Digital Customer Service—This is Why You’re Struggling


New digital customer service options often fail. Is your new digital customer service strategy able to keep up with the NOW Customer?

You’re rolling out a new digital customer experience. It’s going to cut wait times, make it easier for your customers to get what they need, improve your customer support, and save your company money. You’ve had your best people working on it, management is fully bought-in, it tested well, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be a huge success!

Here are the top reasons for deploying a new digital customer experience:

  • Improve the ability to quickly serve customers
  • Improve data capture capabilities
  • Improve customer insights
  • Improve ability to solve customer problems

It’s not always a digital customer service success story

This is where the needle scratches on the record. Initial results are not good. Your customers tried it, but many abandoned before completing the process. There are complaints on social media and phone calls to customer support. Reporters have started writing scathing articles. Your customer service team is not happy with these new customer service issues. People are reverting to traditional customer service channels and your customer satisfaction scores are dropping. It’s time to pull the plug.

So why did this happen? Why does a well thought out and well intentioned digital customer service strategy bite the dust when people start using it real life service channels? 

Three common reasons a digital customer experience fails

  1. The motivation for consumers to try the new digital customer service has been misunderstood
  2. The role generational differences play in consumer adoption of digital customer service has been underestimated
  3. The initial customer experience has been confusing, frustrating, and disappointing

A customer habit is the hardest thing to break

The digital customer does not have the motivations you think they do. Habit is a very important word to consider when you’re developing new customer service experiences. 

NOW Customers have ingrained habits and expectations, thanks to the nearly impossible standards set by the world’s biggest brands. They like the way they buy groceries, check into a hotel, book a flight, or pay with their credit card. You may believe that SMS and text messaging is better than a phone call or email, or touchless payment is a vast improvement over swiping a credit card. But have you asked the customer? 

More often than not, if you ask a CX or user experience professional to list what motivates a customer to change their behavior the answers will be in a completely different order than what the customer actually wants.

What we think a customer wants:

  1. Improved sense of control 
  2. Customer’s digital savvy 
  3. Improved convenience 
  4. Self-service 
  5. Easier processes 
  6. Takes less time 
  7. Curiosity 
  8. Faster results 
  9. Lower costs

What a customer actually wants:

  1. Takes less time 
  2. Improved convenience 
  3. Faster results 
  4. Easier processes 
  5. Lower costs  
  6. Digital savviness 
  7. Self service 
  8. Improved sense of control 
  9. Curiosity

Source: IBM Institute for Business Value

The digital customer service disconnect

We think the digital customer wants control, to exercise their digital skills, and to have greater convenience. But they actually want to save time, improve convenience, and get faster results. 

The NOW Customer is looking for the same experience they’re getting from some of the best brands in the world.

This disconnect is what drives a lot of failed digital customer experiences. And it’s crucial because answering the “Why” question is often done at the beginning of the development process. Get it wrong and no matter how well you design your experience, it will have issues because it doesn’t answer the basic customer needs.

The age of your customers is very important

It may be impolite to ask, but the age of your average user is crucial to the success of your digital customer service. This ties into the point I made above, but it’s worth repeating: The longer someone has been doing something, the harder it is to get them to adopt a new way of completing a familiar task.

We like to imagine that our customer base is full of millennials and digital natives eager to try the latest thing. Yet, as we move deeper into this digital era, older generations continue to increase their use of digital. So we must accommodate their needs too. While the majority of millennials are keen to see how companies will use digital, that number drops when we include generation X and drops further for baby boomers.

On the flip side, we cannot assume that older generations are unwilling to adopt the latest technology. Gen X’s and Baby Boomers’ adoption to social media and on-demand technology prove otherwise.

Percentage of consumers who are excited to see how companies will deploy digital CX technologies:

  • Millennials – 63%
  • Generation X – 48%
  • Baby Boomers – 39%

Execution in digital channels is crucial

Your new digital customer experience lives or dies on how well it actually functions. Remember, customers want convenience and time savings. Your new app or process may theoretically save time, but if it relies on too much data, it may be slowed down by your customers’ networks. If the user has to perform more steps than the old way of doing things, it will probably be discarded. If it doesn’t have good integration with your legacy systems, it might be costing your company money. Too many words, too many choices, or too much change can derail your digital initiatives, negatively affect your customer satisfaction, and have users reverting back to the old ways in seconds. Considering that consumers’ expectations are being set by digital leaders like Google, Amazon, Apple, Uber and others, the bar is high.

People have little patience with digital alternatives that seem to be more trouble than the traditional interactions they are used to using. Digital first impressions matter. If your digital experience falls short of expectations for any reason, even interested shoppers may be slow to adopt or, worse, refuse to give you a second chance. It’s important to remember: The easiest thing for people to do is continue to do what they have always done. 

And it’s not only how well your new application works. Often new digital customer experiences fail because no one knows about them, or the benefits have not been explained properly. Customer expectation is set by you. If you oversell your new experience, users might be disappointed in its performance even if it improves over the traditional experience.

Design digital experiences to meet digital customer service expectations

If your digital CX doesn’t eliminate underlying pain points, getting consumers to adopt digital will be difficult. This is especially true if they don’t perceive it to be faster, easier or more convenient than traditional channels. 

What are customers’ motivations?

Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have different levels of interest in digital CX. Recognizing that not all customers may be eager to adopt digital CX, and understanding why, is an important step to creating digital experiences that people will actually enjoy.

Make it simple digital customer service

UX leaders have already set the bar for what great digital customer experiences should be like. Test your digital customer service with users to make sure it provides the utility they expect and is simple and elegant to use. Also, in the case of a popular channel like live chat, it’s critical to use the tool at it’s highest capacity. Merely putting it on your site and expecting it to work (as more than half ecommerce brands did during Black Friday 2020)