Recession Created New Breed Of Consumers: Businesses Need To Change Approaches To Customer Service

A new report highlights five post-recession consumer behaviours that will greatly impact customer experience management and organisations’ bottom lines.

The report, commissioned by Alcatel-Lucent Genesys and Datapoint identifies five key customer attributes that businesses must consider if they want to maximise post-recession opportunities. For businesses to recover and thrive again, they must understand the demands, expectations and needs of a new breed of customer: the post-recession consumer.

According to the report, by understanding the recent experiences and subsequent mindset of these new consumers, organisations will be able to address the latest challenges in customer contact and develop more pertinent customer contact strategies.

The report identifies five key customer attributes that businesses must consider when planning contact strategies now and in the near future. Building an approach around these attributes is said to help organisations fit with the psychology of these post-recession consumers and better communicate with them, which in turn, will significantly impact their bottom line.

The report aligns the five different consumer behaviours with key actions businesses should strongly consider when planning their customer contact strategies. The report distinguishes these attributes as:

The Dissatisfied Customer: who, since the start of the recession, has put in more than 140 million extra negative calls to complain about the failures and shortcomings of UK businesses. The report finds that the recession has driven more consumers to display negativity, stress and intolerance of mistakes. Consumers are no longer afraid to complain.

The Vocal Customer: who uses Facebook, Twitter and other social networks (key channels for peer-to-peer communication) to voice their opinions and be heard not just by people close to them but by thousands globally. According to the latest research by Nielsen, 22.7% of time spent on the Web this past year has been on social networking sites, compared to last year’s 15.8%.

The Mobile Customer (or the “Disloyal Customer”): who seemingly doesn’t have a fixed pattern of behaviour or feel loyal towards any particular brand but rather seeks the best possible fit for their requirements. The recession has seen unprecedented movement between brands as customers seek value and benefit.

The Knowledgeable Customer: who no longer relies simply on advertisements as a way of learning about new products. With a staggering 97% of consumers now researching products and future purchases online, according to new research from BIA/Kelsey Group, it only takes an average of two or three negative reviews to change someone’s mind about a product or service. This means that businesses will have to drive marketing and customer support programmes which closely match the customer’s needs and interests.

The Multichannel Customer: who, in addition to the traditional “voice” channel, would also expect e-mail, text chat, self-service and SMS to play important roles in the overall customer contact mix. Recent research carried out by Alcatel-Lucent Genesys, in partnership with Datamonitor and Ovum, found that more than 81% of UK consumers have interacted across multiple channels in the past year, highlighting the increasing technical sophistication of today’s average customer.

Lucille Jackson, Senior Marketing Manager, Northern Europe, Enterprise Market Group, Alcatel-Lucent, said: “There has been a fundamental shift in what customers demand from businesses over the last two years. This isn’t over though, as the new behaviour patterns of the post-recession consumer will continue to impact customer service strategies. Those organisations that recognise this divide between customer demands and service capabilities – and work to bridge it – will see the benefits on their bottom lines.”

Paul Brewer, Director of Technology Solutions, Datapoint, said: “The customer of the future will certainly be more demanding and potentially more difficult to serve successfully, so any action taken must offer distinct benefits to the customer as well as to the business if it is to work. Although the contact centre industry has a traditional way of doing things, companies need to take advantage of recent advances in technology. These can open up new opportunities for those businesses which are not afraid to be leaders.

“Post-recession, the rules of engagement have changed. Businesses now not only need to think differently but also behave differently. Businesses need to make a step change in their approaches to customer service.”

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Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.