A Closer Look at Digital Customer Care, and How to Make It Better

Gone are the days when calling an 800 number was a customer’s only option to obtain help with or discuss an issue regarding a company’s products or services. Customers today are just as likely to turn to Twitter to voice a concern as they are to pick up the phone. Indeed, since 2013-2014, the number of consumers using Twitter for customer service has increased by nearly 70%. Welcome to the world of digital customer care.

social media appsJust as digitization has wrought sweeping transformations in recent years in the way companies provide products and services, it’s now having the same effect on how companies provide follow-up care and service to their customers. Today, digital customer care, also known as e-care, represents a significant potential source of opportunity and growth for companies. It’s estimated that the successful adoption of e-care can lead to increased customer satisfaction of up to 33% and savings of 25% to 30% thanks to a corresponding reduction in call center volume.

Despite the many benefits of e-care, however, the widespread adoption of e-care approaches and techniques has been slow to develop. Creating and implementing an e-care system that is both profitable and effective can be a challenge for companies, and customers have so far been hesitant to migrate to digital channels that don’t yet offer the same exceptional quality that they have become accustomed to with other digital offerings. The result is that companies are missing out on potential growth opportunities and, in so doing, are exposing their established revenue to increased risk and threats.

In laying out some of the issues around the slow migration from traditional to digital-care channels, a recent article from the McKinsey Global Institute identified four particular reasons why customers and companies alike have not responded more enthusiastically to the potential of e-care.

Poor digital experience

According to a previous McKinsey survey on the telecom industry, digital channels account for nearly 70% of all remote customer-care interactions in this sector. Given the findings that successful e-care use boosts customer satisfaction and increases company savings, this might be expected to be good news. Yet, McKinsey discovered that for many companies making the move to digital care, call volumes actually increased.

Why was this happening? It seems that the premium that today’s customers place on a high-quality digital experience was not being satisfied by the majority of e-care efforts implemented by companies. The McKinsey survey found that for most operators, the “simplicity” of the e-care system received an adequate rating, “convenience” a weak rating, and “interactivity” a poor rating. Faced with a lack of clear or helpful digital back-up options, such as a frequently asked question link, many customers had little alternative but to turn to a call center to obtain the information they needed.

Unclear migration strategies

serverMigrating customers from traditional customer-care options to digital care channels is not something that just happens on its own. Yet, McKinsey’s research into the telecom sector revealed that fewer than one in five companies have a detailed migration strategy, and almost 60% of them have little or no migration budget. This means that a whole range of activities essential to a successful digital migration are simply not happening: activities such as identifying which clients to target concerning migration initiatives, developing a digital value proposition that is clear and easy to communicate, creating incentives for switching, monitoring migration performance, and identifying people or teams directly responsible and accountable for coordinating the migration of customers to digital channels.

Fear of losing revenue

In the telecom sector, traditional remote-care channels such as call centers or interactive voice response typically see far higher upsell or cross-sell rates than do digital channels. Understandably, the prospect of losing this revenue has made companies reluctant to migrate their customers to digital channels. However, the flip side of this scenario, according to McKinsey’s research, is that companies with a record of success in achieving sales from service calls tend to be less digitally advanced overall, and thus are likely sacrificing other digital revenue opportunities without even realizing it. To capture digital service to sales, what’s needed is innovation: some companies are experimenting with pilot programs such as video chat or proactive texts, which could provide useful paths to this currently untapped source of revenue, given that digital typically has a higher frequency of contact than traditional channels.

Poorly organized operations

Linked to unclear migration strategies, this final factor behind slow e-care adoption was a major feature in the vast majority of telecom companies studied by McKinsey. Even within the same company, significant variations in performance levels and operating models was visible, making it very difficult to develop—let alone implement—clear e-care operations. Only 40% of the companies examined shared clear digital targets across different units. Fewer than 30% had a dedicated e-care team, and less than 15% had the capacity to track customer journeys across digital channels.

What, then, is the solution for companies struggling with the migration to e-care? The authors of the McKinsey article recommend three specific steps: making targeted investments in order to determine which calls are the best candidates for digital migration; continuously optimizing the multichannel experience to meet high customer expectations; and supporting a detailed strategy that starts at the executive level.

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