Digitization and disruption in customer relations

There’s no denying that we are in the midst of a digital revolution that has handed the power to customers in terms of their relationships with brands. At the same time, brands are adapting their customer relations strategies to exploit the speed at which information travels and the availability of content. How can brands strengthen their relationships with their customers and increase loyalty in this context? How do they maintain a sustainable relationship with a “digital persona” whose expectations have changed radically?

With the widespread use of social media in our hyper-connected society, customers are now more likely than ever to directly approach brands. And being able to communicate so easily means Internet users can direct the conversation. They have opinions and they share them. They expect responsiveness, benefit, and value in brands’ interactions with them. Furthermore, whether for lack of trust or simply a need for answers, consumers increasingly turn to the opinions of their peers before making a purchasing decision. This means brands need to integrate a “many-to-many” strategy into their customer relations and learn to manage conversations on earned media. All of this explains why customer relations has experienced major transformations in recent years.

During my presentation at HUBFORUM, I shared my vision of the transformation of customer relations in the digital era.

1- IMPLEMENT A CUSTOMER RELATIONS STRATEGY THAT IS PERSONALIZED AND ADAPTED TO THE ONLINE BEHAVIORS OF CUSTOMERS

In the last five years, customer relations has undergone significant changes. Despite the constraints of conducting these activities on a massive scale, brands are opting for a more personalized approach in an attempt to become more transparent and simplify customer access. The increase in “self care” spaces is one example of this trend. Brands are adapting to their customers’ web browsing habits by enhancing tools such as client zones and FAQs to create relationships with greater added value. Beyond the technology tools, it is still people who are at the core of digital customer relations throughout the customer experience. Chat is a good example of this second type of digital touchpoint, which is already becoming customers’ third most-preferred method of contact. Lastly, social networks have changed the customer relations game, becoming interfaces enabling transparency between brands and their customers and fostering exchanges among users.

2- CUSTOMER RELATIONS IN THE ERA OF TOUCHPOINT MARKETING

With the digital revolution, brands have had to adapt quickly to using different channels to meet customers’ new needs and expectations. A certain agility is necessary if brands are to understand new behaviors and the associated technologies, so that they can be applied to customer relations. Although brands are constantly learning how to evolve, they also devise new relationship models through Test and Learn practices and practical applications. Digital customer relations has become a differentiating competitive lever and springboard for innovation. It has become an integral part of every organizational function, as well as strategic: touchpoint marketing is now a key element of advertising strategy.

3- MORE CONVERSATIONAL AND ASYNCHRONOUS CUSTOMER RELATIONS

Today, digital customer relations is about sustainable relationships and content. Social networks provided a format that met the need for more conversational interactions. And instant messaging applications facilitate ongoing, evolving conversations and relationships between brands and their customers. In addition, these apps have turned out to be exceptionally well suited to mobile devices. With applications like Facebook Messenger, brand interactions with customers are asynchronous and conversational. Instant messaging removes the constraints of live chat (each customer issue handled during a session, not suited to mobile), while retaining the benefits of availability and customer satisfaction.

Instant messaging at the heart of customer relations

Today’s instant messaging applications have taken center stage, and these conversation tools are also a core element of the strategies of the major social networks. In Asia, chat apps like Line and WeChat are experiencing massive usage increases thanks to their “free” offering of a wide range of financial services for their users. Users enjoy a simplified experience by having a single application that meets all of their needs.  But even more than payment, it’s customer relations that is driving innovation in such platforms. In fact, Facebook recently staked out a spot in the space, announcing the future launch of “Business on Messenger.” The social giant’s instant messaging app is defining the revolution in customer experience. A new communication channel between a brand and its customer, Messenger will provide a new approach to social CRM built on one-to-one relationships. Customers will be able to have unique, open-ended conversations directly with brands. In addition to fast, high-quality responses, which are non-negotiable today, the history of the interaction will be an essential element in fostering personalized, targeted exchanges. 

4- SOCIAL CRM IS THE FOUNDATION OF CUSTOMER RELATIONS

Increasing use of social networks is clearly a direct result of the higher penetration of smartphones in the market. Content that can be consumed on mobile devices is particularly well suited to customers’ needs, enabling them to stay in constant contact with brands and their content. Mobile devices are also the preferred platforms for creating bonds between brands and their customers. But that’s not all. Social networks were originally created to facilitate exchanges among users, which explains why the opinions of other users carry such weight in consumers’ choices and decisions, thus driving the direction of customer relations. Depending on the sector, between 50 and 90% of consumers say that peer reviews influence their purchasing decisions.

Therefore, in order to strengthen their relationships with their customers and increase customer loyalty, brands must pay particular attention to fostering their connection with customers, being available, and providing fun and painless access. Each client is unique, and wants his uniqueness recognized by the brand, which needs to offer personalized, targeted service based on the history of its interactions with the client. Social networks and instant messaging are, among other things, platforms brands must use in the coming years in order to adapt to the customer service expectations of consumers and differentiate themselves from their competition. This does not, however, address the importance of influence or content marketing, which inform the day-to-day exchanges between a brand and its clients.

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About the author

Vanessa Boudin Lestienne

Co-founder of The Social Client