Customer Service Trends for 2021
Did you know…that one of the fastest-growing career fields is Customer Success Manager? This reflects the increased emphasis on the user experience and personalization across virtually every industry for whom customer care is a vital function. The manager’s job is to get ahead of potential service issues and bottlenecks, reduce or eliminate the friction that can arise when a consumer has a question to ask or a problem to resolve.
Service today is a crucial point of differentiation. Happy customers buy more, are more loyal to their preferred brands, and are willing to be your company’s ambassadors. Connecting them to the value behind the products and services they purchase improves satisfaction and benefits retention.
As a new year beckons, this is a good time to consider other service trends that may impact your operations in no particular order, except for:
- Personalization: no one likes being treated like a faceless number. Any time you see an ad or offer on the screen, many of you ask, “why did I get this?” One reason is that your browsing behavior signaled an interest in something. Achieving personalization has not yet been perfected, but there is an outline for getting there and providing content and messaging relevant to the audience. Which leads directly to the next consideration:
- Predictive analytics and machine learning: every interaction between a customer and a service agent contains numerous data points, whether this involves chat transcripts, phone call recordings, the questions or issues that are raised, and so forth. The volume of intel that can be gathered in a day can be overwhelming, and artificial intelligence is one means of making sense of it all. If you do not have some means of interpreting the data that is collected, how can you possibly have any insight into what your customers are thinking or want?
AI is not confined to chatbots or other self-service tools, though those are popular with some people. Study after study shows a clear consumer preference for interacting with a live service agent instead of a machine. Why does this matter? In a word, actually two words:
- Proactive engagement: consumer expectations are at a peak, and while service is passive by nature, the customer success element thinks beyond the support issue of the moment. Since the user is already on the phone or in a chat session, ask a few questions that go beyond that, questions that may open opportunities or lead to an unexpected discovery. This adds an advocacy element to customer care but and who does not like thinking that the brand is looking out for them?
- Support through social media: this channel is not just how consumers talk about the organization; it is a means of talking to the organization and part of a broader strategy of making communications easy and providing the channels your customers prefer. People interact with each other on social media, so it stands to reason that this will expand to business relationships, too. This is also a good channel for getting ahead of issues or explaining the nuances of new products and it an evolution of:
- Omnichannel support: chat, phone, email, messaging apps, and other avenues are all available. The challenge for organizations is to combine them into a seamless ecosystem that provides a consistent customer journey. At least some of these channels offer real-time support; email is an exception though it still has a place in the mix, especially when an immediate response is unnecessary. Otherwise, fast resolution of issues in real-time has a bottom-line
- Because it is 2020: this list would be remiss in ignoring the changing landscape of the office or customer care center itself. By necessity, most organizations had to adopt some measure of working from home. Technology makes this far more feasible than it used to be, and over the past several months, service managers and agents alike have had ample opportunity to get comfortable with the logistics. The brick and mortar contact center will not go away; organizations insist on personnel being in a central location. However, the ability to do this job from home expands the available talent pool.
Finally, most of these trends have come from the perspective of service agents within a contact center either troubleshooting customer issues or answering questions. There is, of course, more to service, and the critical element there is the mobile factor. Sometimes, service simply means a consumer can go online for reviews, price checks, store locations, and the ability to order. This, too, is part of the overall experience and a very integral part of it. Online shopping has surpassed offline this year, and people were increasingly buying online even before Covid was a topic.
Customer service is more than problem-solving. Done right, it is a business strategy that serves as a profit center for organizations and serves to differentiate businesses from their competitors. Understanding trends helps companies to get ahead and to create the conditions that engender user loyalty. And helping customers to better use the products and services offered ties into the success aspect, which only increases the ROI of the support team.