Digital customer care is not only a nice extra, it is a core expectation for today’s customer. According to a recent McKinsey report, customers expect a high level of digital service and “more and more are getting it.”

The report, authored by Jorge Amar and Hyo Yeon, found digital customer care is still new ground for many organisations and there is much to be learnt from leading digital natives.

“Customers are getting harder to impress. The rapid rise of ‘digital native’ companies, such as Spotify or Uber, exposes customers to simple, streamlined user experiences designed from the ground up for digital delivery,” the authors said.

“Established companies that build their e-care offerings and processes on top of, or alongside, more traditional channels often find it hard to meet the same standards.”

The pay off for effective digital care could be significant. For example, according to research in the report, telecommunication customers using digital channels for service transactions are “one-third more satisfied, on average, than those who rely on traditional channels.”

“And since companies that excel in customer satisfaction also tend to create more value for their shareholders, there is even more incentive to get e-care right,” the report said.

The integration of digital service channels has not been smooth sailing. Customer uptake is well behind awareness, e-care is complex and difficult to implement, and customers are getting harder and harder to impress, the authors said.

“When customers think about the e-care service they receive from their bank or phone company, they don’t compare it with its competitors in the same industry but with the other digital services they use every day,” the authors said.

There are seven key areas that digital customer care leaders excel at, according to the report.

  1. Simplicity: Keep it simple, laggards. According to the report, the best e-care “requires few mouse clicks or screen touches to achieve the desired task.” Companies like Apple and Paypal utilise consistent and clean design in its product information and support services, exemplifying simplicity in customer service.
  2. Convenience: Ideally, the authors said, “customers are offered a wide variety of services and a choice of support channels. User interfaces are easy to navigate and critical information is not hidden within long pages or complex menu hierarchies.” This approach can be aided by data insights and real time actions based on the user, the report said. Biometrics that accelerate authentication can greatly add to a convenient customer care experience, according to the report.
  3. Interactivity: Rising consumer expectations mean “customers now expect their online experiences to be dynamic and interactive” which is “especially important for millennial consumers, who have grown up steeped in social media and online interactions,” the authors said. User communities can create excellent interactive environments which provide valuable feedback and insights.
  4. Consistency: Simple, convenient customer care also needs to be consistent across devices and platforms. “Customers require that the appearance, functionality, and information available in e-care services be consistent regardless of which device or software they use,” the report said. Amazon, an example in the report, provides a consistent customer care experiences across its digital channels. Similar menus, links and language reassure consumers as they move across channels and touchpoints.
  5. Value: The customer experience approach is evident in leading digital care. E-care is only effective if customers can derive value from their experience. According to the McKinsey report, “services must be designed to reflect the user’s individual needs, rather than the company’s internal processes, and must evolve as those needs change.”
  6. Desirability: Products must suit their market and digital care is no exception. It is a challenging task to make customer care desirable to customers and not a chore. However, tailoring content to its environment can be a big help, according to the report. “Desirability is a product not only of a consistently appealing visual design but also of the tone and presentation of the site’s content. Both usually require adaption to suit local tastes, which may require dramatically different choices depending on the specific context,” the authors said.
  7. Brand: A brand is more than a label — it’s how customers experience a company’s products and services. “Given that e-care has become one of the primary ways customers interact with a business, brand reinforcement should be a primary e-care goal rather than an afterthought.” According to the report, digital leaders “integrate their brand values deeply into the design of their e-care offerings.”

Due to their nature, digital natives have a head start in the race for successful digital customer care.

“Traditional companies must measure their own performance against the best of the best of best—and embrace a culture of rapid, continuous evolution and improvement. There’s no time to lose,” the authors said.

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