We have predicted five customer service trends at the beginning of the year and we are happy to note that all of them are on point. With more than half of the year gone, we have come up with ten more customer service trends we believe will define the industry for the year and in the years to come.
1. Customer Service Becomes a Key Department
There have been questions why customer service needs to be a different department from the rest of an organization. But as we will discuss further with the other trends below, the need to prioritize customer service today has escalated because of digital technology. News spread faster so any customer complaint, no matter how small or valid can spell a huge PR disaster for any business, no matter how small. Having a department that can monitor customer feedback from across all channels, identify and address problems with customer experience – that’s the goal.
2. A Shift and Focus on Digital Business Strategies
As more businesses go online, so will every operation that businesses need. There is going to be a shift in focus when it comes to business and marketing strategies, paying more attention to digital methods and targeting a more vast audience online. Agility, flexibility, and user-centered design are going to be top priorities when developing business processes and product/service delivery. All these would mean an overall reduction of time and costs for businesses with a larger scope of audience.
3. Customer Service Delivery via Social Media
Gone are the days where customers’ first line of communication was either by phone or e-mail. These days, customers air everything, be it compliments or grievances, in social media. Hence, the need to establish a dedicated customer service team via social media is as important as maintaining dedicated teams for other support channels. Even government agencies have their accounts in social media, delivering announcements and updates through these channels have proven to be more effective in getting word out faster than over any media these days, and that even includes television. It’s true – everyone is now online, most of the time.
4. Call Centers Remain a Key Channel
Don’t write off call centers just yet. Despite the shift of customers towards social media, most of them still request or require a callback. This is why call centers will need to adapt and respond to these new needs. New features such as “call back” and social media marketing will make call centers and customer service outsourcing two of the most important channels to improve one’s business.
5. Integrated Delivery of Customer Service via All Channels
As customer service is delivered through more channels, an integrated experience is an important aspect of satisfaction. There will be a need for businesses to maintain a standard of their responses and make sure these are consistently shared and delivered regardless of channel.
The “create once, publish everywhere” model the US federal government advocates, for example, means that when you share content openly online, it better be coming from one authoritative source for information, so people get the same answer, no matter which channel they choose.
6. Enterprise CRM
The call for integrated customer service delivery across all channels means there will also be a need for technology to come in and help. This is why businesses are going to be adopting customer relationship management (CRM) tools to share customer information across agency silos and help agencies “speak with one voice” when talking to customers. Sharing customer information and recording customer interaction are easier, more effective and less prone to error when employees can document customer interactions in the agency CRM, saving that historical data so it can be referenced in future conversations, even when the customer speaks with different people across the organization. CRM tools facilitate a seamless transition as customers move from one part of the agency to another.
7. Turning to Data Analytics for Insights
As more data is shared online, businesses can now harness information from customers and gather insights from them without proactively seeking answers. Key performance indicators of websites such as visits, bounce rates, length of visit, device type and more can help businesses identify their audience, and with data analytics, predict what they will need before they even realize they need it! Target has been doing this for years.
8. Customer Profiling and Journey Mapping
When businesses learn to use data analytics for their business strategies, they can also learn how to create different personas or customer profiles for their audience. Personas are behavior-based descriptions of the primary customers that use a site or service. When personas are developed, mapping their journey or their customer experiences are easier. For example, one persona can be a profile of a person who heard about your business from a sponsored post on Facebook. You can study her clicks or visits to your site or the until what level of engagement she got to (did she contact customer service or talk to a brand advocate in the form of a customer?) before making a purchase. (Yes! All of these can be gleaned through data analytics!)
How is this important for customer service? With every persona, you can study their needs and anticipate their questions before they even think of asking them. When you answer their questions or educate them before they even reach out to you, your customer service is going to be customer experience-driven.
9. Employee-Driven Improvements
The great thing about technology is how all these information can be used to improve customer service delivery. But the hidden gem is actually mining for answers within your organization – your customer service agents or employees! This is why call centers or customer service headquarters are important. The need to be centralized will mean that issues are addressed, no matter how small, and nothing slips through the cracks. When you need to know which are the issues customers are facing these days, short of going to your actual customers, you can go to your customer service agents and ask them! They can collaborate with you on improving the experience you provide to customers, especially when it comes to the more common call drivers customers come up with. They are also the ones who use the tools you implement the most – so they can tell you how to improve it or if it isn’t working.
10. Making Customer Experience a Culture
Customer service is no longer contained between a business (customer service agents) and customer – it encompasses business to employees, employees to customers, customers to fellow customers and customers to potential customers. The need to make customer service delivery a good positive customer experience starts with your employees. It’s cultivating a culture within your business first. Business leaders need to set goals to improve employee engagement to drive employee satisfaction upwards. And when employees are satisfied, they are happy. When they are happy with their company and their work, their work delivery is affected too. It just naturally flows to the customer!
The Customer Service Landscape is Changing
We have said it before, customers now know more about customer service – and know what they should be getting. As Shep Hyken puts it, “They know what they want. As a result, customers are more demanding of a good customer service experience and many times will spend their money elsewhere, even if the price is higher. Service correlates to value that the customer will pay for.”
With this power shift, businesses are wise to take heed and improve their customer service delivery. Better yet, they are wise to start cultivating a great culture starting with their employees.