Channel hopping: The way we interact with technology is evolving
Like many of us, I have been working with computers for a long time, but I noticed something recently about how we now interact with technology compared to just a few years ago. I sensed something had changed and this got me thinking and reflecting.
I noticed that we now naturally blend the use of computer devices into our daily routines automatically and without conscious bias, thought or effort. For example, I might be watching the news and then find that I need the features on my smartphone to understand more about a particular subject that the news article was covering. After a few minutes of concentrated effort, the limitations of the small 6” screen might then prompt me to move across to my 14” laptop for the convenience, performance and comfort of that larger ‘form factor’. If I require even more ergonomic comfort, I might then relocate to my desktop PC for prolonged periods with its huge 30” screen and full–sized keyboard and mouse.
I frequently use my smart watch to approve two–factor security requests, make payments, to set a wake-up call, track my run or count my daily steps. And while this is all playing out, I can easily find myself using the laptop, smartphone, the smartwatch while barking orders at Alexa, Cortana, Google or Siri simultaneously without thinking twice about it. I know this is stating the obvious to some extent and most people will recognise this in themselves, but it is very interesting to pause and note how technology has now become a multi-dimensional and fully integrated part of our lives rather than a loosely coupled peripheral extension as it was just a few years ago. The evolution of technology has now reached a point where it is both ubiquitous and homogeneous. Tech is everywhere and is fully integrated with our lifestyle.
When I step back from this I wonder: when did this happen exactly and how did it come about?
It also makes you wonder where this is going and to what extent technology and the human species will become ultimately become fully symbiotic in their relationship with each other. I believe we are at the cusp of significant and seismic shifts within our society as technology influences and fuels human advancement. The technology revolution and evolution has only just begun, and I am sure the future will be full of progress and setbacks along the way.
What I noticed is that my behaviours and predisposition to blend the use of technology has slowly crept into my digital life almost by stealth. This augmentation of various physical computing devices is something that never existed a few years ago. Here I am in 2021 flexing my computing muscle across multiple devices, on-demand, to meet my exacting requirements for that purpose or purposes as they evolve. The immediacy of my needs dominates and directs my use of highly commoditised and expendable technologies. A computing device can be promoted and/or demoted up and down the lifecycle in a real-time and highly dynamic dance that delivers the optimal digital facilities to meet my needs at precisely the right point in time.
Digital technology has really become a tool that is fully immersive and has become as automatic to me as driving the car.
The crazy thing is, I consider myself a technology professional and I never even noticed this happening right under my nose!
IoT, 5G, edge computing, quantum computing, biotechnology, medicine, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, digital twins, the cloud, and next gen data science will undoubtedly usher in and power the 4th industrial revolution, industry 4.0, and post-modern technology driven human evolution as we know it. I have no doubt about that. What is unknown at this stage is the impact this will have on society and the opportunities and risks it will create.
As a long-standing member of Generation X (people born from 1965-1980), I started to think about the implications of this in society more widely, particularly in terms of socio-economic wealth distribution, global decarbonisation/environment, sustainability, health, homelessness and poverty.
More immediately however, how might my own personal observations, reflections and experiences translate to and influence customer services so that they are better aligned to customer expectations? And if my own service expectations have shifted gear as part of the Gen X club then I can reliably predict that Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alphas will be much more demanding!
Our upcoming trend report
Our upcoming trend report, Cloud hosted telephony: A voice for social housing, remarks on the fact that customer voice continues to be an important customer contact channel for most organisations that sits alongside digital channels such as web, bots, webchat, voice, apps, email, social media etc. Digital is a choice for customers. Most mature organisations already offer customers this selection of digital ‘omni-channels’ to maximise the accessibility of their services and to positively impact customer satisfaction while controlling their cost base.
However, given my own recent reflections and musings it dawned on me that there is a very slight but hugely significant nuance at work here that could have implications for the development of customer service and omni-channel customer service strategies in the future.
Highly technologically literate digital natives, such as Millennials, Generation Z (Zoomers) and Alphas, are most likely to engage in the practice of channel hopping to complete their service transactions with you. According to research, over the last 13 years our attention span has declined from 12 to 8 seconds. For comparison, a goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds.
A typical repair request might start its life on the web as the customer searches for information about how to request a repair. The interaction might then get promoted to a digital virtual agent, which could suggest the customer downloads the app which then leads to an inbound phone call to the contact centre. In 2021, customers who are digital natives, and who make up the largest proportion of our population, will most likely take about 8 seconds to channel hop, navigating their way across all your contact channels in a sequence that reflects their service needs.
It stands to reason then that if a customer can’t satisfy their service demands using their preferred contact channel, then they will quickly switch to an alternative. I do this all the time myself!
This clearly has profound implications for service design, development of customer personas and customer engagement activities which are all aimed at improving the overall customer experience.
There is definite and distinct value in acknowledging how people now use technology noting how fickle and transient we have become as we interact with our various service providers. It is also worth considering the evolution of society due to the advances in technology and consider how we can use that intelligence to inform and shape our services.
The impact for housing associations
Customer voice continues to be essential for housing associations, but omnichannel customer interactions are far more nuanced than you think because of the modern phenomena of channel hopping.
Developments and advances in cloud hosted voice services, customer relationship management and customer contact technologies enable you to build out contemporary and fully integrated omni-channel customer service platforms that mirror customer expectations as they hop their way through your end-to-end service platforms. These leading–edge cloud services allow you to accommodate the growing tendency for your customers to channel hop towards successful service outcomes.