The digital imperative, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, makes using technology to meet customer expectations more important than ever. In the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer (4th edition), we use insights from over 15,000 customers to help your business succeed in the current commercial landscape. 

The results show that the digital imperative has affected customer expectations and businesses need to keep up.

You can skip ahead and read the full report now or enjoy some of the key takeaways below.


Customer connections are essential amid crisis

The importance of digital transformation was already apparent before the COVID crisis. The pandemic made it even more pressing, with consumers and businesses forced to rely more on digital resources. Customers still need to connect so businesses must give them the means to do so.

78% of customers agree that the pandemic, and other crises we’ve faced this year, should encourage businesses to improve things.  


The digital imperative: are you ready to make changes?

With social distancing and on/off lockdowns ever-present, omnichannel engagement is crucial. Customers want a choice of digital communication options — can your business provide them?

In our report, we found that 76% of customers prefer different channels depending on the context.

The top 5 preferred channels:

  1. Email

  2. Phone

  3. In person

  4. Online chat

  5. Mobile apps

It won’t be a surprise to learn that the phone has increased in ranking since last year as a preferred channel, and in person has gone down. Both Messenger apps (6th) and text/SMS (7th) have gone up in ranking since 2019. 

The digital imperative means that more people are turning to online support options, such as chat support. Our results show that 75% of UK customers have used online chat support, 68% in Switzerland, 76% in the Netherlands, 73% in Ireland, 67% in Italy.

It doesn’t matter if your business is B2B or B2C, customer expectations are definitely becoming higher. 58% of consumers think they will shop more online than they did before the pandemic, and 80% of business buyers think more of their business will be done online.

One thing is clear, we all need to up our digital game to meet those expectations.


The role of AI in everyday life

Artificial intelligence may have once been the stuff of the future, but that future has arrived! AI is something that people use and rely on in day-to-day life, and customers expect it from the businesses they use. 

In 2019, 40% of customers were able to think of an example of AI they used every day. This year, that number is up to 46%. It may be a generational thing, but we can definitely expect that number to go up and up. 

One thing that’s so important to consider with AI is trust. 65% of customers say they’re concerned about AI being used unethically, and they don’t necessarily understand how their personal information is used. Of course, customers expect companies to be trustworthy, but a huge 86% say they want more transparency.

This highlights just how critical it is to be open and transparent in the use of AI. The digital imperative makes using it unavoidable, it’s just what’s expected of modern business. It improves customer experience and ultimately revenue, but using it in the right way is crucial. 

Find out more about the evolution of customer expectations in 2020 and beyond in the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer (4th edition).