After a year of dramatic digital acceleration, it is time for companies to seriously reflect on whether their online solutions meet the needs of users across different generations. Due to fluctuating consumer demands in a highly trending e-commerce, the one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to work anymore.

According to data from Salesforce’s Shopping Index, e-commerce global revenue grew 71% in 2020 compared to the last year. We don’t expect this trend to slow down any time soon, which is why I argue brands should focus on promoting diversity in their online services.

Nailing the digital customer experience is a critical factor in any company’s post-pandemic strategy. Brands need to understand people have different needs and preferences when interacting with digital solutions, and they should act upon that knowledge.

This article will try to explain the main types of digital user experiences and provide valuable tips for brands looking to design CX according to customer’s needs and preferences.

Understanding the digital maturity of your customers

We can say that today’s customers typically fall into one of the two groups: the digitally native and digitally novice. Generally speaking, digitally native customers handle online solutions with ease and appreciate having more control over their experience. They are far more capable of, and interested in, using self-service customer support to answer their own questions.

The digital novice, in contrast, finds managing online services quite challenging. More of your customers fall into this bucket than you might imagine – think of all the parents and grandparents in the world, for starters. I argue these users should feel supported and empowered when using digital devices just as much as digitally native. Brands that want to build trust and loyalty have to focus on the cultural diversity of their customers and adjust their services accordingly.

To design CX that meets everyone’s needs, regardless of digital experience, brands have to meet customers wherever they are. That means being available in whatever channel people feel most comfortable using, from phone to social media, live chat, or email. Customers should have a seamless experience across all these channels, so they’re not wasting time explaining their problem over and over again.

Managing CX across generations

Etsy is one of the best examples of a company that understands how to serve both the digitally native and the digital novices. We’re talking about a platform that connects small retailers, typically selling homemade goods, with shoppers looking for bespoke gifts, home decorations, and the like. Etsy’s emphasis on homemade extended to its own operations. The company stored and managed the data on its own servers rather than moving them to a decentralized cloud.

Customer support is the linchpin that makes a marketplace like Etsy work. It’s the platform’s main differentiator versus a flea market or Amazon. Essentially, Etsy is focusing on all people across the world, regardless of their digital knowledge.

For example, the platform offers an extensive, searchable library of self-support articles for helping digitally native users answer their questions. Thoughtfully organized into “Shopping on Etsy” and “Selling with Etsy” tabs, questions and answers are further bucketed into common types of problems like payment issues, returns, and so on. Digitally native users can navigate their way in the fewest clicks possible.

On the other hand, Etsy supports digital novices by putting out the featured article “How to Contact Etsy Support” on their website. This way, people can easily navigate through the platform and find human contact. There’s also a prominent search box that suggests articles as you start typing your question, saving you from getting lost in the forest of information. These types of bespoke support options establish trust and comfort with digitally inexperienced users, which is critical to building brand loyalty.

 Design CX with diversity in mind

The bottom line is – any friction in the customer support process can undo the hard-won trust and loyalty you’ve built for your brand. By one estimate, US companies collectively lost $75 billion in 2018 just from poor customer service, and that number is growing with the explosion of e-commerce.

However, we should all keep in mind friction comes in different forms, depending on the customers themselves. Sometimes, it lies in the brand’s inability to provide human support for digital novices. Other times, it’s about failing to provide smooth and fast online service for digitally native.

Streamlined self-service options and an accessible, well-organized library of support content can help the digitally savvy solve their own problems quickly, at little or no cost to your company. You can also preempt many issues digitally native users encounter through proactive support. When you integrate common questions into the product or service experience, the time and clicks necessary for finding the answers are reduced instantly.

The digitally novice can also benefit from proactive support, receiving answers to questions they didn’t even know they had. However, they may still prefer the reassurance of connecting with a human agent. That’s why it’s critical to free up your valuable, limited customer support resources and make the experience as comfortable as possible for these users.

Focusing on important aspects of customer service

The digital economy should be a welcoming place for buyers, sellers, and curious observers dipping their toes in the water. Make it easy for users to contact support agents and empower your employees with the tools to track the customer’s journey across all touchpoints. This will help you avoid demoralizing customers with repeated conversations and needless bureaucratic hoops.

Too many customer service teams think that adding more – more support channels, more agents, more clickable buttons – is the best way to keep up with customers. The truth is, we don’t always need to take additional steps to support customers but rather design CX appropriately. Oftentimes, brands just need to find the right way to match people’s needs, designing inclusive customer support to speak to everyone regardless of their overall digital knowledge and preferences.

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