As we enter 2022, the digital-first service experiences of the last two years have redefined our future. Physical constraints took consumers to digital platforms, which in turn forced businesses to redefine customer experience (CX) and meet them there. With the world opening up and the option of in-store experiences back in play, customer “delight” is taking a new form.

Consumers have embraced the ease and convenience of engaging online but crave the connection and empathy of personal interactions. For businesses, this reinforces the need for a seamless omnichannel strategy that speaks to the digital-first consumer, while ensuring human engagement. All while navigating a possibly permanent hybrid work environment.

CX in 2022

In 2022, ensuring a digital-first mindset is critical to delivering exceptional CX. A recent survey of 4,500 businesses and 107 million customer interactions globally found consumers want to receive support through any channel that serves their purpose the fastest. 39% would rather use self-service options and feel it is the quickest route to a solution. However, 61% admire companies that use a smart mix of self-service and human interaction, resulting in prompt, empathetic support.

Australian companies need to deliver world-class service while coping with increasing digital demand — that’s a large order and relies on agile leaders having access to the right technology. With a 160% increase in the frequency of digital purchases globally, embracing a digital-first mindset addresses the ‘want it now’ culture created by mass digital uptake, and in turn, fosters customer loyalty.

Should businesses prioritise physical or digital CX?

Due to increased digital purchasing, the lines between physical and digital experiences are blurred and the changing relationship between physical and digital makes consumers more critical of companies that don’t get omnichannel service right.

With 38% of customers expecting CX agents to know who they are and the context of their query immediately, and 80% of buyers more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalised experiences, the business case for nailing CX is evident. This highlights the importance of understanding your customer base and having the right service platform in place to meet the dynamic needs of consumers and deliver exceptional service.

Prediction replaces automation

Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities have transformed CX delivery and over the last two years, AI has become an essential part of a winning CX strategy. From taking over manual activities from agents to helping them handle volumes, AI-powered chatbots are great efficiency tools. Now, businesses are starting to explore how their investment can go the extra mile to elevate customer and agent experiences.

Smart bots can automate, but smarter bots can predict customer behaviour, scale customer service, and deliver exceptional CX.

Globally, one in three decision makers implementing AI state that optimising it to predict customer needs and deliver personalised experiences is a key consideration for driving returns on their investments. This trend is mirrored locally, with the Australian government strengthening the country’s capabilities through the $124.1 million artificial intelligence action plan to position Australia as a global leader in AI technology.

As the practical applications of AI continue to increase, companies are using the technology to not only predict customer needs but deliver personalised experiences that drive customer satisfaction.

Mobile first

Consumers value speed more than ever, with the desire for speedy interactions and resolutions governing how they choose to communicate. Offering consumers the familiarity of messaging and the convenience of engaging on a mobile device can help brands foster deeper bonds that drive loyalty.

In Australia, 71% of consumers agreed they would exchange private information for a more personalised, faster, and value-driven experience. This trend is reflected globally, with 68% of WhatsApp users stating that because the platform is easy to use and widely accessible, it is the most convenient way to engage with a brand.

Making customer service accessible in every user’s pocket is a big win and messaging channels are shown to slash up to 60% of cost-per-customer interaction. By prioritising mobile-first, businesses can keep an always-on open line of communication with every customer while allowing customers the convenience and freedom of picking up conversations when it’s convenient for them.

Businesses will benefit from implementing a seamless omnichannel strategy, focusing on the digital-first consumer, but remaining cognisant of the increasing need for personal interactions. By keeping this in mind, businesses can also reduce the cost of operations, empower employees to deliver exception CX, and deepen customer loyalty. Delighted employees delight customers, and delighted customers drive better business outcomes and growth.

Ben Pluzynk is director & country manager for Australia and New Zealand at Freshworks.