I turn on my OnePlus 3, absently swiping my lock combination and quickly tapping the Google Chrome app icon on my favourites bar. I type ‘OnePlus’ in the search bar and press enter. Results populate in an instant: the brand’s website and a shortlist of links to hot products, 3 top trending stories about OnePlus products, a rolling feed from the brand’s twitter page, and a Wikipedia article. I decide I want to visit the website, which loads in a second. Tapping the menu icon and selecting Customer Support gives me access to a FAQ portal, downloadable guides, information on warranty and repairs and a contact portal; encompassing a ticket submission page, a live chat interface, multiple social media platforms and a phone number, as well as hours of operation.
Had I backed out of the web page and gone on to the next search results page, I would have likely have seen comparisons to other brands, social media discussions on other consumers’ recent interactions with the brand and a multitude of other links with relevance to the brand. With the amount of options for interacting with just one brand from a simple Google search, imagine the options available if I were actually looking to compare with other brands or shop around? The availability of these options online are a key indicator of the kinds of trends we are seeing in interaction between brand and consumer in the digital landscape.
With easy access to more information about any brand, product or service, and the ability to discuss this information, consumers are becoming smarter and more aware. With this awareness, consumers are beginning to define their customer experience based on how the brand they are dealing with helps them achieve their desired outcome.
Delivering this experience can also come from the channels available to consumers to interact with the brands that serve them. As more and more consumers switch to online or otherwise non-traditional means of communication, it is important for brands to adopt those means in their service approach. This touches on one of the most important things a brand can incorporate in this day and age; the convenience of multiple appropriately-bridged channels of communication, or ‘omnichannel’ convenience. Frost and Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, delves deeply into the emerging need for OmniChannel streamlining in a 2015 whitepaper on turning the Customer Experience into a competitive advantage. In their analysis, it is mentioned that consumers are turning to multiple channels for their shopping. Things like being able to buy a product outright from a smartphone or internet capable device, or being able to view a product online, speak to the vendor about availability and having a physical store from which they can purchase the product are strong influencers on whether a consumer will make a purchase, how much that purchase will be and whether they are willing to recommend. With each consumer in a market having the potential to want a totally different customer experience from the next, brands should be aware of how those differences can manifest (Live Online Chat, Voice, Video, In-Person, Social Media, Mobile interfaces) as noted by three experts at McKinsey & Co who wrote on this topic in their most recent McKinsey Quarterly article.
As brands race to meet the ever changing needs of their consumers, there is plenty of talk about how automation may improve the operation of something like an omnichannel. Artificial Intelligence could be programmed to pick up on specific keywords in a live chat or on a phone call, or react to certain word prompts in a submitted help ticket.
How do you see automation changing the way consumers and brands interact, even further?