The past 18 months have been a period of huge learning and, for many, a chance to reset. For businesses, the pandemic has been one of the most intense periods of experimentation, development and recalibration. It has been a golden opportunity to test out assumptions, confirm some beliefs – and debunk others.
In particular, this has been a hugely effective study into what consumers want and expect from companies. The results have occasionally been surprising.
Take, for example, the shift to online. During lockdown, serving customers remotely, working remotely, playing remotely and meeting people’s needs was only possible digitally. This debunked one myth – that everyone is already online. Vast swathes of the population had to get up to speed with living online so the assumption that customers wanted to be served digital-first was not altogether accurate.
However, a year and a half down the line and almost everyone now has the access and the aptitude to live a digital-first existence. They’ve had a taste of meeting their every consumer need at the touch of a button and seen an explosion in rapid-delivery services like Getir or Weezy, meaning getting the week’s groceries is just as quick and convenient as stepping outside their front door. As the pandemic recedes, the post-pandemic consumer is now 100% digitally native.
Only this is not the case. Customer journeys are becoming ever more complex and the number of digital channels to engage with consumers is growing. However, one element will always be critical – the human touch.
“The customer has changed. They don’t want to lose digital conveniences but they still want to be able to go to stores or connect one-on-one with an advisor where possible. Understanding customers is going to be very important as we enter a new phase,” insists Inken Kuhlmann-Rhinow, EMEA marketing director for HubSpot, the customer relationship management (CRM) platform for scaling companies.
What is the human touch in a digital world? Simply put, it’s about giving consumers the ability to engage easily with a real person. To continue providing human interactions in a digital world, brands need to turn to digital technologies that support rather than supplant the human.
Kuhlmann-Rhinow says: “Consumers feel appreciated and valued when they know they can speak to a real person. Getting stuck in an automation loop is frustrating and alienating.”
HubSpot’s recent research into hybrid customer experience reveals that twice as many consumers want to be able to speak to someone when making a purchase as the number who want to do so in a customer service environment. During purchase was also more popular than browsing or pre-purchase. “The value in being able to ask questions is high, but any sensitive post-purchase customer service issues must be handled quickly and empathetically, even if it is – as discovered in our survey – the less frequent need,” Kuhlmann-Rhinow warns.
Being able to deliver on the human touch requires a new approach to understanding the customer journey and customer relationship management. Customer experience has previously been dominated by the funnel approach, with different functions only focused on fulfilling their part of the funnel.
“Companies need to understand the full customer lifecycle,” Kuhlmann-Rhinow advises. “At HubSpot, we recommend the flywheel model, which helps explain and visualise the momentum you gain when you align your entire organisation around delivering a remarkable customer experience. It ensures different business units are continually working together, with every function having an ongoing responsibility to support the others in fulfilling the business’s overall goals.”
To put the customer at the heart of the business means moving away from today’s patchwork approach, where the survival mindset of 2020 led to companies adding processes and operations that were not suitable for scale. As a result, a patchwork of technologies was stitched together and now it is holding companies back.
Extricating yourself from this patchwork means rethinking how your customer relationship management infrastructure is constructed. Today’s businesses need a powerful and easy-to-use CRM platform that enables them to create a single point of customer truth that all teams can feed into and, crucially, pull from, helping them remove friction in customer interactions.
Why this is so important is because CRM platforms have evolved beyond purely managing customer information. The digital journey travels across many different interactions and touchpoints. You need to capture all of that information in order to deliver delightful customer experiences. This is the rise of modern CRM and it’s changing how we think about it.
“Today, CRM powers your whole end-to-end customer experience and includes tools like a content management system (CMS) or core engagement tools. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of CRM and leaders understand it is now vital for success. HubSpot UK’s Sales Enablement report recently showed that the adoption of CRM software was up 40% compared to pre-COVID levels,” Kuhlmann-Rhinow reveals.
The HubSpot platform is constructed in such a way that companies in the process of transformation aren’t faced with the uncomfortable – and expensive – prospect of jettisoning their legacy tech.
“With nearly 1,000 integrations into popular SaaS apps, as well as rich and open APIs for interfacing with custom-built apps, HubSpot’s powerful and easy to use CRM platform lets companies connect data and workflows across the stack into a rationalised CRM platform. You don’t have to rip out everything else,” Kuhlmann-Rhinow advises.
Equally, smaller companies with big ambitions needn’t feel that delivering world-class customer experience, whether in-person, digitally or – as is more commonly the case – a mixture of the two, is somehow out of their league. “The HubSpot CRM platform is designed to grow with an organisation’s appetite and need for technology at every stage in their growth journey. It is built with scalability in mind,” Kuhlmann-Rhinow suggests.
She adds that automation doesn’t diminish the human angle but rather supports it, helping scaling businesses manage the difficult mix between growing headcount and expanding the customer base - without compromising on quality of experience.
“Customers won’t wait for your systems to catch up or your team to figure out the friction points that are causing frustration. Delivering a best-in-class experience that allows companies and customers to switch seamlessly between digital and human interactions will be key. In 2021 and beyond, companies from startup to scale-up, and beyond, that adopted an end-to-end CRM platform will be in a much better position to deliver on that best-in-class customer experience as they grow,” Kuhlmann-Rhinow says.
For more information please visit www.hubspot.com