5 Trends in Customer Expectations for Digital Self-Service

smiling woman using smartphone

As customer expectations have changed, brands are feeling external pressure to deliver fast, easy, personalized, and intuitive self-service. Here are five self-service trends your brand must address:

  1. Speed of service is critical to customers
  2. Concept of “normal business hours” has changed
  3. Web sales and web-influenced sales are growing
  4. Liquid expectations are raising the bar
  5. Mobile technology has increased consumer comfort with virtual agents

Read on to learn more about these key trends in consumer demand for self-service options.

1. Speed of service is critical to customers

According to Forrester research, 77% of US consumers say “valuing my time” is the most important part of good online customer service. They’re looking for more than correct answers or a quick response times. They want a consistent experience from their first interaction to the resolution of their issue.

Even though valuing customers’ time is the best way to provide exceptional service, most companies are missing the mark. Three-quarters of customers believe reaching a live agent takes too long, according to a survey from American Express. What’s more, they have high expectations for speed of service. Are you meeting their expectations for responding to emails in less than an hour, live chat in under a minute, and other call center industry standards?

2. Concept of “normal business hours” is no longer recognized by customers

In addition to desiring speedy service, consumers now expect constant availability. Whether or not your stores are actually open doesn’t matter – instant messaging, texting, Snapchat, and other elements of our on-demand world have conditioned us to expect immediate responses. Your website is live 24/7, so your customers expect 24/7 service. Especially for e-commerce websites, the customer’s perspective is, “If you can take my money 24 hours a day, you should be available to answer my questions, too.”

3. Web sales and web-influenced sales are growing

Speaking of e-commerce, it’s no secret that more and more customers are making purchases online. Forrester data showed that online US retail sales grew 17% between 2016 and 2018. However, an even larger part of the equation is offline sales that are influenced by online interactions. In 2016, web-influenced offline sales topped purely offline sales for the first time ever to the tune of $1.6 trillion, and increased another 12% between 2016 and 2018. Even if customers are coming to your store to make a purchase, they are going online first. This trend requires that web self-service becomes more useful and more integrated into the customer’s journey.

4. Liquid customer expectations are raising the bar for interactions

Gone are the days where customers would only compare you to your direct competitors. Today’s customer compares you to all brands with which they interact. Accenture refers to this phenomenon as “liquid expectations.” For example, even if Apple’s products don’t compete with yours, customers are comparing your website to Apple.com.

Another example is Delta: if you call them to check on your flight, they identify you using your phone number and provide relevant flight information without requiring any other input from you. But the next time you’re shopping online and start a chat, you’re disappointed when the company doesn’t know who you are and instantly provide relevant information. You wonder, if Delta can do it, why can’t this website do it? Companies need to recognize that customers have liquid expectations, and adopt a broader, more holistic view of how customers interact with the world.

5. Mobile technology has increased consumer comfort with virtual agents

Raise your hand if you have talked to Siri, Google Now, Cortana, or Alexa today. Chances are, most of you have your hands up. The virtual assistants on our mobile devices deliver us relevant, personalized, contextualized answers to our questions. Consumers are comfortable with these intelligent technologies, and have come to expect similar experiences from the brands with which they interact. Customer expectations hold that engaging with the virtual agent on your website will be as easy and relevant as talking to Siri.

These five trends make it clear that customer expectations have become very demanding when it comes to web self-service interactions, and it is important for companies in every industry to improve the digital customer experience if they hope to remain competitive. The experts at Astute are ready to help you craft a digital service strategy. Request a demo of our solutions to learn more.