail, or are they calling in? Do they interact with you and with other customers on any social media platforms, and, if so, are you using these platforms effectively to collect information?
Another factor to take note of is what other companies in your industry are doing to digitize their customer service. For example, companies in sectors that have been driven by traditional forms of customer care now have other aspects to consider like how to effectively implement an omnichannel approach, as is the case with the financial industry. Some of these questions are critical– how do you map customer behavior if you’re attempting to encourage a significant portion to interact with you online, instead of reaching you by phone? What effect would this approach have on your business?
Finally, it’s worth identifying specific digital channels to best serve your customers. Some of these include more frequently used channels like social media platforms, online communities, and e-mail, and extend to newer technologies like virtual assistants, chatbots, and visual IVR. Companies should also look carefully at their self-care strategy and evaluate the platforms and processes that support continuous optimization of their content.
A key factor in building your digital strategy is to consider how the entire journey should look for your customers. If you acquire most of the customers online, for example, it’s understandable that those same customers will also want to interact with you digitally when they need help. The best digital strategies are those that have sales, marketing, and customer service channels that are cohesive, complementary, and supportive of each other.
The best way for a business to start developing their DCA is by utilizing a predetermined framework to help you digest existing customer data. For large businesses, we know that the amount of data available can be overwhelming – especially for those that operate globally or have many different lines of business. With so many different activities and information available– where do you even start? How do you know you're identifying the best potential course of action to drive ROI?
We’ve broken down this framework into two main parts: the analysis phase and the solutioning phase. In the analysis phase, a business starts off by answering a few main questions about their company. Some good data points to pinpoint are what your specific customer segments are and what competitors they might be engaging with. Other crucial questions to answer are what your organizational goals are, where you are as a company now, and how you want your business to grow.
After identifying this information, look at some of the granular data: what support experiences do you offer each customer segment? The key with this part is to identify what you’re offering and what you’re not. For example, perhaps your company has a Facebook page where customers are able to interact with you via Facebook Messenger and leave comments on posts– but are you engaging with them as much as they are willing or just trying to manage the channel?
A lot of companies focus on social channels for sales and marketing only. Customer-centric companies, on the other hand, focus on supporting and nurturing the customer relationship as much as they push sales. Your customers may also be interacting and speaking about you in other communities, such as Reddit, Twitter, or Quora. How can social media listening platforms help you be more proactive, and what does it mean for your business?
Aside from leveraging social media management tools like Sprinklr, there are other specific activities your company can take to understand interactions in all channels. You could perform a Contact Driver Analysis to identify the top 20% of contact reasons and map specific customer journeys that relate to those pain points. Another technique is leveraging your customer personas, to take an outside-in look at your experience and think critically about customer pain-points and needs.
The goal with this is to create all-team alignment and clearly see all of the moving parts to how customers interact with you, from beginning to end. It is a great starting point to identify what you are doing that can be improved and more importantly, illuminate the things you should be doing that you’re not.
In the last part of the analysis phase, you can look at specific digital channels and how they might be effective solutions. Remember, the key in this exercise is to determine what mix of these channels could be the best fit for your business at a specific point in time – no single channel will address the needs of every customer.
After gathering all of this data, you can move unto the solutioning phase. This phase is focused on execution. To start, you can conduct workshops with key stakeholders at your company to discuss potential best solutions. Even though the digital care strategy is focused on optimizing customer service, it’s essential to have Marketing, Sales, and other departments in the same room, as decisions surrounding your company’s digital transformation will affect all.
Look back your Customer Journey Map and think through what the ideal map should look like. What digital channel(s) or initiatives will help you achieve your goals? A good exercise to complete is to map out that ideal journey for each customer segment, as it will help you visualize what those ideal solutions are and how they fit with your business targets. Mapping out these journeys will also help others in your company visualize this ideal future, which will help facilitate consensus and bring to life why having a clear digital strategy is necessary and beneficial.
Finally, when considering potential solutions, it’s crucial to build a business case to rationalize investment. While some companies prioritize customer experience before cost savings, this is not the case for every business. Important aspects to consider are how to balance the opportunity cost of waiting versus the cost of implementing some of your new ideas. Digital channels that help you reach significant ROI in the shortest amount of time are best.
After completing this framework, your business will be in a great place to build an effective digital care strategy. This blueprint can answer a lot of questions surrounding best practices and strategy for your company and will contribute to your digital transformation. The goal for your DCA is to help envision how your company should be delivering care to your ever-evolving customers – to this end, a digital care strategy is essential to position your business and care organization for future success.
In future articles, we will discuss more in-depth what some of these specific digital channels are and how each can play an essential role in curbing cost and enhancing customer experiences. Some of these channels will be familiar, while others have only recently started to become popular. We will also go through case studies for businesses that have effectively utilized some of these channels, and explain how they have transformed their customer care. Finally, we’ll also discuss automation in more detail, and present the case for automation as a key initiative for your business.
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