What Do Customers Really Want from Brands? Turns Out, It’s “Happiness”

During the pandemic’s early stages, technical mishaps, long hold times and other poor customer experiences were better tolerated by consumers as a sense of community and the shared uncertainty of a global public health crisis created the sense that “we’re all in this together.”

Today, that grace period is over. Consumers expect an extraordinary customer experience (CX). The brand differentiator–what consumers really crave–is happiness.

A study by the business process outsourcing (BPO) pioneer Conduent, “Channeling Happiness: The 2022 State of Consumer Experience Report,” points to a critical disparity between what consumers and brands consider a positive customer experience.

Seventy percent of consumers describe CX excellence as either a strong relationship with the brand or one that evokes a feeling of “happiness.” But brands see CX success differently: 84 percent believe the most important aspect of CX is providing a consistent, high-quality experience at every touchpoint.

When brands and organizations fall short of understanding their customers’ needs, they position themselves for failure.

This reality can be hard to reconcile for the growing number of brands deploying bots and other service automation strategies. Technology and human connection do not have to be at odds, though. Brands and organizations are delighting customers by embracing omnichannel strategies, leveraging data tools, and training customer service agents to deliver the personal, empathetic moments people value.

The new definition of omnichannel

Conduent’s study found that people prefer human interactions ­–those engagements involving another person in lieu of automated responses–whether voice, chat, email or social media. Consumers also want the flexibility to choose when and how they engage and pivot between channels, says Jeff Weiner, vice president and general manager of Customer Experience Management at Conduent.

“The first step in CX transformation is acknowledging this brand/consumer misalignment,” he says. “Consistent experiences are not enough to make your brand stand out. Consumers reward companies that treat them like a friend or family member and deliver real joy. That takes personalized, human connections. Omnichannel CX –the strategy for unified experiences aligned across social media, chat, email, virtual assistance and other customer touchpoints–increases happiness … and spending.”

But only nine percent of brands believe they are delivering omnichannel exceptionally well, according to Conduent’s research.

According to Weiner, if a chatbot isn’t getting the job done, moving to a live-agent chat, for example, should be seamless.

“Furthermore, the data from the first interaction should be automatically passed on to the agent,” he says. “If the customer is forced to start from scratch, you’ve lost that opportunity to delight them.”

Another key to successful CX is ensuring your brand understands when and why each channel should be used. Self-service tools, chat, and conversational AI work well for lower-level interactions, Weiner says.

“But for higher-level interactions, we have to remember there’s a person [at the other end],” Weiner says. “That human-like experience can’t be lost, because in the marketplace, especially depending on the type of products you are selling, that truly could be the differentiator.”


Data as the connector

A truly effective omnichannel-focused company will go beyond offering multiple engagement channels and use the data gleaned from every interaction to improve all touchpoints.

“Hardships and consumer needs resulting from the pandemic have required organizations to create customer experiences that are more empathetic, more personal, more engaged, and more relevant,” Weiner says. “And brands are connecting data across channels to gain a more complete picture.”

How do you “connect the dots” and transfer data from one channel to another? It is not simple. You need an analytics team or external partner to help you find, collect, and translate the data to create seamless experiences, achieve personalization, and analyze customer journeys to unlock valuable insights. Companies must also evaluate customer journeys regularly and adjust as needed to ensure they are meeting consumer expectations. Weiner points to sentiment analysis, which helps agents identify and better understand a customer’s emotional state and adjust approaches accordingly. Sentiment analysis data can also reveal agent training opportunities.

Define the role of the agent as someone who drives happiness

If agents are expected to bring customers joy, not just solve their problems, they need to be trained and supported accordingly. Companies must provide their agents with the right tools, resources, support and culture to be brand ambassadors who interact with empathy. As the expectations for agents evolve, so will hiring considerations.

The need for recruiting and retaining exceptional people will only intensify as organizations continue to compete on CX. In today’s tight labor market, that isn’t easy. Three out of four employers are struggling to find the talent they need, according to a 2022 global survey by ManpowerGroup. To attract and retain strong people, brands will have to emphasize employee experience (EX) and understand how it interconnects with CX. Weiner urges companies to adopt a “human experience mindset” across the board.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he says. “Human or human-like connections between organizations and associates, customer care and their customer service providers, and the client organizations.”

For more information, visit https://www.conduent.com/.