With so many brands to choose from, delivering reliable, high-quality and seamless customer experiences is an important differentiator in today's marketplace — even more so in a fast-changing world.

Beyond your service or product offering, customers tend to remember how you made them feel during interactions with your business, presenting a valuable opportunity for your brand to stand out.

But with heightened expectations and technology advancements in the CX space, looking towards the future to find new, innovative ways to meet your customers' ever-evolving needs has become a top business priority.

Here are five trends that are shaping the future of customer experience across the African continent and how you can tap into these concepts for an elevated CX strategy that keeps your customers happy:

1. Mobile messaging support

Customers have come to expect instant and simple experiences with businesses. A recent global Salesforce research survey found that 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations and will take their business elsewhere to find an experience that matches these.

Slow service or bouncing between multiple channels to attend to customer concerns is no longer acceptable. Therefore, many companies are exploring solutions to improve the customer journey and incorporating smart customer support tools.

Mobile messaging is one such solution that is elevating CX dramatically. Customers enjoy the ease of communication via messaging in their personal lives — whether it's through text or chat apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

And, naturally they prefer using these same messaging channels rather than calling into a call centre because it feels as easy and seamless as an interaction with a friend.

That's why the integration of messaging channels into one dashboard for support will change the CX game, greatly benefitting both businesses and customers.

2. Around-the-clock customer service

We live in a global economy where companies must serve customers across different time zones. However, most businesses in South Africa only offer customer support during working hours, with run-of-the-mill out-of-office replies.

24 / 7 / 365 customer service and digital support are increasingly becoming important — especially since most online shopping is done after hours. SaleCycle's recently published 2020 Ecommerce Stats Report showed that the peak purchase time lies between 20:00 and 21:00.

Customers demand speedy replies to their pressing questions, especially if they are paying good money for a product or service. Creating instant responses that answer frequently asked questions and custom auto-replies is something your business should consider for customer support success.

3. Engaging chatbots

Chatbots are a helpful solution for automated customer service and after-hour support. As their algorithms and technology advances, chatbots are becoming more popular, securing a valuable role in CX.

They will never fully replace human support agents but can either serve in high-volume, low-complexity roles — especially outside of office hours (keyword chatbots) or help solve more complex customer support scenarios (AI chatbots).

Deploying keyword or AI chatbots will allow your business to respond immediately to customers, freeing up time for your employees to focus on building customer relationships and lasting loyalty.

4. Data and unified communication

Data will continue to play a major role in CX as it enables businesses to reach customers before they react. Modern consumers crave individual attention, so using customer data to personalise experiences is only going to get more important over time.

However, gathering large amounts of data from unlimited sources is shifting to combining data into one platform for ease of use and relevance. When organised and stored in one central location, data can drive real-time insights through highly accurate user profiles, guiding well-informed business decisions.

At the same time, unifying and managing customer communication on a single platform also helps businesses to better interact with their customers. That's why Communications Platform as a Service is becoming more prevalent as it facilitates relevant, personalised communication and drives increased customer engagement.

Finding a solution that combines customer data with consolidated channels will help you serve your customers better and engage with them in more meaningful and personalised ways.

5. Mobile payment integration

The current pandemic has led to a significant rise in e-commerce in Africa. As more consumers buy goods and services online, companies will start integrating mobile payment systems into social or messaging channels to streamline the customer journey and boost their sales.

With more emphasis being placed on customer journey mapping, companies are turning their attention to key touchpoints that deliver the most value, and mobile commerce is now considered an obvious inclusion for better CX.

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