Co-browsing: an underused CX tool with a great first-contact resolution potential
A picture is worth a thousand words – and anyone who has ever got stuck on a website clicking and scrolling endlessly while trying to fill in a form or search for product information can testify to the relevance of the aphorism to customer experience. And those without a more tech-savvy friend or family member with the patience to help them navigate the dire straits of misleading or “user-unfriendly” steps will likely end up abandoning their carts, and not returning ever again.
Visual customer engagement
A customer support or service agent equipped with visual tools such as screen-sharing, co-browsing and live video can do a tremendous job at turning frustrated and stalled customer journeys into successful interactions between the brand and the customer.
Screen-sharing, where a user on a remote computer can view and control someone else’s computer screen, is widely known. However, collaborative browsing, or co-browsing, is a more advanced and secure way of guiding someone through a web page and showing them how to resolve problems they’ve encountered.
Unlike screen sharing, co-browsing provides the agent with a much more limited access to the client’s computer. The agent’s access is restricted to the webpage enabled with co-browsing, while all other data on the customer’s computer is out of bounds, including any other tabs open in the same browser.
During the co-browsing session, the customer can mask out any sensitive information they already have in the form or document that they are receiving guidance about. Another great advantage of co-browsing, compared with screen-sharing, is that thanks to WebRTC (Web Real Time) technology, there is no need for any downloads, installations or plug-ins.
Established and emerging use cases
Co-browsing has already been used extensively by software-as-as-service (SaaS) companies. Customer support agents can click on, scroll down to or highlight any information on the client’s screen. The technology also enables them to annotate the customer’s view of the website, overlay documents, as well as insert demo videos. Therefore it has also great potential to speed up on-boarding or provide help with installation, troubleshooting, maintenance or upgrading.
Banks also rely on it when assisting customers with navigating their online accounts, and it has been increasingly used during the pandemic as physical sales have shifted online, alongside embedded software that enables electronic signatures for closing contracts.
In these applications, the relationship between the client and the support agent is ongoing and, to a large extent, built on trust. In this sense, customer support agents are different from the one-off, rather transactional relationship between the customer and a customer service agent in a distant call centre sorting out the complaints of disgruntled customers.
The question is whether customers will find the trade-off that co-browsing technology offers between security and quick problem resolution appealing enough in areas such as e-commerce, where relationships between them and customer service agents are much more impersonal.
Can zero-trust boost co-browsing uptake in e-commerce?
Although co-browsing has much more robust cyber-security features than screen-sharing, its safety is highly impacted by the security features of the site being co-browsed. Websites, for example, with the standard hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), which transfers data from a web server to a browser to view web pages, use no encryption, meaning it’s much easier for third parties to intercept data traffic on them.
Meanwhile, the HTTPS protocol, where the S stands for secure, encrypts all requests and responses, and therefor makes the co-browsing function safer as well. Although encrypted web traffic is estimated at more than 90 per cent, rather than addressing all the different levels of co-browsing security (protocol, session authentication, messaging), a watertight solution built on zero-trust – the concept in IT that nothing attempting to access a network should be trusted before it is verified – could increase customer’s appetite for co-browsing sessions even for sorting out minor difficulties.
Remote browser isolation: making co-browsing safe by default
Remote browser isolation is a relatively recent technology that moves web browsing sessions off devices into cloud containers, which means that no threats coming from hackers or unreliable co-browsing agents can reach the devices of customers. The user will only see a replica of the webpage in the cloud when looking at their own device.
Recent events in the space, such as American website security company Cloudflare’s acquisition of browser isolation start-up S2 Systems last year, seem to be indicators of the maturing technology’s future potential. As these browser isolation solutions become ever cheaper and faster, they will inevitably enter the commercial market as well.
As soon as browsing, and thus co-browsing, become robust zero-trust systems, customers will also feel more inclined to fall back on them when feeling stuck on a commercial website or facing difficulties of varying degree. A major shift such as this could, in the short term, turn co-browsing from an underused technology for customer service which currently supports only 0.1 per cent of interactions, according to SaaS company LogMeIn, into the main driver of online visual customer engagement.
Three steps to building customer trust and creating brand loyalty
It’s becoming harder than ever to build a loyal, long-term customer base in today’s world: barriers to entry are low and technology is cheap. It’s no longer enough to differentiate on the bells and whistles of the product or service your brand offers. Today’s customers want more: a true connection with the brands they patronise.
Khoros recently conducted a broad consumer survey to uncover the top factors that drive lasting customer loyalty, and trust tops the list. But while only 46 per cent of customers currently trust the brands they use, 56 per cent said that they’d become long-time brand customers if only they felt more connected, reports Edelman in their 2020 Trust Barometer. Consumer trust is no longer just a nice-to-have. In fact, 81 per cent of customers say trusting a brand to do what’s right is a prerequisite for their purchase, according to Edelman.
It’s clear that customer trust is what makes the difference in building brand loyalty.
Our research pointed to concrete, actionable steps brands can take to set a strong foundation for customer trust, including embodying authenticity, personalising interactions with customers and focusing on relationship building.
The story you’ve heard: customers might leave if a product or service declines in quality. The story you haven’t: 36 per cent of consumers – a full one-third – say they’ll go elsewhere if a brand is inauthentic in their interactions. Consumers want to feel emotional connections to brands, just as they want to feel emotional connections with people in their lives, and they don’t want their brand interactions to feel corporate or robotic. It’s a difficult line for brands to walk: wanting to offer customers an emotional connection, but needing to ensure it reads as genuine. The best way for brands to strike the right note is to aim to mirror relationships between people. Consumers want brands to offer them an emotional connection and to present a set of values that resembles what they’d find in a relationship with another person.
We found that one in four consumers are more likely to connect with a brand that personalises their interactions. It can be difficult for brands to tell whether or not they’re offering a personalised interaction, as it’s an emotional concern without quantifiable measurements, rather than a rational concern (such as product price or quality) that can be more easily gauged. But measuring the effect your brand has on customers – with metrics such as brand sentiment – can give you a good idea of whether or not you’re offering the kind of experience today’s consumers want. While optimising rational factors is indispensable, brands that fail to prioritise emotional factors risk alienating a large portion of their customer base.
Brands can bridge the divide between the connections customers crave and the void they feel by shifting to a relationship-oriented perspective, rather than a simply transaction-oriented one. Making the sale is important, of course, but offering a well-timed suggestion, or even a bit of encouragement, might be more impactful to your bottom line: when brands develop relationships with customers, trust grows, which ultimately drives loyalty.
Excellent products and services are still crucial, but nearly half of customers (46 per cent) want their customer experience to go further. They want an emotional connection, too.
Brands must evolve their conception of what it means to offer a satisfying customer experience. Committing to authenticity, personalising the experience and forging real connections with customers are key steps in that evolution.
AI is increasingly being used to identify emotions – here's what's at stake
Imagine you are in a job interview. As you answer the recruiter’s questions, an artificial intelligence (AI) system scans your face, scoring you for nervousness, empathy and dependability. It may sound like science fiction, but these systems are increasingly used, often without people’s knowledge or consent.
Emotion recognition technology (ERT) is in fact a burgeoning multi-billion-dollar industry that aims to use AI to detect emotions from facial expressions. Yet the science behind emotion recognition systems is controversial: there are biases built into the systems.
Many companies use ERT to test customer reactions to their products, from cereal to video games. But it can also be used in situations with much higher stakes, such as in hiring, by airport security to flag faces as revealing deception or fear, in border control, in policing to identify “dangerous people” or in education to monitor students’ engagement with their homework.
Shaky scientific ground
Fortunately, facial recognition technology is receiving public attention. The award-winning film Coded Bias, recently released on Netflix, documents the discovery that many facial recognition technologies do not accurately detect darker-skinned faces. And the research team managing ImageNet, one of the largest and most important datasets used to train facial recognition, was recently forced to blur 1.5 million images in response to privacy concerns.
Revelations about algorithmic bias and discriminatory datasets in facial recognition technology have led large technology companies, including Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, to halt sales. And the technology faces legal challenges regarding its use in policing in the UK. In the EU, a coalition of more than 40 civil society organisations have called for a ban on facial recognition technology entirely.
Like other forms of facial recognition, ERT raises questions about bias, privacy and mass surveillance. But ERT raises another concern: the science of emotion behind it is controversial. Most ERT is based on the theory of “basic emotions” which holds that emotions are biologically hard-wired and expressed in the same way by people everywhere.
This is increasingly being challenged, however. Research in anthropology shows that emotions are expressed differently across cultures and societies. In 2019, the Association for Psychological Science conducted a review of the evidence, concluding that there is no scientific support for the common assumption that a person’s emotional state can be readily inferred from their facial movements. In short, ERT is built on shaky scientific ground.
Also, like other forms of facial recognition technology, ERT is encoded with racial bias. A study has shown that systems consistently read black people’s faces as angrier than white people’s faces, regardless of the person’s expression. Although the study of racial bias in ERT is small, racial bias in other forms of facial recognition is well-documented.
There are two ways that this technology can hurt people, says AI researcher Deborah Raji in an interview with MIT Technology Review: “One way is by not working: by virtue of having higher error rates for people of color, it puts them at greater risk. The second situation is when it does work — where you have the perfect facial recognition system, but it’s easily weaponized against communities to harass them.”
So even if facial recognition technology can be de-biased and accurate for all people, it still may not be fair or just. We see these disparate effects when facial recognition technology is used in policing and judicial systems that are already discriminatory and harmful to people of colour. Technologies can be dangerous when they don’t work as they should. And they can also be dangerous when they work perfectly in an imperfect world.
The challenges raised by facial recognition technologies – including ERT – do not have easy or clear answers. Solving the problems presented by ERT requires moving from AI ethics centred on abstract principles to AI ethics centred on practice and effects on people’s lives.
When it comes to ERT, we need to collectively examine the controversial science of emotion built into these systems and analyse their potential for racial bias. And we need to ask ourselves: even if ERT could be engineered to accurately read everyone’s inner feelings, do we want such intimate surveillance in our lives? These are questions that require everyone’s deliberation, input and action.
Citizen science project
ERT has the potential to affect the lives of millions of people, yet there has been little public deliberation about how – and if – it should be used. This is why we have developed a citizen science project.
On our interactive website (which works best on a laptop, not a phone) you can try out a private and secure ERT for yourself, to see how it scans your face and interprets your emotions. You can also play games comparing human versus AI skills in emotion recognition and learn about the controversial science of emotion behind ERT.
Most importantly, you can contribute your perspectives and ideas to generate new knowledge about the potential impacts of ERT. As the computer scientist and digital activist Joy Buolamwini says: “If you have a face, you have a place in the conversation.”
Why the customer journey is more circuitous than you might think
Raj De Datta, CEO, Bloomreach
The concept of the customer journey has intrigued marketers long before even the invention of the internet. A customer’s journey doesn’t just consist of a single transaction, but takes in the complete picture of everything they experience when interacting with your brand.
Much has been written about the best ways of mapping the customer journey, with many different takes on the important stops along the way. But have we considered that mapping the customer journey may no longer be the best way to understand your customers?
Bloomreach CEO and co-founder Raj De Datta believes the future is brightest for those who can adapt to a new way of thinking about the concept. In fact, maybe the customer journey never really was what we thought it was to begin with.
“In many ways, it is really an artificial construct,” says De Datta. “We have been told over many years that customers behave in a very linear fashion, when in fact, when we all think about our own shopping experiences, it’s anything but linear.”
But the fact that consumers and their demands are perhaps more complex than brands would like is hardly breaking news. Human beings are complex. Human communication is messy. Companies never truly know how a message might be received.
Where brands set themselves apart from the competition is not only in understanding the complexities of their customers, but knowing what to do about them.
This is where artifical intelligence comes in.
“With the emergence of data science as a category and data present everywhere, machines can play a much more significant role in distilling where customers are and what they might be seeking,” says De Datta. “That’s something that would not have been possible without technology taking giant leaps forward.”
Whether it’s the customer journey or artificial intelligence, digital commerce is an ever-changing marketplace.
To learn more about the future of commerce, check out The Digital Seeker, a book by Raj De Datta. You will specifically learn the importance of having ample amounts of both product and customer data, how personalization can make all the difference, and so much more.
Don’t miss this opportunity to ensure your company isn’t left behind in our new digital-first world.
Article written by Carl Bleich, Content Marketing Manger, Bloomreach
Images provided by Private Bloomreach gallery
Is your business stuck in the 2020 digital transformation rut?
Noel Lavery, UK Sales Director, Infobip
The COVID-19 epidemic continues to affect businesses, with uncertainty as to the depth and longevity of its impact – especially as 2020 saw many organisations rush through digitisation in one form or another to protect employees and serve customers.
The pandemic has surely made the world realise the true value of a seamless digital customer experience. Yet there were many organisations left unprepared for the rapid shift, stuck in old workflows that hindered customers’ ability to shop, contact or engage with them. With this year placing further ambiguity on the state of business operations, now is the time to break out of the digital transformation rut and ensure your business is ready to deliver the best service possible.
Lessons learnt from lockdowns
All brands face challenges when it comes to reaching their customers and holding contextualised conversations. Modern-day consumers have access to a massive and growing selection of channels, which they expect to be able to use to communicate at a time that suits them. The pandemic has also seen a new wave of ‘digital laggards’ – those who have been forced to switch to digital channels due to reduced in-person operations and want their online experience to feel as easy as shopping in-store.
Our research, which assessed customer expectations before and during the first lockdown of 2020, found that there is no overall preferred channel for brand communication. Over half (46 per cent) wanted to communicate via email, 35 per cent via live chat online and 17 per cent by social media. Being present on more than one channel is paramount.
We also know that customers have become pickier during this uncertain period. If a business doesn’t get it right, customers will not shy away from dropping it in search of one that does. Almost a third (32 per cent) of consumers said that they will not spend again with a business that provided a poor service during lockdown. If we extrapolate this against what they would have spent, it means businesses could lose a total of £2.5 billion per year in future sales if they don’t provide a strong experience.
Many brands are still stuck in a traditional mindset: pre-2010 most businesses relied on email, post and telephone to communicate with their customers. In today’s ‘always on’ culture, this approach to customer service doesn’t cut it. With the rise of the chatbot and more consumers taking to social media to call out those brands that have failed to deliver, being able to provide an instant service or response isn’t just a priority, it’s a necessity.
Experience and engagement go hand in hand
Every person in a business has engagement goals, from the Chief Technology Officer ensuring the technology is running efficiently and securely to the Chief Experience Officer wanting to make the external journey for customers as smooth as possible. Customer experience and customer engagement are not rival agendas – they must go hand in hand to drive loyalty.
This year signifies the age of experience, meaning brands need to think about the customer journey from start to finish. This comes down to providing timely and relevant communication – for example, a delivery update or a personalised discount code – on a customer’s preferred channel. For customer service, businesses should use automated responses and messages across different channels to gather essential information and ensure they have a complete view of a customer’s engagement. This way, agents, many of who are facing increased pressure while working from home, can focus on providing the right response for more complex enquiries.
No more excuses
What prevented certain businesses from embracing digital transformation last year was the concern that it needs a complete overhaul of old legacy systems. But that simply isn’t the case. Our solution connects experiences across all stages of the customer journey via one single platform. Through this, businesses can overcome the complexity of all consumer communications – from engagement to customer service – and build meaningful customer relationships across any channel.
An example can be seen through our work with WhatsApp to develop simple, self-service chatbots, which government health departments across the world have used to provide quick, trustworthy information on COVID-19. Contact with the chatbot is initiated by a person entering a number in their contact list and sending a message of “Hi”. This starts a dialogue with a WhatsApp chatbot, where users can choose from a list of topics they would like more information on, including the latest figures, restrictions and guidance for their area. By providing this service via WhatsApp, a channel people are relying on more than ever to communicate, it reduces the pressure on health services’ contact centres when things are critically busy while ensuring the public has access to trusted information at their fingertips.
COVID-19 has changed almost every facet of how we live and work. Many brands rushed through digital transformation projects to help cater to fast-moving consumer needs, but as the new, or perhaps more likely ‘never’, normal continues, this represents only the first phase of changes needed to deliver an exceptional service. Now is the time to think about the digital tools available to you to make operations more efficient, to empower your staff working remotely and to ensure customers don’t lose out on personalised, human interaction when using digital channels.
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To deliver tomorrow’s customer experience, team silos must be demolished
The customer has changed. Or at least, the customer has been changed by the unique events of the past 12 months. Across the board, from groceries to clothing, online shopping has exploded in the UK, up 74 per cent year on year in January. The global market for B2B e-commerce is also experiencing an online shift, with B2B electronic sales up by 9.6 per cent in 2020. Lockdowns have forced consumers and customers to go fully digital, and they expect brands to have made the leap with them. No matter whether it is over the phone, over email or on a website, customers expect brands to surprise and delight them, and to understand them at a minimum.
As lockdowns increase customer expectations, the digital experience will most likely not change, and the shift looks permanent. Despite this, not all companies are meeting their customers' minimum expectations. The rapid shift to remote working has thrown into sharp relief how the entrenched silos between sales, marketing and customer experience teams pose an issue for organisations trying to adapt to the new normal.
Demolish silos and allow teams to work together
Many companies’ reactions to Covid revolved around the quick implementation of technology to support remote teams and the new all-digital customer paradigm. As ever, though, doing something quickly can have its downsides. For some businesses, this has meant that their tech stack has, over time, become a patchwork of components from different tech providers. This crafted approach can entrench inter-system inefficiencies and allow suboptimal tech decisions to compounded and become a block to success.
One such issue comes from the practice of setting up sales, marketing and customer experience teams to operate independently of each other, focusing purely on their own outputs. Stemming from this approach, each team may be using totally separate systems and platforms, which work well for that team’s needs, but make sharing information between them time-consuming and cost-intensive.
Businesses which have identified the friction being caused by this may have formed and hired operations teams to solve issues, but these operations teams have ended up working within the same siloed system, which has limited their effectiveness in solving the root causes. They have instead been reactively implementing fixes for their teams rather than working on the bigger picture.
We can now see that the issues have been baked into these companies’ tech stacks, with systems that are great at supporting each team, but with different ways of storing data and poor integration that can make cross-team data sharing a nightmare. This situation is especially relevant for businesses that are growing quickly. What may have worked for your businesses at a certain size may not have the capacity to support your next stage of growth, and the inter-team friction means ensuring a great customer experience is taking more effort than it needs to.
The single point of customer truth
Businesses need to recognise that the siloed mindset doesn't reflect today’s customer journey. From marketing, through sales and into after-care, customers expect to be fully understood at each stage. If they have customer care issues, they want whoever they are talking to to understand what happened during sales, and what marketing interaction has occurred. Most importantly, they don’t want to have to repeat the details of their story to a new representative at each stage.
To be able to grow better, businesses’ systems need to run better, to support a better customer experience. This requires a two-pronged approach to improve cross-team workflow that both updates the organisational level approach and ensures teams have the right tools at their disposal.
We promote the “revenue operations” mindset, which aligns all operations teams on the single goal of improving incoming revenue, and reducing internal company friction accordingly, rather than having ops specialists only focusing on the issues that affect their silo in the business.
Adopting this mindset is dependent on businesses having platforms in place which free up users to focus on their jobs and collaboration, rather than managing different datasets and jumping over hurdles to just be able to work with colleagues in the first place. This is why we developed Ops Hub, our latest solution through which operations teams can sync data across their business apps bi-directionally in real time, roll out automated workflows that keep customer databases clean and up to date, and manage all possible customer touchpoints. By unifying operations teams, it frees them to break down the silo walls, fighting the friction between teams and implementing processes that can make a real difference to customer experience.
Ops Hub interfaces with the existing Hubs in our CRM platform, giving businesses one powerful and easy-to-use platform from which they can align sales, marketing, customer experience and operations teams to deliver the best experience for their customers.
Our robust CRM platform can act as the home for the “single point of truth” of your customers. Regardless of the brand touchpoint, if teams can draw from the same central hub of information, they can make the customer feel known and understood, and teams can see any issues in their relationship with the brand. With a single platform holding all the information, friction between teams is dramatically reduced as each team speaks the same language about the same customer, and operations can focus their attention elsewhere. Discrepancies in their experience become more apparent, and any issues can be solved much quicker.
It can seem daunting making a whole change in mindset, but businesses need to make sure their tech stack and the platforms they use to facilitate their work are fit for purpose, and that reluctance to make large scale changes doesn’t block opportunities to improve customer experience and accelerate an upward trajectory. To ensure they can deliver a high-quality digital experience, businesses need to have closer inter-team collaboration to not only deliver the customer experience that is now expected, but to be able to move beyond that and truly delight the customer.
Image provided by HubSpot
Why the future of customer experience lies in the present
I remember flying from London to Barcelona five years ago to speak at a conference. On entering the departure lounge, I was notified that the plane I was due to fly on had broken down and was still in Barcelona.
To fix this situation, the airline had to source another plane from its European network, fly it to Barcelona, pick up its passengers there, then fly them to London before picking us up and flying us to Barcelona.
That meant a flight delay of about five hours.
Now, normally that would not have been too much of a problem. But in this case, it posed a real problem for me as I was due to speak first thing in the morning.
If my flight had left on time, I would have arrived at my hotel ready for the next day by around 11pm. However, with the delay, I wouldn't now arrive until about 4am, and I was due to speak at 9am the next day.
No problem, I thought. I had prepared well for the event and was convinced that with only a couple of hours of sleep and a big cup of coffee, I should be fine.
And that's how it worked out.
However, on the morning of the event, the client asked me also to participate in a panel discussion later that morning.
Wanting to please my client, I said yes.
As the panel's time approached, I could feel myself flagging, so I decided to take on more caffeine to keep myself going.
At the start of the panel discussion, the MC gave a bit of a preamble about what we had heard so far that morning and then started to frame his first question around gathering perspectives about what we would expect to see concerning customer service and customer experience if we transported ourselves five years into the future.
To my surprise, once he had finished framing his question, he came to me first and asked me to share my perspective.
Stunned, ill-prepared and in my sleep-deprived and slightly addled state, I scrabbled around in my head for an answer.
After floundering for a few seconds, the following popped into my head, and I said, "I believe, in five years, we'll still be excited about the future and the possibilities that are available to us, but we'll also be equally frustrated at the slow rate of progress that we've made".
Reflecting on that utterance now, I would say that it still holds, but it also presents a challenge to us to do better.
To do better at delivering a great customer experience today but also preparing for the future.
And that's what experience leaders get. And one that many others – followers, if you will – fail to realise.
Followers often, in their excitement, tend to get caught up in what the future holds, fixating on the possibilities of technology and the idea that they may get disrupted out of existence. However, they fail to realise that if they do not deliver today for both their customers and themselves, they put their very future in jeopardy.
On the other hand, leaders know that while they need to pay attention to future trends and prepare for changes in technology and customer behaviour, they also know that delivering a great customer experience today is the foundation stone on which their future sits.
The truth is that the future (of customer experience) is always built in the present.
Shopping anxiety after Covid: a simple piece of tech could help lure customers back to high streets
As lockdown restrictions ease and shops reopen in Britain, the issue of whether enough customers will feel sufficiently confident to return to the high street has become a worry for a number of retailers. Although anxiety existed before the pandemic, (up to 5% of the UK population is affected by a general anxiety disorder), worries about contracting Covid-19 are leading to new concerns while the uncertainty continues. One issue that has emerged is shopping anxiety.
Even before the pandemic, shoppers disliked crowds and were put off from shopping in busy locations, if not all together. And with rates of Covid-19 infections still high – 1,700 cases per day in the UK and 18,403 per week – feelings of restlessness and tension while shopping are rising.
These anxieties are intensified by concerns about crowding, especially in stores and small shops. During the pandemic, many shoppers have shifted from offline to online shopping to avoid catching the virus, opting for deliveries or picking groceries up in store later, avoiding possible queues.
A recent report by management consulting firm McKinsey shows that about 15% of European consumers surveyed have shopped for groceries on a website that they had never used before the pandemic. But while the value of online retail sales in the UK moved from £76 billion in 2019 to £99 billion in 2020, these figures aren’t all positive.
Keeping consumers loyal to physical stores is fundamental for the survival of the high street, which has faced continuous decline since 2015 largely due to an increase in online shopping and declining salaries. If high street retailers fail to attract shoppers, they won’t fully recover from the downturn that the pandemic has further accelerated. So how can this situation be avoided?
People who do venture out of the house could start taking extra steps to protect themselves from Covid-19 could become more popular as cases rise. Following advice from experts about the merits of having double, triple or quadruple layers in face masks, more consumers may start doing this when out in public spaces like supermarkets.
Our research has also found that people are relying more on in-store technology to feel safe. Crowd-checking technologies, for example, work to help shoppers to plan their visit in advance by providing real-time estimates of crowding levels in stores. Already implemented in some shopping centres and large supermarkets in the UK, the technology lets users know that a particular store is in one of three categories: the shop is quiet/it’s a great time to visit; the shop is quite busy/there may be some queues; and the shop is very busy/allow extra time for your visit.
Having studied the effects of 150 British shoppers using the technology, we concluded that it is likely to be adopted more widely as an anxiety buffer for customers. We found that although the pandemic is disrupting old loyalties and established habits, 70% of shoppers would use this technology to decide whether to visit a certain store. Among the people in our study, it reduced their shopping anxiety by 80%.
Shoppers who feel lower anxiety also enjoy a sense of relief that translates into willingness to comply with safety measures and feeling a stronger emotional bond with the store. Not only does this technology help consumers to feel reassured about the risks of being around others in crowds or queues, it also helps retailers to efficiently manage the flow of shoppers inside stores while providing a safer and more pleasant shopping experience.
Further roll-out of technologies like these may help to ease shopping anxiety during the pandemic and the emerging stress during traditionally busy shopping periods like Christmas and Black Friday. Along with the encouraging figures on Covid-19 vaccine distribution in the UK, this could help to make us more cautiously optimistic about shopping, hopefully leading to a brighter future for the high street.
Stop your customer from seeing your solution as a ‘nice to have’
Customers would rather buy nothing than buy your product. But how do you provide an experience that changes that?
When customers really want something, they go looking for it. They search on Google, watch YouTube tutorials, trawl comparison sites, scroll through social media and study company websites. It’s an absolute information consumption-fest. And you can see why: never before have buyers had such a large volume of information readily available at their fingertips.
In the B2B space in particular, buyers have become increasingly more skilled at finding the information they need to make a buying decision. So when a customer arrives at a company’s website, it’s likely they’ve already equipped themselves with the subject knowledge required to evaluate the options in front of them.
Although this is simplified, once the customer is at this evaluation phase there tends to be three likely paths: they buy the solution, they buy a competitor solution or they do nothing. Businesses are in a battle to persuade their customers to take the first path, but often fail alongside their competitors or due to the customer ending up taking no action whatsoever.
The questions a lot of customer experience professionals are asking themselves is: how can we stop customers from seeing our solution as non-essential? Is there a way that we can provide an experience that delights the customer in that evaluation phase and commands their attention?
The good news is: there is. However, you need to tackle the root of the problem first.
Decision-makers want to avoid the worst-case scenario.
Every consumer, whether that’s in B2C or B2B, fears making the wrong decision a lot more than they desire to make the right one. As an example, departmental decision-makers in business dread committing to sub-standard services at their company and being attached to the consequences.
And for good reason. They want to avoid the embarrassment of bringing up shoddy ideas in team meetings, they fear frivolously wasting their allocated budget, and they want to steer clear of losing their hard-earned respect through one bad buying decision.
If there’s not enough compelling evidence to convince your prospect otherwise, what happens during the evaluation phase is that a lot of customers persuade themselves that the risk of making a buying choice is too great. Essentially, they tell themselves that no solution is quite right for them, so doing nothing is the best option. You might be familiar with the term buyer’s remorse, but this is more like fear of buyer’s remorse (FOBR).
The job of your customer experience team is to give your customers confidence that your product will have the impact they’re looking for.
Customers will research your product thoroughly before making a choice, but unless you tick all the right boxes, you open up the possibility of FOBR. Deciding what this research and evaluation phase might look like is often a necessary step to take.
In terms of digital and online products – direct to consumer, software as a service or ecommerce – this may even involve a trial of the product alongside competitors in order to see if it has the impact they were looking for.
At this tender stage, you need to be on the charm offensive when it comes to your customer experience. You need to provide the right material for your visitors. You need them to understand your product and how it works, inside and out. When they start a trial, they should know exactly how everything works and how to get started.
Do all of this with the end goal in mind. You want to give them enough knowledge and product experience so they’re fully prepared to turn around to their team (or in a consumer realm, their spouse, friends or parents) and go all-in on recommending your product. While there are many ways to go about this, a useful strategy for brands who conduct their business online could be through co-browsing.
Co-browsing technology allows your online customer support or adviser team to instantly see what your customer sees on their screen in just one click. In practice, what this means is that your agents will have a complete overview of what your customer is trying to accomplish on their visit to your website.
Agents will be empowered with the ability to travel with them as they explore your brand. They can click, scroll and type for them too. It’s as if the agent was sitting next to them.
As customer experience professionals, we’re focused on the evaluation phase, so being able to reintroduce personal and bespoke online experiences akin to real-world environments can be the difference between your customer buying and opting for inaction.
by Cameron James, Head of Marketing, Upscope
Pandemic shows how 'digital by default' government services exclude those who need them most
The internet and other digital technologies have helped many of us cope with lockdown, and new ways of working have quickly become commonplace. But the pandemic has also exposed the “digital divide” across the UK – and the fact that not everyone has access to a computer, tablet, laptop or smartphone – or has an internet connection in their home.
There is a significant overlap between groups at high risk of Covid-19 and homes without internet access. A recent report from Ofcom found that in the UK 43% of people age 75 and over do not have any kind of home internet connection. Nor do 26% of people age 65-74, or the 24% of people who work in semi-skilled and unskilled manual jobs.
And with libraries closed many are more cut off than ever before. Indeed, people rely on libraries for online access – a place to search for jobs, answer emails, access educational resources and stay in touch with the outside world.
Yet even though not everyone has equal access to technology or the internet, the UK government has continued to push forward with its plans for “digital by default”. This sidelines the most vulnerable members of society – including the elderly, sick and poor – and forces everyone to use IT for everyday tasks. Examples include patients having to order their medication online, unemployed people needing to apply for social benefits (universal credit) over the internet and homeless people unable to access basic help and support.
In this sense, Covid-19 has significantly increased demand on many online services, including the already troubled universal credit system – with many new claimants experiencing significant delays. The alternative option, to apply over the phone, has also been severely disrupted during this time. This has resulted in people not having enough money to buy food, while others have been forced to home-educate their children without access to computers or the internet.
According to the Good Things Foundation, a social change charity that uses digital tools to help vulnerable people, in some areas, initiatives in the community – such as help with shopping for vulnerable people – have only been advertised on websites and via social media platforms. This means that large groups of people have been unable to access, or have been unaware of, the available help.
The House of Lords Public Services Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 found a number of inequalities in terms of access to critical public services. In the inquiry, Sarah Mann, director of Friends, Families and Travellers, a charity that works with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups, highlighted how the pandemic has led to the exclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people from public services.
Connect us all
According to a 2019 survey by Oxford Internet Institute, 20% of British people do not use the internet. And much of this 20% is made up of people on low incomes and with lower levels of education.
In this sense, Covid-19 has revealed the problematic nature of the government’s plan to make everything “digital by default”. Indeed, this is an idea born out of austerity and an approach that transfers the cost of public functions from the public sector to individuals or business. And the cost of supporting those to charities, families, volunteers or local government. Underlying many internet-based systems are also design choices that further exclude already marginalised members of society – particularly disabled people.
Serving only online customers may be a perfectly reasonable and sustainable business model in the private sector. But the public sector needs to administer statutory obligations, entitlements and duties of care – including welfare, healthcare and justice – for us all as equals under the law.
Digitising government for “efficiency” under the guise of “improving services” compromises this principle. And, ultimately, if a public service is not reaching everyone, then it’s failing in its duty.