September 20, 2021
How Consumer Preference Changes Affect Customer Support
There’s no question that the primary aspect of developing and maintaining a thriving, profitable business is creating loyalty within your customers. When they are loyal to your brand, they will go to the ends of the world to support your business and purchase the products or services that you offer. Even more, when they’re treated well by your customer service team, they’re way more likely to become regular customers and become even more loyal to your company. And loyalty can only grow from a foundation of trust. So, where does trust come from?
When a customer makes a purchase and gets their product on time, and as expected, that’s precisely what creates trust. Likewise, if a customer buys your product and receives the value they expect, that also builds trust. And even more importantly, when a client has a request or issue that needs to be resolved and therefore interacts with your customer support team and gets their problem resolved to their satisfaction—that also creates an enormous amount of trust and almost guarantees loyalty on the spot.
Nevertheless, this post is not about creating customer loyalty and generating trust, but about the single best thing that turns regular people into loyal customers—studying their consumer behavior and the ever-changing consumer preferences so that you can know how to think and act accordingly to these trends. First, we’ll explain what consumer behavior and consumer preferences refer to. Afterward, we’ll take a closer look at the consumer evolution stages and how your company and your customer service department could adapt to the ongoing customer behaviors to stay competitive in today’s ultra-competitive business environment.
Customer Behavior And Consumer Preferences
In a couple of words, consumer behavior is the group of actions and decisions of people who buy products and services for personal consumption. Consequently, customer buying behavior refers to the study of consumers and how and why they behave in specific ways while deciding whether to buy a product or a service that satisfies their needs. It's a study that helps companies acknowledge the consumers' actions and the ever-changing consumer preferences that drive them towards buying and using specific products.
In today's age, customer behavior is crucial for marketing and customer service departments to understand the consumers' expectations when they're looking to buy a product or need some help to resolve an issue regarding the purchase. Understanding consumer behavior is all about the various situations regarding what customers buy, when they buy it, why they want to buy it, how often they buy, the reasons behind the purchase, and much more. The tricky part about customer behavior and consumer preferences is that as the world evolves each day, the customer wishes also grow, change, and modify with the speed of light.
Take, for example, the Covid-19 crisis, which, whether we want to accept it or not, has a lasting, worldwide impact on consumer needs, behaviors, and preferences. Just look at the results from KPMG International's "Responding to consumer trends in the new reality" survey which highlights the opinions of 75,000 customers from 12 different markets to examine the changes and how companies need to think and act in response to these consumer preferences trends:
- 36% of customers are now prioritizing savings over spending;
- 43% of them are worried about their financial security in 2021 and beyond;
- 37% of consumers are currently working from home, while 60% state that they plan to work from home more in the future;
- Almost 50% of consumers predict that digital channels will now be their primary connection to companies and brands;
- Value for money is ranked as the top purchase criteria by 63% of all surveyors.
Although the pandemic has affected every customer somewhat differently, the main conclusions are pretty evident. People are staying and working from home more, prioritizing savings, and doing business digitally more than ever before. As a result, organizations that strive to remain a factor in the business world in the years to come, need to acknowledge and understand the things that drive their customer and then look at their strategies and business models to pinpoint the areas where they need to adapt to keep pace with the changing consumer preferences and customer demands.
The Stages Of Consumer Evolution And Customer Behavior
Through the years, the study of customer behavior has consistently helped businesses position themselves in the market by capturing the public's attention, promoting their products and proposals, and reviewing their business strategies. Closely monitoring customer behavior has always been crucial to companies. In each stage of its evolution, business operations were carried out differently because of society's distinct consumer habits, preferences and demands.
All this impacted the way of doing business and the way of providing customer support as an integral operation of the natural evolutionary business eco cycle. Nowadays, when we speak about consumer 4.0, it's evident that we live in the era of customer service 4.0, marketing 4.0, sales 4.0, and so on. But, in order to understand the current context of customer behavior, we first need to go back in time and consider the consumer evolution over the years, starting from its initial version.
In the initial era of consumer society, the first consumers weren’t even aware of what a brand was. It didn’t matter what the product’s added value was to these consumers, but what the product could offer as a solution. For example, if a company sold TVs, consumers 1.0 would be more interested in knowing the TV’s technical specifications than in anything else. Thus, the first consumer preferences were leaning towards the product, which was their sole relationship with the companies.
This period is marked by increased competition among companies, and with broader markets and more competition, the public started to have multiple options about the same type of product. So this situation brought up a question: if two or more businesses sell the same product, which of them should I choose as a customer? This is the time when consumer preferences emerged and changed the game forever.
In order to meet the customers’ needs and desires, it was necessary to show why your product or service was better than your competitor’s. This is the era when companies started to consider customer preferences as they were rapidly changing and demanding.
In recent times and similar to what we witness today, consumer 3.0 has shown higher standards and demands. With so many alternatives to select from, consumer 3.0 began to feel a strong need to be included as they wanted a sense of belonging. That being said, these consumers became more open to positioning campaigns, by which brands were showing a more assertive personality and adjusted to customer behavior as time went by.
Consumer 3.0 is the first stage of consumer evolution where customers became quite demanding and were looking for a more intimate relationship with the company. Regarding customer service efforts, consumers from this stage began to seek customer empathy and the feeling of belonging and being understood by service agents. They were no longer just purchasers but a part of the entire process.
Basically, consumer 4.0 is the evolution of the 3.0 version, but with a fundamental element that changed everything - technology. The digital transformation era, where we currently live, brought significant changes to society and, naturally, impacted consumption, customer behavior, and consumer preferences.
So, besides demanding personality, similarity on values, and alignment of thought, consumer 4.0 requires an entirely digitized communication and relationship with companies, above all. Nowadays, when social media platforms significantly impact life in society, consumption and customer behavior only really reflect that. Nowadays, it’s not enough to have exposure, advertise, and showcase your products and services, but it’s also essential to be present on these networks and the web as a whole.
Customer service, for instance, is one of the most critical factors for modern-day consumers. Customers nowadays want to communicate through digital channels according to their daily habits, have the customer support teams of companies at their disposal 24/7, get their issues and requests resolved in a manner of minutes, and much more. To address this and adjust to the ever-changing consumer preferences, enterprises need to utilize the Internet and adopt groundbreaking technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing, among others, to serve the ultra-demanding consumer 4.0 in the best possible manner, and this way retain existing ones or obtain new clients each day.
Y Meadows’ AI-powered customer support solution is solely dedicated to empowering customer service efforts when dealing with consumers 4.0 by increasing the agents’ productivity and enhancing the overall customer experience. Our solution, which is built on innovative technologies, can help you organize and manage incoming support tickets, reduce response time, and analyze each customer support request to respond with relevant information immediately without the need of a human agent.
How Can Your Organization Adapt Its Customer Support Efforts To Consumer 4.0?
As a company, once you know a bit more about the ongoing customer behavior and the current consumer preferences, you will be able to understand your customers’ needs well enough to incorporate what you know into your customer service strategies. And to do that, you don’t need to jump through fancy hoops, but look at their shopping practices and know how to interpret the data you have in your systems.
For example, according to a study by Gartner, one of the most exciting things regarding customer behavior and customer support efforts is that around 80% of online customers want to connect with a customer support representative before they make the final decision about a potential purchase. In other words, online customers want the ability to communicate with a staff member for help and expect the same type of service they would typically receive in a brick-and-mortar store.
Knowing current-day consumer preferences can make it easier for you, as a company, to provide tailored service strategies and efforts to retain your existing ones and lure new clients to your business. Here’s what you can do:
Get Closer To The Audience
Presently, consumers seek more prominent attention than ever and want more significant participation in the companies they trust. They no longer only want to consume but to have the power of influence as well. They want to be heard and have their desires turned into products and incorporated into the customer service efforts of companies.
The closer you get to your audience, the greater the engagement will be. This can be done through using social networks, showcasing the company’s daily life through newsletters, and service campaigns that demand some action from the public.
Offer An Outstanding Digital Service
For many decades, customer service was the weak point of many organizations. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to survive in such a competitive market without providing outstanding customer service.
Moreover, as consumer preferences shift and customers look for solutions to their problems online, ensure that your company offers outstanding digital customer service solutions. This means having a FAQ section on your website, a self-service knowledge base, in-app, voice, email, social media, and others.
To customers, this means that they can experience omnichannel customer support from your company. For them, this implies humanization, the possibility to choose from multiple contact channels, security, and mainly, quick and effective solutions.
In the end, if the consumer 4.0 invested capital, they want their strict demands to be met. In addition, they want to know that the company careers about them even after-purchase, as this is fundamental to build trust and loyalty.
Keep In Mind That Other People’s Experiences Shape Purchase Decisions
Many customers make purchase decisions based on other people’s product reviews and the experiences they share. So, when customers share their difficulties with purchases, returns, and most importantly, the inability to get decent customer support, many people will go to the next business in line with an excellent reputation for customer support.
To confront this, besides asking for customer feedback and reviews on your products or the service you provide, you can also start to ask for customer feedback and reviews on your customer service team and agents. This way, you’ll know what your customers think about your current efforts and discern if there are any modifications in customer preferences and expectations that you need to work on.
Now that you know what customer behavior and consumer preferences are, the ways they evolve and change, the historical stages of consumer evolution and customer behavior, and how you can address these issues, when you look at the current customer behavior regarding your industry and how people make these purchasing decisions, it will become apparent to you how you can incorporate that data into your customer service strategies and operations. Afterward, use this information to structure a solid support strategy to guide your customers through the customer journey based on what they value the most.