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The future of the digital-first experiences

A digital-first experience is the new norm — one that includes more personalization, automation, respect for time (for both customers and service people), and real-time offerings. 

The future of the digital-first experiences

The pandemic has changed the way the world works in many ways, not least how we use technology.

Before, it was normal — albeit dreaded — to wait in long queues or to sit around anxiously awaiting a driver or technician to show up during a broad service window. But the days of customers twiddling their thumbs are long gone.

The adoption of digital solutions has skyrocketed and expectations have changed. To wit, e-commerce penetration grew 10 years in the first three months of the pandemic, according to research from McKinsey & Company

This heavy reliance on the digital world by consumers was, of course, to meet health and safety guidelines and requirements at the onset of such an uncertain time. And, although in many places these safety measures have largely been loosened or lifted, consumers are continuing their digital-first approach to services and experiences. 

With COVID accelerating digital transformation, consumers have come to expect appointment setting, short interactions, and an emphasis on safer, more efficient last-mile experiences. A digital-first experience is the new norm — one that includes more personalization, automation, respect for time (for both customers and service people), and real-time offerings. 

And this means that businesses must adjust, adapt, and advance to stay competitive and meet these tremendous expectations.

How will this wild growth in e-commerce penetration play out now and in the future? Let’s take a deep dive into how the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, and how the digital-first experience is changing the way we do business.


What is a digital-first strategy or experience?

A digital-first strategy or experience is one that recognizes and affirms the digital world many consumers are living in — where buyer expectations are constantly shifting and evolving — and offers agility and innovation that keeps up.

These types of experiences are crucial in our current landscape because consumers not only view the friction associated with in-store shopping as inconvenient, but also as a legitimate safety concern. And now, with COVID accelerating digital transformation, they’ve experienced better, and they won’t accept less than a seamless shopping experience.

One-third of customers between the ages of 18 to 44 prefer video appointments over face-to-face engagements — a strong indicator of the future of appointment-making.

This is where a digital-first strategy can rise to the occasion, enabling conveniences like real-time scheduling and tracking, video calls versus face-to-face interactions, and more accurate arrival estimates.

In fact, Salesforce research indicates that one-third of customers between the ages of 18 to 44 prefer video appointments over face-to-face engagements; although this isn’t the majority today, this is a strong predictor of where the future of appointments is headed.


Digital-first experiences we expect to soon become commonplace

Customers want flawless, fast, and flexible digital experiences, and many industries are already meeting their expectations. Here are a few trends we’re seeing pick up steam that we think will continue to grow in the next 5 to 10 years — home in on these opportunities to delight your customers and offer them the digital-first experiences they demand.

  1. Digital contact methods only. Waiting on hold on the phone is passé. Customers don’t want to pace around listening to muzak and hearing the same “your call is important to us” recording. They want to connect via digital options like chatbots, email, social channels, video chats, or self-service resources and portals.

    Call centres will likely continue to be a part of the customer service experience in the future, but only if an issue can’t be resolved on other platforms first. Think: A customer starts a query on your website, where a chatbot serves up answers, and if it cannot resolve their issue, the customer is seamlessly transferred to a call with a customer service representative.

  2. Automation. Automation is one of the best ways to streamline the experience for both customers and service people, as it can handle many of the repetitive tasks involved in scheduling, rescheduling, reminders, and tracking, as well as improve self-service opportunities.

    Automation also helps with personalised touchpoints like geofence-activated notifications — so technicians can focus on the task at hand — and feedback solicitation at the close of an appointment.

    Automation streamlines the experience for both customers and service representatives, handling repetitive tasks like scheduling, rescheduling, reminders, and tracking. It eases the burden on technicians and drivers via automated services like geofence-activated notifications and feedback solicitation after an appointment.
  3. Unified experiences from start to finish. From an appointment request to the day of service to the follow-up, a frictionless journey is a must. Customers demand clear communication, real-time information, and consistency across their experience with your brand. Simplify the process by breaking down data silos: Keep all of a customer’s information in one place (including customer service calls and reviews they’ve left after appointments) for easy tracking and creating more personalised experiences.

  4. Service appointments where customers don’t need to be home. As smart homes and smart locks become more commonplace, access will become easier. Customers who have this technology can allow admittance even when they’re not home, either by allowing entry from their smartphone or providing their technician with a unique access code.

  5. Video diagnostic appointments. When you can more accurately assess the problem and gather information before an appointment, your technician can better prepare for the specific circumstances ahead, and your business can improve first-time fix rates and avoid reworks or rescheduled appointments.

    Services like Vyntelligence offer video diagnostic appointments that put high-value human intelligence back into business workflows: Through AI-powered video intelligence, Vyntelligence enables technicians to gather information, communicate with clients, and see what needs to be done, as well as show what has been completed.

  6. Real-time appointment rescheduling. Real-time appointment rescheduling means that when customers reschedule, all appointment information is automatically updated for your team — eliminating the risk of miscommunications, overbookings, or frustrating cancellation challenges. Technicians are notified of changes, routing can be optimally updated, and there are fewer chances of no-access appointments.

    Soliciting feedback can be a huge differentiator in customer experiences and will ultimately lend itself to increased Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Of course, you must also act on the insight you receive to spot areas for improvement and trends over time, drive internal changes, and demonstrate to customers that you are, in fact, listening.

  7. Emphasis on feedback. Insight is king, and what better way to get intel on how your business, services, and drivers or technicians are performing than to ask the people who are experiencing them firsthand. Your customers want to tell you about your experience, and they feel valued when they’re asked about it.

Future-proof your field service experience

These trends above may be future-focused, but you shouldn’t wait for the future to arrive to take action. There are many steps you can carry out now to create an agile business model that will adapt to the ever-evolving expectations of customers. These include:

  • Offering omnichannel communication options for your customers. Let them choose between chatbots, text, email, online portals, video calls, and more. 
  • Automating the communication workflow, such as day-before and day-of appointment reminders, and notifications sent via geofencing. 

  • Offering real-time appointment scheduling and updates with customer portals, which automatically share updates with your teams, and seamlessly optimise routes for technicians.

  • Collecting feedback automatically with every job. Show your customers you took their insight to heart by using the data from feedback surveys to find areas for opportunities and improvements and implement changes.

Localz makes the day of service seamless

Technology is often the biggest hurdle for companies that want to implement a digital-first experience — but it doesn’t need to be. Last-mile delivery solutions platform Localz is a bolt-on service that lets you integrate the digital-first experiences that customers crave with the tech stack you already have. With highly configurable features like two-way communication, real-time tracking, auto-feedback forms, analytics, and more, our solutions make the day of service frictionless.