Hybrid CX is key to boosting customer loyalty

Photo by Austin Distel.

Infobip has released a study revealing that customers prefer a hybrid customer experience (CX). The study reinforces the need for businesses to optimize CX with automated, digital channels while ensuring they provide accessibility to human agents, or risk losing customers to competitors.

The commissioned study, titled ‘Redefining Human and Automated Engagement – How APAC Consumers Have Impacted the CX Agenda’, was conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Infobip and explores what businesses must prioritize to address evolving customer expectations. 1,210 consumers across Hong Kong and 10 other Asian markets were interviewed on their brand interactions over the past 6 months.

The study showed that with the advent of digital and automated engagement mechanisms, customers now expect real-time personalized services and interactions.

Organizations should therefore holistically weave human-assisted and automated service capabilities into customer journeys to achieve efficiency and loyalty.

Human touchpoints complement automation to deliver hybrid CX

The study found that customer preferences for automated chatbots in purchase journeys have risen from 24% to 26% since 2019, indicating that there is an opportunity for organizations to invest in automation and scale convenience, providing the autonomy that customers seek.

However, consumers remain reliant on live support, and human interaction is still a necessary aspect of CX to achieve customer satisfaction.

In Hong Kong, the study found that the top 3 preferred customer service touchpoints are: 1) Human agent over the phone (43%); 2) Online live chat (35%); 3) Social media (31%).

This emphasizes that human touchpoints remain relevant in the market alongside automated and digital services.

Understanding consumer personas is key to elevate CX

According to the study, 38% of Hong Kong respondents expressed that their last customer experience did not leave them with positive emotions, as some brands faced challenges in providing an easy experience in the customer journey.

As a result, Hong Kong brands received a CX score of 3.7 which is lower than the APAC average of 3.9. One of the key considerations in delivering a pleasant and efficient servicing experience is embedding hybrid elements in the process, based on the engagement preferences of their customers.

To balance human touchpoints and automation for CX, Hong Kong organizations should distinguish between the unique needs of customer personas to enable positive CX and keep up with their APAC counterparts. The paper identified 4 distinct personas that emerged in the digital era based on their age, income, and engagement preferences.

Research showed that 46% of Hong Kongers are affluent hybrid shoppers who are comfortable with cross-channel interactions across human-assisted and digital touchpoints, while 21% are reserved high-touch seekers that prefer human-assisted touchpoints.

Additionally, 20% are low-touch digital natives that prefer digital touch points; and 12% are neutrals that prefer to keep all communications within a single touchpoint, regardless of it being human-assisted or digital.

“As Hong Kong businesses increasingly realize the importance of hybrid CX, we are seeing a significant uptick in the number of organizations that are planning to upgrade their CX strategies to generate tangible business value,” said Tina Wang, Regional Manager of Infobip APAC. 

“With elevated CX, customer loyalty can be heightened, leading to increased advocacy, retention, and revenue for businesses and brands, which are crucial to thrive in such a competitive market.”

“With affluent hybrid shoppers making up the majority of consumer personas, Hong Kong businesses must quickly refine their CX to provide cross-channel interaction based on consumer preferences, where automation and human support can complement each other in the most optimized way,” Wang added.

“To do so, businesses should look to reconcile the CX ecosystem by working with an experienced partner that can leveraging cloud communications technology to help them strengthen collaboration, streamline operations, and improve omnichannel interactions across all stages of the customer journey.”

Different customer preferences on hybrid CX across verticals

Divergent trends were also evident across vertical industries. In general, reserved high-touch seekers are related to the banking, financial services, and insurance sector, where consumers prioritize access to relationship managers. In comparison, low-touch digital natives exhibited greater affinity with the retail industry where the shift to e-commerce and increased utilization of cloud services have equipped retailers to better service customers through enhanced digital business models.

In terms of the top verticals ranked by CX scores (at a scale of 1 – 5), retail (4.1) ranked first, followed by food and beverage (4.0), content streaming providers (4.0), energy and utilities (4.0) and technology (4.0), indicating the significance for the local retailers to keep up the pace in improving CX to win customer loyalty.

Adopting hybrid CX

Organizations are failing to address consumer demands for human agents as part of a hybrid CX; among respondents who said that their recent customer service interactions failed to meet expectations, 60% felt that it was not easy to connect with a human agent.

To boost hybrid CX, organizations will not only need to tap into standalone or artificial intelligence capabilities, but also increase investments in cloud-based technology to achieve seamless and effective omnichannel communications. This is key to synergizing capabilities of both machine and man to achieve CX excellence and improved customer satisfaction.

Underscoring the importance of CX, a Zendesk Report, the 2021 Customer Experience Trends Report, noted that 89 percent of leaders at mid-sized companies and 91 percent of enterprise businesses say COVID sped up technology adoption.

As many as 98 percent of mid-to-large-sized companies implemented new tools or processes. The question facing IT and CIOs now is how that accelerated momentum can be sustained for long-term agility.

“For every CIO I’ve talked to, being 100 percent cloud- and SaaS-based led to, on some level, both validation and a realization that the way we’re accustomed to working is essential for being ready for what lies ahead,” says Colleen Berube, CIO and SVP of Operations at Zendes.

“As a CIO, you have to learn not only the technology and how it runs the business, but also you really must learn the business of the company and how each part of the organization functions,” she says. “The modern role of IT is no longer about running all the technology, but to guide and govern choices, define architecture and solutions, and develop the services that connect everything.”