Consumer expectations are higher than ever, but with the right data insights and visibility across interactions, service companies can keep on top of what their customers want in the digital age.

Whether they like it or not, all businesses today operate in the digital age. Consumer expectations have evolved wildly over the last two decades, fuelled by a series of rapid technological advances, such as cloud computing, smart devices and the internet of things, all of which have combined into sophisticated digital tools that transform the customer experience.

By accelerating digital transformation and online interactions, the Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened consumer expectations further, and it’s rewriting the service rule book for businesses across multiple sectors. Providing a seamless digital experience for customers is now equally important as the quality of the physical services a company offers.

According to research by the Northridge Group, consumers today are, frankly, unforgiving when it comes to bad customer experiences, with 72 per cent likely to switch companies after just one bad experience. Worst still, 86 per cent will share their bad experience with others, including on social media, which can quickly cause severe damage to a service company’s reputation.

Great expectations

Consumers expect the smooth digital experience they enjoy on their favourite mobile apps and social networks from every company they now deal with. It’s not just the experience before and after a service is provided that consumers now expect to be digital, but the actual in-person experience during that service too. Younger consumers and a growing number of online consumers are also comfortable with touchless technologies like tap and go payments or digital invoicing. However, it’s certainly the former that have the highest expectations of everyone.

Not only do millennials and Gen Z have significantly different expectations than previous generations, but they also know how to find the service providers that offer the experience they want. This generational observation is important because it highlights exactly why customer expectations will continue to evolve at pace as digital-native demographics become the dominant consumer base. In a study by Appnovation, 89 per cent of millennials said they expect brands to use technology to shape their experience, no matter from which brand they purchase.

The large embrace of online and mobile touchpoints isn’t the only challenge that small service businesses have to grapple with today. Powered in part by social media, the digital age has also spurred a greater need to listen and respond to customers’ demands for more empathetic, purpose-driven companies to purchase products and services from. It’s more important than ever that organisations are in tune with what customers want them to stand for more widely. 

From intuition to insights

Service companies that understand and deliver on the digital consumer’s needs are most likely to succeed in the years ahead. But how can they know what these customers want when they are still interacting with consumers in the same manner as before?

The days of trying to gauge what customers want from intuition alone are gone, however much experience a service company may have in its area of expertise. The most successful companies, of course, still develop in-depth knowledge about their customers from their in-person interactions, but they complement that with the sophisticated insights they can draw from the service management software they use to run their business. Through these insights into customer habits and behaviours, they can optimise and tailor their offerings accordingly. 

Ultimately, the only way to truly understand customers is to put yourself in their shoes. A field service management tool helps companies achieve this by tracking messages and chat interactions across platforms and monitoring and enhancing the customer experience from start to finish. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of customers and what they want, powered by these unique and powerful data insights, is essential to meeting core business objectives.

The power of data

In an ‘always on’ world where consumers are constantly connected to technology in one way or another, embracing digital is now a prerequisite to something that most service businesses put at the heart of their offering: putting the customer first. To continue to deliver on that promise, they must adapt to the new market reality. Accurate, organised data enables them to fit into customers’ lives, engaging with them where they are, and on the devices they love.

By adopting a more data-driven approach, service companies drive significant improvements. Data facilitates learning. Rather than providing the same service in the same way repeatedly, insights offered by service management solutions enable you to monitor customer engagement metrics continually and optimise processes and performance. Collecting customer data can also enable companies to build customer profiles that help them refine their marketing, upsell or resell, or personalise their outreach. 

Service management solutions not only streamlines workflows, increases productivity and drives much-needed efficiencies across an organisation – it also helps improve customer satisfaction and retention by allowing consumers to interact with your business when and how they want to.

Meeting customers where they are

Younger consumers, in particular, are most likely to choose a service provider they can book online over one they have to pick up the phone to speak to. Millennials find the concept of waiting on hold or being put through to another department incredibly frustrating, starting their first interaction with a company negatively. When businesses consistently fail to meet their customers’ expectations, it’s not just their reputation at risk but their long-term survival. They need to meet customers where they are. 

Crucially, service management solutions remove the need to second guess what customers want through real-time insights and visibility across operations and customer interactions. The ability to seamlessly manage bookings, schedule, dispatch, and accept payments through a simple process means that service businesses never have to let a customer down again by turning down a job or responding too late. Meanwhile, historical information about customers and performance allows them to improve as customer expectations continue to evolve consistently.