Member Article

Four ways towards digital customer inclusion

By Eduardo Crespo, Senior Vice President and General Manager, UK&I, MEA, Medallia

It should come as no surprise that the pandemic has disrupted the corporate agenda for businesses over the last financial year. Whilst it undoubtedly sent the business world into a tail-spin, it also acted as a catalyst for change – setting in motion advances that customers were crying out for long before anyone had ever heard of ‘Covid’.

The move to digital modes of interaction has been the biggest change by far – prompting the business world firmly into the 21st Century and meeting the needs of consumers keen to engage with brands whenever and wherever they desire.

Remembering the needs of the digital enfranchised

As the effects of the pandemic now ebb, the majority of customer segments are evolving into a hybrid of interaction that is both virtual and physical but still highly digitised. Nonetheless, sizable segments of the population – over four million UK residents – remain digital non-natives without access to digital tools and mediums, who therefore remain reliant on physical channels.

This “non-native” customer cannot be characterised in one broad stroke, as it is a diverse group, made up of unique segments. First, there is a portion of customers - the older generation - with limited access to digital channels due to a lack of digital training. Second, there are the customers with low discretionary income who cannot afford connectivity or customers living in remote locations who struggle to access digital tools or where digital forms of payment are not the norm. Finally, there are the customers who are not accustomed to digital purchases or eCommerce and rely on physical channels out of preference.

A move towards digital inclusion

Over the coming year, it will be critical for businesses to get it right when it comes to digital inclusion - ensuring that they deliver to both the digitally savvy and the digitally disenfranchised. Whatever the audience, both are valuable assets to businesses. As such, organisations who commit themselves to meeting customers ‘where they are’ in their journey and demonstrating an understanding of their unique needs will drive loyalty and margins.

From a practical perspective, we are already seeing leading brands across industries, such as financial services, healthcare and education, developing best practices that focus on end-to-end digital inclusion through innovation. Some of these measures can include:

  • Accessible digital stations at physical venues with local associate support;
  • Educational content at-location or via mailing for digital training and customer education;
  • Step-by-step and visual marketing guides to aid the customer through the journey;
  • Contact centre teams turned into sales centres or competence centres of excellence;
  • Two-way SMS communications with customers;
  • Video-based and how-to tutorials that can be accessed on mobile devices;
  • High touch person-to-person service in highly technical touchpoints.

Four key ways to serve your customer base

Beyond this, there are additional ways to engage with your extensive customer base. Based on our experience in the field, we believe that there are four key ways to help organisations towards digital inclusion:

1. Digital inclusion planning and training: Internally, businesses must equip leaders and their employees with a clear understanding of the value of serving non-digital customers who cannot access digital services, and how to support a physical-only model. To better aid the customer, businesses can invest in training to help develop the non-digital natives or the digitally excluded to be able to access and buy products and services.

2. Move away from a one size fits all mentality: Business cannot adopt a one-size fits all approach for journeys when it comes to digital inclusion. Rather, businesses have to size up and identify the moments where customers are disenfranchised and design optimal workarounds that can meet non-digital customers in a cost-effective way. This is an ongoing listening practice where companies collect customer feedback in a continuous motion and then feed that customer opinion back into the business for ongoing improvement.

3. Real-time tracking: It is key that we understand what customers identify as a ‘moment of truth’ and that we design our journey to delight in those moments as they generate higher loyalty or churn.Businesses must track customer feedback online and across physical points of sale and service to measure, track and understand how different segments are evolving during their journeys. Through this feedback business can understand what they are getting right or wrong and make decisions in real-time without making costly overinvestments.

4. Design with technology in mind: Companies can leverage inclusive design practices when defining journeys and they must define how and when customers can access sales and service points. A holistic approach to the design of journeys is the way to balance customer needs against the availability of internal resources – thinking about both of the upstream and downstream issues in the customer journey. To that end companies can leverage technology and software solutions to scale up better and empower their employees in location, as well as their digital channels, to better serve customers. This is because businesses will need to tailor to “phy-gital” omnichannel channels of interaction to their customers intelligently.

Meeting the needs of the full spectrum of customers

Ultimately, developing inclusive business practices, such as those outlined above, are critical to both reducing the social inequality gap in the post-pandemic society and retaining high top-line growth. Companies today must therefore develop a holistic approach to digital inclusion that relies on their employees and partners to ensure that all customers are able to find them.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by P Adams .

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