Interview

AUTOMATING CUSTOMER SERVICE

Vasudeva Rao Munnaluri, RVP India & SAARC, Zendesk.

Customer expectations will continue to rise and how we meet customers in times of duress will make or break your business.

A service-first CRM company, Zendesk builds software designed to improve customer relationships, the US-headquartered Zendesk provides software-as-a-service products related to customer support, sales, and other customer communications.

In an exclusive chat with SME Channels, Vasudeva Rao Munnaluri, RVP India & SAARC, Zendesk, reveals how businesses navigate the predicted reduction in demand in the looming recession; how customer expectations will change with the economic downturn; what businesses should do to manage changing customer expectations; key drivers of customer loyalty in 2023; how immersive CX programs can help businesses drive revenue; and much more.

With a looming recession, customer spending is expected to drop drastically. How can businesses navigate the predicted reduction in demand?

Whether it’s the looming recession, skyrocketing inflation or supply chain disruptions, change can be a powerful driving force for businesses – the COVID-19 pandemic is proof of that. As we learned in the early days of the pandemic, the companies who were further ahead on their path to digital-first had an easier time making the required shifts. One thing we know for sure is that customer expectations will continue to rise and how we meet customers in times of duress will make or break your business. According to our latest Customer Experience (CX) Trends report, four in five customers in India will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences.

It’s in times of adversity that retaining one’s customer base is of paramount importance, and business leaders in India are recognizing that customer experience is the key to managing increasing costs, achieving growth and driving retention. In fact, 91% of leaders in India agree that providing excellent customer service during an economic downturn becomes even more important. This could possibly correlate to why 92% of Indian businesses plan on increasing their CX budget over the next 12 months.

[quote font=”tahoma” font_size=”13″ font_style=”italic” color=”#262626″ bgcolor=”#f9f9f9″]

“According to our latest Customer Experience (CX) Trends report, four in five customers in India will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences.”

Vasudeva Rao Munnaluri,
RVP India & SAARC,
Zendesk

[/quote]

One of the most effective ways to manage costs during an economic downturn is automation. Combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automated solutions with personalised CX can give customers what they need, when they need it. Our latest CX Trends found that 90% of business leaders in India agree that deeper personalization leads to increased customer retention. Integrating omnichannel support platforms into business operations, like sharing relevant customer data across the organisation, opens up new avenues of growth. For instance, when agents have the historical context they need to deliver personalised experiences, they can turn simple customer interactions into opportunities to upsell and introduce new products. When customers feel businesses understand and anticipate their needs, it builds loyalty.

How will customer expectations change with the economic downturn?

At a time when inflation is at an all-time high, customers are even more particular about where they spend their money. They are less patient, have high expectations from businesses and have more options when deciding who they want to do business with. A vast majority (85%) of customers in India expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company and want businesses to resolve issues within a few clicks or taps. They want interactions to feel more natural and conversational and 80% of them say they will spend more on businesses that offer them such fluid experiences. Customers expect a deeper level of personalisation and they want businesses to care about their well-being.

Businesses across the world have not made major strides in tracking emotional data of customers with only 22% of business leaders saying they track customer sentiment to drive personalisation. A negative experience with a company can cause real, lasting emotional damage and creates critics who will spread the word. In fact, 66% of customers in India will switch to a competitor after just one bad experience. With a more nuanced approach to customer well-being, businesses are better positioned to retain customers and even add new ones. CX is an important factor in navigating the recession ahead, and immersive experiences will be key to unlocking growth.

What can businesses do to manage these changing customer expectations?

Keeping up with customer expectations may seem daunting but it’s not impossible. Businesses need to deliver AI experiences that are more evolved and seamless. This is perhaps why 89% of Indian business leaders are rethinking the entire customer experience. What companies need are intelligent tools that offer immersive and conversational experiences — solutions that allow customers to start a conversation on one channel and pick it up on another without needing to repeat themselves. When conversations are fluid, it puts customers at ease and builds loyalty. Besides, conversational AI is a great way of achieving deeper personalisation. This is important to achieve because one in two customers in India want businesses to increase personalisation in their wants and needs.

Businesses can meet this demand by combining data from multiple systems like product usage, service history data, and key customer data to personalise all interactions regardless of the platform. Identifying where potential customers are in their journey, can help businesses route requests to the right people equipped to handle such queries. This is important because a bad interaction can have a lasting negative impact. Across the world, 66% of consumers who often interact with support say a bad interaction with a business can ruin their day. Businesses can overcome this challenge by leveraging customer sentiment data to drive more personalised experiences as it is bound to make customers feel valued.

What are the key drivers of customer loyalty in 2023?

Customers are clear about what they want – an intuitive, fluid experience, so much so that 86% of them say they spend more with businesses that provide a seamless customer experience between all of their points of contact. Delivering experiences that are consistent, immersive, personalised and conversational are the key to unlocking customer loyalty and retention. Providing personalised service across all channels ensures customers get the answers and resolutions when and how they anticipate. And customers in India are eager for deeper personalisation. In fact, 87% of them want businesses to have access to past purchases, context from interactions and other information handy. This is why integrating customer data throughout the organisation is critical – it ensures that the complete customer history is available no matter who is providing the service. Customer data has to go beyond marketing-focused efforts. Sharing customer data across the organisation with flexible platform integrations can fuel data-driven decision-making that is bound to boost customer acquisition and loyalty, as well as profitability.

How can immersive CX programs help businesses drive revenue and growth in turbulent economic conditions?

With the changing economic climate, businesses must address what customers want in order to navigate these challenges with ease. Businesses today need to deliver more than just great experiences. They need to deliver convenient, uninterrupted experiences that seamlessly move across channels and are enhanced with AI.

When building this new standard of CX, companies must consider how it can work seamlessly across both physical and digital realms, particularly with the emergence of digital environments like the metaverse. It will be critical that customer support is always on and businesses will want to keep consumers in the experience. Eventually, the ease of conversing with a business will exist everywhere you go, which is why the majority of leaders in India are rethinking the entire customer journey to ensure they build a fluid experience that can assist a customer in any way they need, at any time. The right tools that help create immersive CX are key to achieving high-functioning teams and increased customer loyalty.

And there’s nothing more profitable than customer loyalty. Research shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can boost profits by more than 25% over time. This is critical, especially in times of economic uncertainty. Businesses can deepen loyalty by increasing the customer lifetime value (LTV). It’s much less expensive to continue to please existing customers than to acquire new ones.

Despite recent improvements in performance, CX cannot be neglected especially in economically uncertain times. The good news is that roughly three in four business leaders in India say CX will be a much more important priority in the next 12 months, with 79% planning to increase investments into CX technologies in the same time frame. Business leaders that understand what areas they need to invest in will be better positioned to drive maximum impact and future-proof their business.

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