Over the last five years, British Telecoms, one of the UK’s largest telecoms company, has been conducted research into a new type of customer, the ‘autonomous’ customer, whose behaviour denotes a desire for different methods of engagement with companies. Based on a survey from 10 countries around the world, it has outlined several trends that can be observed around the globe.

But first of all, what is an autonomous customer?

Autonomous customers are defined by the fact that they are not influenced by traditional marketing but rather trust their peers (family, friends, other online users) to inform their purchasing decisions. Computer savvy, they shop around and do extensive research before committing. They want to be in charge of the process with self-service options and don’t feel attached to particular brands.

The autonomous customer is therefore more difficult to engage and organisations will need to adapt their customer service in order to meet their expectations.

The top priority for those consumers is ease of communication. They don’t want to be put on hold for 20 minutes – who does? – to discuss their query, and they want it resolved there and then. However, reality seems rather different, as most of them still find getting in touch with companies ‘draining’, and only 1 in 5 reports first-call resolution. So businesses clearly need to improve in this area.

The autonomous customer takes advantage of all devices and media channels available nowadays, and they expect companies to offer a range of options to contact them, including web chat, video chat and social media platforms.

The rise of the omni-channel customer service could be very beneficial to all businesses, as it enables one contact centre member of staff to handle several queries simultaneously, reducing costs, but on the other hand, it increases the complexity of operations, and with it the risk of getting it wrong.

Self-service is very important to autonomous customers, but they expect supported self-service, i.e. the ability to talk to someone easily and promptly if they encounter a problem.

Security of phone communications have been an increasing concern and customers are now starting to request some form of biometric voice recognition to be implemented.

Autonomous customers may be more challenging, but they are definitely a trend that is here to stay, so it is crucial that companies review their communication channels and adapt them to cater to their specific expectations.