How Customers Control the Narrative
- Narrative control. Empowering customers in the market is key; they’re now active participants in their journey, shaping experiences.
- Self-service significance. FAQs and knowledge bases let customers independently resolve issues, enhancing their control and satisfaction.
- Chatbot evolution. AI-driven chatbots provide personalized, conversational support, allowing customers to guide their support experiences.
In today’s overly saturated and competitive market, empowering customers to control their own narratives has become a pivotal strategy for businesses looking to enhance customer satisfaction. Imagine a scenario where customers are not just passive recipients of products or services but active participants in shaping their own journey. This shift represents a paradigm in customer relations, one driven by the evolution of technology and a deep understanding of individual preferences. From chatbots, FAQs and Knowledge Bases, to personalized AI-driven interactions and tailored content delivery, the possibilities are vast. This article will look at the ways that brands are empowering their customers by allowing them to take control of their own narrative.
Jonathan Moran, head of Martech solutions marketing at SAS, an analytics, AI, and data management solution provider, told CMSWire that there’s no doubt that the tide is shifting, and consumers are gaining more control over their brand interactions. “It’s long been said that brands manage the customer experience, whilst individual consumers own it.”
Customer service has long been an integral part of the shopping experience, evolving into a key expectation among consumers. A 2017 Statista survey highlighted this trend, revealing that over 60% of US customers had engaged with customer service in just the preceding month. The evolution of self-service in customer experience has seen significant changes over the years, empowering customers to take control of their own narrative. In the early days, self-service was limited to basic interactions such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems, FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages, and Knowledge Bases on websites.
FAQs play a significant role in enabling customers to control their own narratives in the realm of customer service and support. They serve as a readily accessible knowledge resource that empowers customers to independently find answers to their queries. This allows customers to take charge of their support journey without relying on direct assistance.
Customers value their time and convenience, and FAQs offer a quick and convenient way to address common issues or inquiries, enabling customers to resolve their problems promptly, anytime, and from anywhere. This control over the timing of support interactions enhances the overall customer experience.
When customers can easily find answers to their questions through FAQs, it reduces friction in their interaction with the brand. This frictionless experience creates a sense of control, allowing customers to feel more confident and self-reliant in their interactions. Some modern FAQs are designed to adapt to user behavior and preferences, recommending relevant articles or solutions based on the user’s previous interactions. Amazon’s customer service section, particularly its FAQ and help pages, are a good example of this, as they are dynamic and tailored based on the user’s browsing history, previous purchases and commonly asked questions.
This personalization enhances the sense of control by tailoring the support experience to the individual’s needs. FAQs also play a role in helping customers make informed decisions. For example, in ecommerce, FAQs about product specifications, shipping, and returns allow customers to gather the information they need to make purchasing decisions on their terms.
Along with FAQs, knowledge bases provide customers with another self-service option that allows them to find solutions to their problems, or answers to their questions. Knowledge bases have long been a cornerstone of customer empowerment, offering customers a wealth of information at their beckoning. A knowledge base is an established collection of information and resources, based around knowledge of a brand, website, or its products and services.
In the pursuit of controlling their own narratives, customers turn to these repositories of information to find answers, troubleshoot issues, and gather insights. Knowledge bases encompass a diverse range of resources, including articles, tutorials, videos and frequently updated FAQs.
One key aspect of knowledge bases is the ability to navigate them independently. Customers have the autonomy to search for specific topics, browse through categories, or use keywords to pinpoint relevant information. This freedom to explore at their own pace aligns perfectly with the desire for control over their support journey.
Additionally, similar to FAQs, knowledge bases often feature dynamic content that adapts to user behavior. They can suggest related articles or solutions based on the user’s current query, enhancing the self-service experience. This personalization ensures that users not only find answers but also discover additional insights that may be relevant to their needs. It is unfortunate, but many brands have let their knowledge bases fall to the wayside, failing to update them, and relegating them to the backburner along with sitemaps and other archaic pages.
Chatbots have emerged as dynamic companions in enabling customers to take charge of their own narratives. With the advent of AI and machine learning, self-service has transcended its conventional boundaries. Chatbots, in particular, have undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from scripted and rigid interfaces to intelligent conversational agents. These AI-driven marvels now empower customers with the ability to engage in natural language conversations, making support interactions feel more intuitive and personalized.
Companies such as Zendesk and Intercom have been at the forefront of this AI-driven revolution in customer support. They’ve pioneered the development of chatbots that not only provide assistance but also enhance the customer’s ability to independently resolve their issues. These chatbots are designed to understand context, remember previous interactions, and adapt their responses accordingly, mimicking human-like interactions. This level of sophistication allows customers to articulate their queries in their own words, control the pace of the conversation, and receive tailored solutions that align with their unique needs.
Additionally, chatbots are instrumental in guiding customers through complex processes or providing step-by-step instructions, offering a sense of autonomy in navigating their support journey. They can also offer relevant resources and information, such as links to FAQs or knowledge bases, enabling customers to explore and choose the most suitable resolution path.
Related Article: Allow Customers to Control Their Narratives for Improved CX
Customers having the freedom to choose their preferred support channels is a pivotal aspect of enabling them to control their own narratives. A 2020 Zendesk report revealed that over 69% of consumers prefer to solve customer service issues on their own. This type of flexibility acknowledges that customers have varying communication preferences and allows them to engage with brands in ways that best suit their needs.
For instance, some customers may prefer traditional channels such as phone support for complex issues where they seek immediate and personalized assistance. Others may opt for email, appreciating the ability to document their interactions and maintain a written record. Live chat is an attractive option for those seeking real-time responses but with the convenience of digital communication.
Jeff Wolpov, SVP of ecommerce solutions at Ryder E-commerce, a leading logistics and transportation company, told CMSWire that it only takes one bad experience for 30% of customers to take their business elsewhere. “They don’t know or care whether an issue is the fault of a third-party vendor over which you — the seller — have no control,” said Wolpov. “For brands, building a community of loyal, repeat shoppers means ensuring that every touchpoint along the customer journey is as efficient, effective, and pleasant as possible.”
Social media and messaging platforms have continued to diversify the breadth of support channels. Customers can reach out via platforms such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, mimicking the casual and instant nature of personal conversations. Additionally, they can post on a brand’s social presence, or interact with other customers of the brand through product communities and groups (aka Facebook Groups).
The availability of multiple support channels means that customers can tailor their support experience to match their specific preferences and the nature of their inquiries. This level of choice aligns with the desire for control over the support journey, contributing to enhanced satisfaction and a more personalized interaction with the brand.
Related Article: The Power of Storytelling in Customer Experience
Digital Empowerment: Beyond Support
Enabling customers to help shape their app or website experience enhances their ability to guide their own narrative by offering them a range of customizable options. Users can tailor the interface, layout, and features to match their preferences, giving them a sense of control. Feature selection empowers users to prioritize what matters most to them, ensuring they focus on relevant aspects of the platform.
User-generated content (UGC) allows customers to contribute to the platform’s narrative, influencing other users’ decisions. Ritesh Raj, COO and CPO at CuddlyNest, an accommodation booking platform, told CMSWire that brands are increasingly leveraging user-generated content to empower customers. “They’re creating platforms where travelers can share their experiences, reviews, and photos.” Raj noted, however, that this kind of approach comes with challenges, as the authenticity and quality of UGC can vary greatly, and negative reviews can impact a brand’s reputation. “To mitigate these issues, brands are implementing robust moderation systems, ensuring that the content aligns with their values and standards.”
Raj said that brands often grapple with the challenge of maintaining a consistent brand narrative amidst diverse customer stories. “They’re addressing this by guiding the narrative without controlling it, setting the tone and values, and allowing customers to fill in the details.”
“This delicate balance allows for a rich, multifaceted brand story that resonates with a wide range of customers.”
“Brands are also facing the challenge of data privacy concerns. As they collect and use customer data to personalize experiences, they must also ensure they’re respecting privacy laws and individual preferences,” said Raj, who added that to overcome this, many brands are adopting transparent data practices and giving customers control over their data. Control over privacy settings ensures they manage their online presence, and content filters and recommendations enable content curation based on their interests.
Moran is in agreement, and said that the demise of the third-party cookie finally means that consumers will not be followed around the internet — with ads for past browsed products and services being pushed at them constantly. “The Tracking Protection feature in Google will eliminate the cross-site tracking — meaning consumers take more control of their privacy narratives and marketing and advertisers will be forced to rely on new methods to deliver ads to eyeballs.” Moran explained that collecting first-party data from consumers will require that brands establish and communicate a “value exchange” that benefits the customer — putting them in control of the data they relinquish to brands and when they do so.
Other Ways Brands Are Enabling Customer-Controlled Narratives
There are other ways that brands are empowering customers by providing and encouraging them to control their own narrative. Beyond the realms of self-service options, many brands are increasing their efforts to empower customers by adopting the following strategies:
- Interactive Content Experiences: Encouraging customers to actively engage with content through quizzes, polls, or interactive storytelling. By providing choices within the content, brands create an immersive experience that aligns with individual preferences.
- Tailored Communication Preferences: Allowing customers to dictate their preferred communication channels and frequency. Whether it’s email, SMS, or app notifications, respecting these preferences enhances the sense of control over their interaction with the brand.
- Personalized Product or Service Configurations: Enabling customers to customize their purchases or services. This could range from personalized product features to flexible service plans, giving customers the ability to tailor offerings to their unique needs.
- Feedback Mechanisms and Iterative Improvements: Actively seeking customer feedback on experiences and iterating based on their suggestions. By involving customers in the improvement process, brands show a commitment to co-creating a positive narrative.
- Community Building and User Forums: Establishing platforms where customers can share experiences, tips, and feedback. Building a community around the brand encourages customers to not only control their own narratives but also contribute to a collective story.
- Educational Resources and Tutorials: Providing comprehensive resources and tutorials that empower customers to learn and explore features independently. This self-education approach contributes to a sense of mastery and control.
- Empowering Customer Support Interactions: Offering tools that allow customers to choose their preferred support channels, schedule appointments, or access self-help resources. This not only resolves issues efficiently but also lets customers dictate how they want to engage with support.
- Inclusive Co-Creation Opportunities: Engaging customers in co-creation initiatives, such as beta testing or product ideation sessions. This collaborative approach reinforces the idea that customers play an integral role in shaping the brand narrative.
Additionally, brands are empowering customers by allowing them to choose their own delivery schedule. “Allowing customers to schedule their own delivery gives them control in the shipping process,” said Wolpov. “A simple text or email notification allows them to easily set a delivery schedule and track it in real time.” Wolpov said that self-service scheduling helps companies rise above the noise with reliable last-mile deliveries while fostering a base of more informed, happy customers who are motivated to come back for more.
“Creating an experience where customers are active participants in shaping their own journey requires communication and transparency,” said Wolpov. “It’s not just making sure an order arrives when you say it will; that’s certainly paramount, but it’s just as important to provide customers with access to order and delivery status every step of the way.”
Allowing customers to steer their own stories marks a significant improvement in customer experience, focusing on elements of choice, control and shared storytelling. Beyond the basics of self-service and personalization, customer-focused brands are venturing into innovative territories, including interactive content and community engagement. These strategies are evolving the role of users from mere observers to active participants in the brand narrative.