How emotions will shape customer relationships in a minimal touch economy
“Emotion is the currency of experience”
John Mellor, VP of Strategy, Alliances Marketing, Adobe
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index,customer satisfaction with telecom services has increased for the first time in four years. Yet, as a whole, it remains at the bottom of the barrel among the 46 industries covered in the report. As the pandemic has cemented Communications Service Providers’ (CSPs) role in delivering an essential service, it has also changed consumer and business needs as they navigate through a minimal-touch society. CSPs have an opportunity to ride the higher customer satisfaction marks they have today and start reinventing relationships by connecting to the emotional needs of their customers.
Low-touch, high emotions
As different regions battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, emotions are riding high. The way we work, play, learn, and shop has been pushed into the digital realm. How we socialize with friends and family has moved into the virtual world to – people are even celebrating their postponed weddings on the gaming platform Animal Crossing. As people's priorities shift to focus on ensuring family and friends' health and welfare, they've also adopted differing attitudes and behaviors, creating a volatile mix of elevated emotions and expectations.
Every interaction and touch point can leave a long-lasting impression as customers seek businesses that demonstrate care and understanding. And this emotional resonance translates to customer loyalty. A PWC survey reported 32% of all customers, under normal circumstances, would stop doing business with a brand they love after one bad experience.
The five areas for emotional engagement
Research conducted by Deloitte Digital shows rational considerations (e.g. service pricing and included features) typically drive early business arrangements and are often the reason for ending one. In between, however, it is emotional responses and shared values that deepen the connection between the customer and the brand. So how can CSPs engage more directly with subscribers’ emotional needs? They can start by connecting with five key emotional motivators today:
Uncertainties are unsettling; consumers and enterprises alike seek solutions that help them feel more secure and protected. Two key ways that CSPs can help their customers to feel safe and secure include:
- Enabling a minimal-touch or contactless customer experience both for their own operations and in other sectors. Along with providing an omnichannel experience, CSPs can also explore how they can enable immersive experiences for a variety of applications to serve the needs of people who feel most secure at home. For example, KDDI and Facebook are partnering to bring Augmented Reality (AR) shopping to 5G customers via The "Future Pop-up Store" where people can try on and purchase products, with AR glasses.
- Securing networks due to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 related phishing and malware attacks. CSPs such as US Cellular has invested in technology that provides visibility into exactly which devices have been affected with malware, the specific kinds of malware in play, and recommends actions to minimize impact to its customers.
Managing health is a top priority for everyone, and anxiety over a “next wave” of infection makes it difficult for people to feel comfortable returning to work or school Many CSPs are exploring novel ways to enable improve health and hygiene measures. For example, Vodafone UK has been supporting the Coventry Wasps Rugby Club with a camera that measures temperature to safeguard players, staff, and visitors. These thermal images are streamed to a laptop or mobile device, where analytics software issues an alert if a person has an elevated temperature. And companies such as Korea Telecom are using 5G technology to provide businesses with 5G-enabled Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles (AIVs) to reduce human contact.
Caring for and protecting family is a strong motivator. Social isolation of seniors and immune-compromised individuals is both a protective tactic and one that makes caregiving significantly more difficult. In a Nokia 5G use case study, 50% of consumers surveyed would like the option of video detection alerts to let them know when someone has fallen. Caregivers will be newly motivated to research and trial tools that enable remote monitoring of their loved ones, and CSPs could be a provider of such services. For further exploration of smartphone applications for older adults, the National Center for Biotechnology Information published an article on 15 applications useful for older adults while in COVID-19 isolation.
Consumers and businesses want to work with brands that give them a greater sense of control. With many people increasing their broadband usage from home for work, school, and entertainment, many customers are upgrading their service or experiencing service quality issues for which they need customer care. As much as possible CSPs should implement subscriber DIY installation and self-care capabilities including virtual assistants and chatbots, or even remote visual trouble-shooting. CSPs can look to Porsche’s Tech Live Look for inspiration, where the use of double-lensed glasses allows a remote expert to watch and give advice to a mechanic in real- time, for a 40% improvement in repair speed.
People want to feel seen and seek understanding during times of crisis. Minimal touch and digital experiences require CSPs to be more empathetic. Since March 2020 there have been many cases of service providers supporting a community or individuals and contributing to the greater good. Nigeria Airtel has offered free Short Message Services (SMS) for customers accessing education and health sites, as well as committing funds to provision toll-free lines to connect the Nigerian Center for Disease Control’s offices nationwide. And many CSPs like T-Mobile are providing free or low-cost broadband so that disadvantaged communities have access to remote education – a critical issue of great concern to families and society at large.
Embracing the practical and emotional elements of customer experience
CSPs often look at technical solutions to solve problems. But as we’ve explored, the answers are not always found in new technology implementations. Focusing on supporting emotional needs can deliver long-term gains in customer loyalty – and help to lift the telecom industry from the bottom of customer satisfaction indexes. In its announcement of the findings from the Forrester US 2020 Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) rankings, Sharyn Leaver, SVP of Research said “To emerge successfully from this global crisis, brands must build experiences that help them engage with their customers at an emotional level. Brands can build a well of CX equity if they embrace a disciplined approach to envisioning, designing, and delivering a consistently high-quality experience. When consumer spending resumes, brands with experiences that engender customer loyalty will benefit the most.”
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