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Serving the More Autonomous Customer

May 30, 2012

How “autonomous” are your customers? Unless you're selling products appealing to senior citizens (and even then, you might be surprised), chances are they are very autonomous. What this means is that they do their own product research and information gathering entirely on their own.


Now that the Internet and mobile devices have largely displaced other channels (except, perhaps, the telephone), consumers are no longer influenced by traditional marketing techniques such as e-mail marketing and TV advertisements. Marketers have had to adapt. The customer preference today is to gain the information they need where they want it, when they want it, largely cutting marketers out of the early process.

A survey by BT and Avaya this week found that 79 percent of consumers prefer to plan their purchases and carry out their own product research before buying. These are “autonomous” customers. But how do you plan to service them most effectively?

Nicola Millard, a customer experience futurologist at BT Global Services, told ZDNet that companies will need to formulate a multichannel service strategy to meet the needs of the self-directed customer. Customers have always hated high-pressure and put-you-on-the-spot marketing pitches, and these new preferences are forcing companies to completely re-think the way they do customer service.

Millard pointed out that the same BT/Avaya study found that 54 percent of consumers polled preferred self-service shopping options as “no one tries to sell [them] anything,” while 64 percent used social media more than two to three times a week.

So that's it, right? Invest heavily in social media and wait for customers to come to you? Not at all; customers keep moving the goal posts.

The study also indicated that 65 percent of respondents to the study noted that they continually change how they prefer to contact a company. It may be any combination of brick-and-mortar store visit, time spent surfing a company's Web site or via a telephone call, as “consumers perceived certain channels to be more suited for specific purposes,” noted ZDNet.

Millard said that while the Internet is highly favored for research, face-to-face contact was preferred for more complex tasks. This highlights that for some companies, a brick-and-mortar store is still important. 

The answer is to know your product or service, know your customers and understand how your customers prefer to contact you. But above all, be sure you offer a consistent customer experience regardless of channel.

“The ideal situation is to empower all employees to be able to answer customers' questions,” Millard said to ZDNet.




Edited by Braden Becker

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