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Erik Smith: Evolving Alongside the Customer

4 minute read
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Want to keep customer satisfaction high? Providing channels that your customers prefer is the first step.

Trends may come and go, but some of them do have staying power. By keeping ahead of what customers will expect on digital platforms, companies will better be able to compete for — and retain — customers. 

“With digital, the landscape changes all the time,” says Erik Smith, Digital Principal at RingCentral. Being comfortable with those changes and keeping an ear to the ground on larger trends are what will set companies apart from the competition.

RingCentral is a cloud-based communication and collaboration company, and it was a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s recent Digital Experience Summit. Along with Adélaide Pastré, Product Marketing Manager, CX, RingCentral, the two spoke about their organization’s data about investments in digital customer experience technology, and they advised the audience on the most trusted digital channels available today. 

To follow up on their session about digital CX trends, SMG spoke with Erik for more.

Customer Experience and Preferences

Simpler Media Group: Why is the digital customer experience so important today?

Erik Smith: If you think back to 4 or 5 years ago, we were trying to solve “the millennial problem” in that that demographic was growing in buying power and as a share of the overall adult population. 

And, to put it simply, they largely don’t make phone calls, but instead use text-based channels as their primary method of communication. Everyone was shouting “we need to do texting!” However, fast forward to today and text-based communication has become ubiquitous across all segments of the population, even with Boomers. 

So, providing channels that your customers prefer is the first step in keeping customer satisfaction high, which translates directly to revenue and retention.

SMG: How have you seen customer experience evolve in the past few years? What is emerging and what is falling out of fashion?

Smith: With digital, the landscape changes all the time. There are over 30 different channels worldwide that customers use daily for communication. As a company targeting a large audience, you need to keep track of which demographics prefer which channels and how to use them effectively. 

Additionally, we’ve seen the rise of AI starting to play a major role in self-service. After years of investment, it’s now ready for prime time and should be deployed in strategic ways. The pandemic saw companies try to increase or preserve revenue while cutting costs — not an easy feat to accomplish. AI is one of the most effective ways to do so. 

Illustration with Erik Smith's black-and-white headshot to the left, a red-and-white DX Summit logo to the top left, "Erik Smith RingCentral" to the top right and the quote, "With digital, the landscape changes all the time," to the bottom right.

Proactivity Is Key

SMG: What makes an “ideal” digital customer experience?

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Smith: I think this can vary greatly, especially given the reason for the interaction. Most commonly, customers want their issues settled quickly and competently while communicating on their terms. Long hold times, ineffective self-service tools and lack of personalization can all lead to dissatisfaction. 

Conversely, proactive outreach to anticipate a customer’s needs, provide surprise-and-delight opportunities and solve problems before they arise. This can all have a massive impact on their overall experience with your brand. In a world where we can all easily communicate with each other through social media, nailing this strategy is imperative. 

SMG: AI is increasing in spend but not execution. Why is this, and what should companies be doing to make the most of their investment?

Smith: Since AI is a fairly nascent industry, especially in the CX world, there is a wide spectrum of tools available; some good, some bad. Unfortunately for would-be buyers, every website says the same thing, making it difficult to choose wisely. 

Lean into third-party documentation to help navigate the waters. Choosing a vendor partner that brings best practice ideas to the table can also help achieve faster time-to-value results. So many think that AI is something that is turnkey, but the reality is that the better your data is and the more you understand what you’re trying to automate, the more effective it can be. 

Comfort Amid Constant Change

SMG: What do you envision for the future of digital customer experience, and how should organizations prepare?

Smith: At RingCentral, we believe the speed of change will continue to accelerate and that technological advances will be a major driver of this change. It begins with the right mentality: that there won’t be a steady state for quite some time. So you have to be comfortable with growth, change and even some uncertainty. Stay in tune with what’s coming from the major digital players, and continue to interact with your customers to learn what you could be doing better to serve their needs. 

Watch Erik’s full Digital Experience Summit session on-demand here.

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