Top 8 Customer Service Trends You Need to Know

Man in coffee shop with iPhone

Consumer expectations are changing daily, and technology has a lot to do with this. The digital age has made customers expect instant gratification; when technology makes just about any information available at the click of a button, more and more people are turning to their devices for answers. With this technological transformation comes many up-and-coming trends that companies can get behind to transform their business and cater to the expectations of the customer. After all, Gartner research predicted that 85% of consumer interactions will occur without interacting with a human face-to-face.

Does this mean that companies should rely solely on artificial intelligence to run their business? No, but they can certainly benefit from using it as a supplemental tool.

In 2020, it’s all about enhancing the digital customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at the current trends in customer service that can help you run your business and satisfy consumers:

8 Current Trends in Customer Service

Keeping up with what’s new in customer service can be difficult when trends emerge so regularly. However, we can help you navigate through the trenches and understand the ones that matter most in 2020. Here are eight we recommend weaving into your business strategy:

1. Taking Care of Every Customer by Promoting a Strong Company Culture

Customer service has always been dedicated to taking care of the customer. But at NRF 2020, Alex Genov, the manager of research and user experience at Zappos shared the importance of shaping the company culture of your business to reflect the customer care you want to provide. More speakers at the event detailed how they refer to their customer service employees as something more encouraging, such as “brand ambassador.” Empowering the customer service agent is one way to get the positivity flowing through the customer journey.

2. Make Your Customer Service Options Mobile-Optimized

Today, everyone you know has a smartphone. And if they don’t, it’s rather shocking.

With so many people using devices that bring convenience right to the palm of their hand, it’s advantageous for your business to make sure its website works on mobile. Specifically, it’s critical that your customer service options are optimized for mobile: according to a Gartner survey of nearly 9,000 customers, the most preferred device for issue resolution was the phone at 44%.

The more channels your customers have to reach you, the better their odds of doing so and feeling satisfied with your ability to communicate.

3. Building Strong Customer Connections

Making the customer feel as though they’re a part of a community when they purchase your products or services is a great indication of strong customer service. This builds brand loyalty and advocacy and strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the business. When customers trust your brand, they’ll feel more comfortable and confident reaching out to your customer service representatives if something goes wrong.

4. Taking the Omnichannel Approach

This isn’t exactly one of those new trends in customer service, but it’s still very important to consider in 2020. Often confused with multichannel support ‚— or offering customers more than one option for contacting your customer service representatives — omnichannel support is guaranteed consistency in customer service as they shift from one channel to the next, so conversations are picked up right where they left off. With the right technology, your business can achieve an omnichannel approach with ease.

5. Focusing on Self-Service Opportunities That Benefit Your Business

Many customers are confident in their ability to navigate your page and figure out the answer to their problem without feeling the need to contact customer service. While we do encourage having additional options like chatbots and live agents, one way customers can answer some of their own queries is through your Knowledge Bases (KB) or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

As explained by Knowledge Owl, a KB and FAQ page are similar pieces of collateral that are each considered a self-service option that, giving your customer service agents a break from the repetitive questions that tend to flood their inboxes.

Building these pages up on your website can enable effortless self-service. Just make sure customers are directed strategically back to your customer service agent as needed

6. Be Responsive on Social Media

Just like owning a smartphone, most consumers have a social media presence on one or more channels. Not only are they using these platforms to communicate with family and friends, share pictures and laugh at memes, they’re also turning to social media as a way to connect with brands from a customer service standpoint. Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at social media management company Sprout Social, told Business News Daily that brands should focus some of their customer service efforts on social media to satisfy their customers.

“Brands need to be thoughtful about which social platforms their customers are using [and] … focus their engagement efforts there,” Cuttica said. “A successful customer service strategy requires that a brand be present and available across the channels their customers prefer.”

7. Using Chatbots to Your Advantage

Contact forms are becoming less attractive to consumers. Why? Because they want fast, convenient service when they have a question or problem that needs to be solved. Chatbots are a great way to get the conversation started with customers without resourcing your agents to stand by every time a customer enters your site. Chatbots can pull information from knowledge bases to serve answers up to customers. Plus, they can be used to answer low-level support questions and provide 24/7 support, saving agents thousands of man hours.

8. Continuing to Utilize Live Support

Remember: While chatbots are highly advantageous, that doesn’t mean that AI should replace your talented human resources. Your business can benefit from bringing both together to increase scalability and drive efficiency across all customer service channels. AI can automate manual tasks and provide initial information about customer problems, giving agents the information they need to solve customer problems without compromising quality. This makes customer service more convenient for customers and can even improve your engagement and satisfaction scores over time.

Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?

Customer service technology can help you incorporate these new trends into your current strategy. Kustomer enables you to deliver effortless, personalized customer service, powered by intelligent insights and unified data.

Understanding how to deliver on growing customer expectations can be challenging without the right tools. That’s why we’ve created our Buyer’s Guide to provide the resources you need to evaluate potential partners, measure your success and pick the perfect customer service software solution. Request a demo today to schedule your 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help.

Top 3 Trends from NRF 2020

NRF’s Big Show has just wrapped up, and after three days packed to the brim with insights from leading retailers, one thing is clear: a focus on the customer is essential in today’s competitive retail market. Whether you’re a digital-first disruptor brand or a legacy company who has transitioned into the 21st century, an exceptional customer experience drives business success. Read on to learn the top three trends we saw at NRF 2020.

Customers Take Center Stage

Brands are constantly talking about “customer obsession”. It’s a buzzy phrase, but it doesn’t quite get to the bottom of how you should be treating customers, only that you should be obsessing over them. According to Alex Genov, Manager of Research and User Experience at Zappos, “customer care” is far better than obsession. When brands really, truly care about their customers, and build a company culture that supports this care, they’re able to be leaders in their space.

And employees can truly make all the difference. Stacy Siegal, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of AEO Inc, the parent company of American Eagle, revealed that their associates were renamed “brand ambassadors”. They are empowered to be able to handle problems themselves, and advocate for the brand. In essence, everyone that works at AEO is a leader, and they are empowered to own the brand’s success. Damu McCoy, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Target, agrees with this concept. Target customers are called “guests”, and when they are looking to hire new talent they search for individuals that embody their values: guest-focused and guest-centric.

Building Deeper Connections with Consumers

The best way to build brand loyalty and advocacy is by establishing deep connections with consumers over shared values. That’s what we learned from Annie Agle, Director of Impact and Brand at Cotopaxi, and Kelly Cobb, VP of Community and Giving at Bombas. Both are successful brands that put giving back at the core of their strategy. This approach has naturally led to a “community” of customer advocates that feel as though their values are reflected in the brands they do business with, and find kinship with other customers of that brand.

Pooja Agarwal, Chief Operating Officer of Birchbox, also described how the subscription service has built a community of loyal followers over the past decade. First they identified their target audience, one that had been historically underserved. They encourage social sharing and also take pride in the fact that their employees are part of this community. It isn’t just the customer service team that is handling CS…all employees are answering questions, handling tickets and understanding customer feedback.

Additionally, transparency and feedback is essential to build these deeper connections. After a recent snafu with fulfillment, Rent the Runway vowed complete transparency to their customers and committed to do the right thing. Instead of angry customers, they actually found that this honesty and transparency fostered greater loyalty in their customer base, said CEO Jennifer Hyman. Angle of Cotopaxi agreed. Perfection is hard to achieve, and the company acknowledges its shortcomings and is open about where they want to improve.

All of these actions build trust and deep connections with a community of customers, and these customers become your advocates, not just you buyers. According to Pinterest retail strategist Amy Vener, individuals are looking towards their community for recommendations, rather than sponsored content or influencers. So the more that retail brands can build this community of loyal customer advocates, the more successful they will be.

Shopping for the Experience

In a panel with the founder of JRNI and the Senior Manager of Brand Experience and Events of Total Wine & More, it became abundantly clear that customer experience is more central than ever before for business success. While individuals used to shop out of necessity or convenience, experience is now the leading reason.

Therefore, it is hyper-important to provide the best possible experience, both in-store and online. Keith Neely, VP of E-Commerce and Digital Marketing at Case-Mate, emphasized how providing a seamless experience directly correlated with repeat customers for his business.

The most prominent example of providing a true “experience” for customers, is the new Nordstrom flagship store in New York City. CEO Erik Nordstrom explained in his keynote that stores now must be more experiential, not just a place to buy an item and leave. In the Nordstrom flagship they have a bar in the shoe department, various restaurants, and a whole floor for beauty treatments.

As Nordstrom said, customers don’t use the word “channel”. The lines are completely blurred, and they look for a singular experience no matter whether they are shopping in-store, online, on social or mobile. The customer experience should be unified, and it reigns supreme.

 

Why Personalized Customer Service? Because Consumers Demand It

The modern customer wants to buy a product, but they don’t want to be treated like a transaction. They’re expecting an experience—and if that experience is a positive one, then a one-time purchase often becomes a lifelong interaction with a company that understands their wants, needs, pain points and history. Unfortunately, most companies are still living in the early-digital Dark Ages, treating their customers like tickets in a queue rather than individuals with real desires and concerns.

According to a recent Kustomer survey, three-quarters of consumers aged 25 to 34, expect personalized communication from retailers, while only 60% aged 65 and older agreed with this notion. This means that personalization is becoming the new norm, especially with the younger generation, and will only continue to grow.

But instead of marshalling their vast stores of data to proactively identify and engage specific customers, many companies are still relying on outdated customer service models that waste their money and customers’ time. This misguided approach frustrates customers—and can hurt a businesses’ bottom line. Poor customer service costs companies $62 billion a year, and lack of personalization prompted 41% of Americans to switch brands in the last year alone.

On the flip side, companies that truly know their customers—everything from their previous purchases, customer service conversations, and preferred channels of communication—often experience double-digit growth, and nearly half of customers spend more when their experiences are tailored to their particular wants and needs.

To retain customers in an increasingly saturated and competitive digital marketplace, companies must learn to quickly and seamlessly address customer needs and concerns as they arise. In other words, they need to use real-time data to give them a 360-degree view of their customers—and then use that data to deliver relevant, personalized, helpful interactions that make the customer feel seen and heard. This approach will transform customers from flashing lights on hold to real people. And when customers are treated like people, they’re more likely to become not only repeat purchasers, but your most loyal cheerleaders.

To learn how to achieve personalized support in three simple steps, download our full personalization guide.

 

The Connected Customer Experience: Leveraging Data to Drive Hyper-Personalized Experiences and Build Trust

To say we’re living in a customer-centric age is an understatement: companies who fail to prioritize the customer experience are outpaced by their CX-leading competitors by nearly 80%. Additionally, more than half of companies have experienced a serious drop in consumer trust, resulting in an estimated missed $180 billion in potential revenues, according to this Accenture study. There are numerous reasons consumers lose trust in brands they once knew, loved, and purchased from frequently, but 71% of consumers say poor customer service contributes to that trust erosion.

Unfortunately, many tactics that once served an organization well in engendering a customer-first culture simply fail to keep up with the enormous increase in both customer data, and use of connected devices. Two and a half quintillion bytes of data are created each day at current pace, and Gartner predicts there will be more than six connected devices per person as early as 2020. This device proliferation and increase in data results in an overwhelming number of touchpoints that must be tracked and connected to the customer’s buying journey. It’s a tall order, but the organizations who will win are those who can use all of this data to scale the customer experience quickly, efficiently, and effectively, and all on the customer’s terms. It’s not just enough to collect data: it needs to be the right data that can be acted on in the moment.

Working with the customer where they’re comfortable

The digital age has changed where, when, and how customers interact with a brand. What was once a simple cycle of seeing an ad, making a purchase, and repeating, has shifted into a looping journey with the potential for numerous friction points that can turn a customer away from a brand all too quickly. McKinsey describes this journey through four critical areas: consideration, evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase experience. Instead of assuming a consumer will immediately be faithful to the previous brand purchased, McKinsey states that today’s buyer continues to consider new brands available to them. McKinsey adds the element of the Loyalty Loop, which fast tracks future purchases, but in order for a brand to effectively qualify for this shortcut, they must have fostered lasting loyalty with the customer. And 95% of consumers say customer service is important in their choice of brand loyalty. In other words, helping a customer find the answer they need quickly is a significant indicator of whether or not a brand has continued ownership of that customer’s wallet share.

An additional complication is the increase in possible touchpoint locations: digital searches, email, social media, website, and more. In fact, 31% of millennial customers looking for help reach out to a company via Twitter. It’s important for an organization to connect all relevant touchpoints to a unified customer profile in the event of a customer service interaction, or they run the risk of further fracturing the experience and the relationship.

Brands must be willing to look critically at their existing systems to evaluate if they’re truly prepared to handle the significant amounts of data, devices, touchpoints, and the unified view necessary to provide a seamless customer experience. Tools driven by AI and machine learning are the only way to ensure a business can scale to keep pace.

The expectations for customer agents have never been higher; below are ways that AI magnifies data to bolster a support team so they can create optimal customer experiences.

Automate processes and tasks

KPMG has estimated that the service cost reduction with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is as great as 75%. With the average cost of service centers continuing to rise — voice is $12 per contact, and live chat is $5 per contact — shifting resources to self-service through automation and a knowledge base can result in huge savings. Automation tools can decrease costs to just 10¢ per contact.

It isn’t simply the dollars and cents saved, however, that make automation so impactful to an organization. In one use case, automation can vastly improve worldwide organizations needing to route certain language speakers to agents who can communicate in that language. Additionally, by routing common questions and needs to a self-service portal or base that can both quickly and effectively solve a customer’s problems, agents are freed up to more quickly take on the more complex, nuanced issues that customers face.

While skeptics might be concerned about customers valuing human interaction above all else, according to this report from Statista, 88% of US consumers expect an online self-service portal. In fact, bringing numerous types of customer data touchpoints into one place — and from any resource — creates a more seamless, personalized experience for that customer. This method allows for both speed and a personalized approach to be achieved, and on the customer’s terms.

Augment existing agent support

When a customer dials into a service call center, provides significant information regarding who they are and why they’re calling, and is then directed to an agent for further assistance, the worst possible scenario is that customer then having to repeat all of that information…again. When considering a customer may have also reached out through email and even social media, it becomes even more crucial to use data in the right way. Much like being retargeted by an ad for a product you purchased yesterday, today’s customers are smart and expect organizations to be intelligent with their data. If, after interacting with a chatbot and providing all relevant data, a customer’s issue is escalated to a human agent, the customer expects an agent to already have the necessary context to properly manage the issue. That context should include relevant information like shipping number, previous conversations from both online and offline sources, and previous purchases made, combined into a unified customer profile.

Not only does the full customer data view aid with escalating issues directly, it can even be used to provide recommendations to the agents before even interacting with the customer. Through AI technology, an agent can be given an automated recommendation for how to best handle the customer’s request, eliminating both time and mismanagement; thereby improving the quality, time, and ease of service for both the customer and the agent.

When AI is used to capture data for context, the technology and the human agent become critical partners in providing the right customer experience. It empowers an agent to be a true specialist, who can change the customer’s outcome in a way automation cannot. The marriage between the two is what elevates the customer experience to a level that promotes long-term loyalty.

Proactively boost future outcomes

As a part of the new expectations customers have for service-related interactions, customers expect their preferred brands to be proactive in handling potential issues. For an organization this can be as simple as customer communication that informs of impending weather that will impact a shipment, or as sophisticated as predicting volume needed quarters in advance based on real-time interactions. In order to accomplish this, however, all relevant data must be gathered in a location where it can be acted upon quickly.

One use case could even enable leads and managers to get ahead of issues in-the-moment. For example, as a call is happening, the voices can be translated into text, then analyzed and graded in real time to measure key indicators that identify a call going south. Instead of arbitrarily choosing which calls to QA, or to QA all calls after-the-fact (and risk missing the ones requiring assistance), AI and machine learning can alert a team lead exactly when to jump in and improve the customer interaction as it occurs.

Antiquated technology looks reactively at improvement; the best customer experience requires proactive use of data as the touchpoint interaction occurs, rolling it into the most personalized experience possible.

Customers who have a good experience are three and a half times more likely to repurchase, and five times more likely to recommend to friends and relatives than those customers who have a poor experience. And 59% of respondents to the Microsoft State of global customer service report say that customer service expectations are higher than they were last year. In order for an organization to scale to meet the growing demand, they must provide a seamless omnichannel experience that connects all touchpoints, automates tasks and processes for maximum efficiency, and proactively uses real-time customer data to further create the best experience. Doing so will empower your agents, and build the trust your customers need to remain loyal for years to come.

Connecting all the data to relevant touchpoints and driving a hyper-personalized experience will change how your customers experience you and your product. Tune into our webinar with guest speaker from Forrester where we break down how you can create an elevated customer experience.

 

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