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Digital Transformation in Customer Service – Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore it (Part 1 of 4)

Digital transformation is by no means a recent trend. However, the past couple of years has seen its importance within customer service skyrocket as companies adopted new technologies to stay connected during the pandemic. With the benefits made clear for all to see, and customer expectations risen, customer service operations can no longer afford to ignore digital transformation. However, this development shouldn’t cause concern – it should be seen as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for organizations to stand apart from their competitors and win business by catering to today’s customer demands. 

In this article, the first in a series on digital transformation in customer service, we’ll cover: 

  1. What is digital transformation 
  2. When digital transformation meets customer service 
  3. Why digital transformation in customer service is the now, not the future 
  4. How to transition towards digital transformation as a company. 

Whether you’re just beginning your digital transformation journey or well on your way, we hope this series will provide new insights into the ever-changing world of digital customer service strategy.

1. What is Digital Transformation? 

Before we look at how digital transformation is impacting customer service, it’s important to understand what digital transformation is, and what it can look like. If you search for a dictionary definition of digital transformation, you probably won’t find one. You’ll soon discover that like many emerging trends, digital transformation is being defined by the participants and codified by the observers. 

As the name suggests, digital transformation is the process of adapting business using digital technologies. By digitizing previously analogue processes, organizations can expect the following benefits and more: 

  • Increased productivity among workers 
  • Improved efficiency of processes
  • Better record keeping practices
  • More flexibility in business operations
  • Costs savings through consolidation of systems 
  • Meeting customers’ digital expectations. 

Digital transformation is about working smarter, not harder. Especially today, when the global pandemic has accelerated change among businesses and customers alike, the potential benefits of digital transformation are incredibly high. 

In the customer service space, digital transformation began long before the impact of COVID-19, and has only grown since. Digital channels have simplified the information gathering process for customers, and mobile technology has allowed these channels to be available from anywhere. This means that customers now often research products and services on their own, avoiding traditional sales and marketing funnels in the process. 

While customers have been empowered by technology, businesses have also benefited. Digital transformation saw customers gain better access to information, but businesses now have better information about their customers too. This has led to improvements in targeted advertising that finds elusive customers through new channels and has allowed companies to provide more relevant products and services, to name just a few. 

2. When Digital Transformation Meets Customer Service 

Digital transformation has empowered both customers and businesses with new communication channels. While customers can now connect with companies on the channels they want, when they want, companies can offer a variety of support channels to make themselves more available to customers. The benefit for customers is increased convenience and transparency. For businesses, the benefits of digital transformation in customer service are many, including: 

  • Increased opportunities for engagement with potential customers 
  • Improved customer experience, leading to increased customer retention 
  • Consolidation of channels and data through connected omnichannel software 
  • Deliver accessible communication at a fraction of the cost of phone. 

With these benefits in mind, in the next section, we’ll dig deeper into why the digital transformation of customer service is now a necessity in business. 

3. Why Digital Transformation in Customer Service is the Now, Not the Future 

To provide a positive customer experience (CX), transitioning to digital customer service is no longer a feature, so much as a necessity. Customers are no longer receptive to traditional phone channels, and they expect digital communications thanks to the many benefits they provide. To acquire new customers and retain existing ones, companies need to adopt digital channels that customers now expect, particularly live chat and social media. 

– Digital transformation fueled by COVID-19 

There’s no question that COVID-19 sped up the adoption of digital technologies across the globe. A survey by McKinsey & Company in October 2020 showed that over this period, organizations increased their digitization of internal and external operations by three to four years. This mass adoption of new technologies has produced technology haves and have-nots. Organizations that have invested in new technology find themselves much more able to adapt and meet the needs of their customers. 

Customer service was at the core of this technological shift, with live chat taking center stage. As employees were forced to work from home from early 2020, the world saw a significant shift towards live chat and away from phone. Reconfiguring legacy phone systems for a remote setting posed huge issues for more traditional, centralized contact centers. On the other hand, live chat can be set up instantly in a working from home environment with little more than an internet connection and a computer – or even just a mobile phone. This naturally drove many organizations toward using live chat as their primary customer service channel. You can read more about the effects of COVID-19 in our Live Chat Benchmark Report 2020: Covid-19 Edition

– Staying Connected 

Tech giants like Google and Apple have shown the power and value of integrating services, and the same is true of your digital customer service strategy. A digital omnichannel approach to customer service means that you can follow your customers across live chat, email, social media, and SMS to provide support where and when they want it. 

The vast majority of today’s customers are digital-first, but this doesn’t only mean they want to connect with you via digital channels. It means that when they do reach out, they don’t think in channels. They simply want to use the channel that is most convenient to them at that moment – and receive a coherent, seamless experience when they do. With a digital omnichannel strategy, brands can offer exactly this because every channel is connected together, so all previous conversation and support history is too. With all this information at the agent’s disposal, the customer never has to repeat themselves, and response and resolution time are decreased as the agent doesn’t need to hunt for information or switch between platforms. 

Businesses benefit from digital omnichannel customer service as much as their customers do. It brings efficiency to their support, in turn reducing cost per engagement and making it the most cost-effective support strategy. Just transitioning from phone to live chat can save up to 30%. 

Additional reading: 4 Reasons Why Omnichannel is Now Key to Customer Support 
– Changing the Narrative 

While organizations have needed to reckon with the ease at which customers can reach them in very public ways, digital transformation for CX has also opened opportunities for companies to stand out. Companies are now more available to their customers than ever before, and this relationship can work in an organization’s favor to help develop a public persona and positive reputation. 

With the adoption of an omnichannel customer engagement strategy , organizations can have an efficient presence where their customers are and respond to them accordingly. Being tagged in an angry tweet will bring visibility to an organization in a negative way, but not having a presence on Twitter would be much worse. By maintaining a social media channel presence as part, customer service can react in these situations, replying to customers on their terms and resolving a problem before it spreads. 

Just as negative stories can be amplified by digital channels, positive stories can also be used constructively to shape the narrative around an organization. The most important thing is for an organization to have a digital presence so that customers find them intuitively. 

Potential customers observing interactions on social media can see how quickly or not an organization responds in these situations, and a well-handled complaint can have a positive effect on customer opinion. It’s never going to be possible to satisfy all customers, but an openness to dialogue is an important starting point. Customers need to know that if they have a valid complaint, an organization will be willing to provide support. 

4. How to Transition Towards Digital Transformation as a Company 

With so much on the line, it’s incredible that in a 2018 survey, McKinsey & Company found that the success rate of organizations adopting digital transformation initiatives was no greater than 26 percent. Change management in business is hard

Thankfully, the tools needed for digital transformation are only part of the story. Success in digital transformation requires input from people, and to see the best results, employees from across an organization should be involved. This provides opportunities to receive valuable feedback from various departments, as well as increase employee buy-in. For a successful transition to digital, employee acceptance is crucial, so getting them involved and understanding the benefits of it is key.  

Much like this article began by seeing change as an opportunity, we’ll end here on the same note. Taking this open and transparent approach to adopting technology can help to assuage the concerns of employees hesitant to change and them to see that besides an investment in technology, your digital transformation represents an investment in them. While not everyone in an organization may have the background knowledge necessary to set IT policies, anyone in an organization can contribute by deciding what they want their work to look like. 

What’s Next? 

This is just the first in our series of articles looking at digital transformation in customer service. In the next part of this series, we’ll be looking at the building blocks of successful digital transformation. That involves implementing a variety of changes across an organization, from working with personnel to adopting new tools and new methods of communication. 

If you’re looking to make the jump to digital transformation in your customer service now, Comm100 Omnichannel makes this process simple. By connecting your digital channels into one platform, organizations in any industry can support customers through live chat, email, text messaging, social media, and more. Start your free trial today!

Kate Rogerson

About Kate Rogerson

Kate is the Content Marketing Manager at Comm100. She has extensive experience in content creation for technology companies across the world, including the UK, Australia and Canada. She specializes in B2B messaging, branding and soccer trivia.