Australian security and equipment companies know they face a big and complex challenge. The idea of what constitutes good customer service is shifting, and the implications for the way they do business are profound.
It’s a shift that has been underway for some years but was given a rocket during the global pandemic. The viral outbreak changed consumer behaviour in myriad ways, and many of those changes are here to stay.
A shift in power
In the past, established business brands essentially owned the relationship with customers and were able to control the channels through which they connected with them. If they wanted to put up a ‘closed’ sign at 5pm, that is what they did.
Fast forward to 2021 and things are now very different. With a smartphone in their pocket and a connection to a high-speed mobile network, a consumer can interact with brands from any location and at any time of day. The relationship is now very different as customer service and experiences have essentially been democratised.
Consumers are also now looking to have relationships with businesses that are much more personal in nature. Rather than being treated as anonymous strangers, they want their interactions and communications to be tailored specifically for them.
Interestingly, there is often quite a disconnect between how brands think they are responding to these changes and the job they are actually doing. They might believe they have the communications channels in place that customers are seeking, but the reality might be somewhat different.
For example, customers increasingly expect to be able to change the communications channel they are using halfway through an interaction. They may want to begin a conversation on Twitter but then pick up the phone and complete it via a voice call.
Alternatively, they might also want to start an order online but then go into a physical store to complete it. If they are forced to constantly provide the same details or prove their identity at each step, frustration levels will rise and they may end up going elsewhere.
Personalisation and privacy
The bottom line is that consumers are increasingly expecting the businesses they interact with to understand who they are and what they want. In a post-COVID world, where an increasing proportion of interactions are conducted digitally, this is now more important than ever before.
However, this personalisation cannot happen at the expense of personal privacy. Consumers are usually happy to provide some personal data but want to feel that they are getting value from doing so. If they feel their data is being misused, they’ll react by walking away.
Careful attention also needs to be given to the security measures that businesses have put in place. They need to be careful that these measures provide sufficient protection without causing a rise in the friction of interactions.
Some are opting to make use of sign-in and identity services provided by companies such as Google and Apple. Rather than customers needing to share sensitive data with every business with which they transact, they can instead use their Google or Apple account to prove who they are and handle payment.
The social media challenge
These shifts in consumer expectations are also leading to a need for many businesses to rethink the way in which they are making use of social media platforms. It’s one thing to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, but it’s quite another to use them in an effective way.
Businesses need to realise that social media is more than just a channel for one-way brand promotion. Increasingly, customers are wanting to use it for everything from pre-purchase questions to order placement and after-sales support.
It’s clear that market conditions and customer expectations are going to continue to evolve in the months and years ahead. Any businesses failing to examine and evolve the way they operate will quickly be left behind by those that do.