23 Customer Service Trends Every Service Leader Must Know About

23 Customer Service Trends Twitter

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Every year new buzzwords and trends are introduced into the customer service space. Some are just ‘words’ while others are impactful trends that can really change a business for the better. How do you know which trends are most important and which ones to ignore? It’s not easy, so we decided to help you out and identify the 23 trends every customer service leader should be aware of to effectively run their business in 2020.

1. The Power of Prioritization

People want to feel special and brands continue to find ways to make that happen. One popular method in 2020 will be using the power of prioritization to route certain customers to specific reps, ensuring a seamless and special experience.

2. Voice Search Pops up on the Customer Service Radar

According to a study by PWC, 65% of consumers aged 25-49 talk to their voice-enabled devices daily. This trend is catching the attention of customer-centric organizations as they struggle to determine how voice search will or should impact their organizations. Little action will happen for this in 2020, but a lot of talk and discussion will.

3. Omnichannel Becomes Obvious

Consumers care less and less about the idea of omnichannel. They just want to be able to focus on getting ahold of a company no matter the channel and no matter the time of day. This means organizations have to look at omnichannel experiences as table stakes, since its no longer acceptable to deliver a disjointed and inconvenient communication strategy.

4. Reps Will Focus on the Customer, Not Finding the Customer’s Information

This crap has to stop. A recent report noted that customer service reps spend 25% of their time looking for information about the customer. Are we really doing this? I know the answer is yes, but it shouldn’t be. It’s time to empower our reps to spend time solving problems rather than trying to figure out who the customer is and where to find their information. Look for this to change in a big way in 2020.

5. Self-Service Becomes an Expected Approach

You knew this one was coming, so don’t act too surprised. Gartner studies say that only 9% of customers report solving their issues completely via self-service. That number isn’t going to cut it anymore and leaders know it. My advice: don’t get behind this trend, get ahead before you get left behind.

6. #SocialService Becomes a Must

You might be familiar with social media playing a role in customer service, but in 2020 expect that trend to get much bigger. Social media channels like Instagram will lead the way, adding new and more convenient ways for customers to interact with agents on the channels where they spend the most time.

7. A Focus on a Customer-Centric Organization

People have been talking about customer service for ages, but now it’s not just about talking the talk, it’s about walking the walk. What does that mean? It means organizations don’t just have a pricing strategy, product strategy, sales strategy, or a go-to-market strategy. They will also have a formal customer strategy at the center of their organizations.

8. The Acceleration of the Scalable Service Department

Many businesses struggle to scale their teams based on seasonality and look for outside help to do so. In 2020, the remote rep will continue to grow in popularity as companies find this to be a viable solution to their scalability requirements.

9. Bigger Customer Service Budgets

You heard me right. Customer service organizations will continue to have bigger budgets. In fact, Gartner reported that worldwide spending on customer experience software grew 15.6% to reach 48.2 billion in 2018, and I don’t see that trend slowing down anytime soon.

10. Customer Service Goes Outbound

Inbound customer service has been the norm for a long time, but things are changing with companies looking to go “outbound” to customers in a major way. Rather than relying on internal teams to send communications, reps and customer service teams will be empowered to proactively push out notifications and communications to individuals and groups through any channel.

11. Contact Center Turnover Continues to Be a Problem

A recent report stated that contact center turnover is between 30% and 35%. This trend is not likely to change, with most companies failing to crack the code on retention issues. Until companies start looking at this through the lens of the customer, they’ll continue to fail. Employee engagement and customer engagement need to be managed together, and then, and only then, will companies start to crack the code on employee turnover.

12. The Customer Experience Rises in Priority as a Marketing Strategy

Marketing and customer experience are both important functions, but if you don’t manage them together you lose powerful synergy. In 2020, more organizations will recognize the power of bringing these two functions together as more CMOs incorporate customer experience into their overall strategy, especially for B2C brands.

13. Companies Find Ways to Lower Cost Per Channel

According to the 2019 Gartner Customer Service and Support Leader Poll, live channels such as phone, live chat and email cost an average of $8.01 per contact. That’s a lot! In 2020, companies will continue to master omnichannel and find ways to lower their cost per contact on these different channels.

14. Deflecting Will Be Part of Every Team’s Strategic Plan

If you haven’t heard the word “deflecting” yet it’s either because you’re not in customer service or you haven’t been paying attention to all the buzz. Deflecting is the idea of routing some of the tedious work of reps to self-service channels where customers can find the answers themselves rather than talk to an agent. This is a conversation every customer service organization will have in 2020, so if you haven’t started, now is the time.

15. The Phone is Not Dead

The phone is still the most popular channel for getting issues resolved, and it’s not going away anytime soon. That doesn’t mean other channels will not play a role in customer service. It just means abandoning the phone would be a really poor business strategy.

16. The Instant Gratification Revolution

You thought customers wanted speed before, wait and see how 2020 plays out. Customers are not just demanding quicker service, in some cases they are revolting if they don’t get it. Speed has and will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in customer service.

17. Chat Begins to Overtake E-Mail as the Number Two Channel for Customer Service

According to a Gartner study, phone still dominates for issue resolution, but chat officially passed e-mail for the second spot. Watch this trend continue as chat provides a more personal and real-time resolution option for customers.

18. Personalization Becomes Even More Personal

Personalization is an obvious trend that most companies are trying to master. But in 2020, watch for this trend to take on even more meaning as companies push the limits of personalization by not just personalizing the service experience, but also the product experience.

19. AI Isn’t Taking Over the World, but It Will Be Part of Every Customer Service Team

AI is still more buzzword than reality, but that doesn’t mean it can be ignored. In fact, the opposite is true. Customer service leaders need to start looking for ways to use AI to streamline their operations and make the customer experience better if they want to stay ahead of this important trend.

20. Video Support Becomes a Reality

This one is scary for a lot of people who don’t want to, or who don’t like to, get in front of the camera. We’re so used to hiding behind phones and computer screens, this may be a harder trend than most to adopt. Seventy eight percent of consumers expect online and in-store retailers to treat them the same according to a recent Kustomer survey. With this statistic, video becomes a very important tool and companies will find a way to start building video into their customer experience.

21. Convenience Becomes the Number One Factor for Customer Experience

Matt Dixon is still right. The amount of effort a customer has to exert directly impacts their overall experience. That idea was written in the famous book “Effortless Experience” years ago, but the idea is not going away. It’s actually getting bigger. Customers want convenience, or this “effortless experience” more than anything else, which will force organizations to simplify their processes and look for ways to make it easy for customers to do business with them.

22. The Mobile Experience

According to Stat Counter, desktop usage is declining while 52% of all internet traffic now comes from mobile. If you really want to be customer-centric, you have to figure out how to provide great customer experiences through mobile.

23. Bots and Humans Partner to Deliver Great Service

Bots don’t have to work alone, and neither do humans. Look for brands in 2020 to bring the bot and the human together through interactive ways that ultimately drive efficiency.

Find out what else customer service leaders should be aware of in our buyer’s guide.

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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.

 

Kustomer’s 2019 Year in Review

The final days of 2019 are drawing to a close, and that means it’s time for Kustomer’s year-end wrap up. It has been an exciting year, with much growth and development not only for Kustomer, but for the customer service space as a whole. Here are some of the most memorable highlights:

Top Customer Service Trends of 2019

The throughline of all developments in customer service this past year have stemmed from one fact: customer expectations are growing and brands are struggling to keep up. Consumers demand instantaneous communications on every channel, while simultaneously expecting personalized connections with the brands they do business with. Here is how customer service has changed as a result.

Omnichannel Not Multichannel

Just as companies finally began to feel comfortable achieving multichannel support, customers began to demand more: they now expect TRUE omnichannel support. Unfortunately, the two terms have almost become interchangeable, with many companies and technology providers conflating them. Multichannel support simply means offering customers more than one method for contacting customer service.

Omnichannel support, by comparison, shifts perspective from ticket resolution to customer relationship building. Customers have the freedom to move between channels throughout their engagement, and are guaranteed consistency, so each conversation starts where the last ended. Achieving true omnichannel support was a focus of many organizations in 2019.

The Rise of AI and ML

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have always been trendy buzzwords in the customer service space, but now they are actually impacting customer service. It’s predicted that the use of AI in customer service will increase by 143% by late 2020, so many organizations have spent this year implementing initial automation and preparing their organizations for change.

AI, ML and automation can enable customer service teams to work more efficiently and focus on the customers who need the most help. In 2020 and beyond, AI will largely take over the tedious tasks, while agents can help solve the harder problems, nurture customer relationships and engage in proactive outreach.

The Changing Face of the Support Agent

As a result of this increased adoption of AI and automation, the role of the support agent has also begun to shift. Customer service agents now spend more time building brand equity and customer relationships. The agent’s job is to reflect the company’s mission and values, and act as a trusted partner for customers. The changing expectations of consumers means that customers want to do business with companies they believe in, feeling as though they are a part of the brand. Customer service agents can help do just that, through both proactive and reactive support.

Customer service will continue to become more of an “escalation channel”, with agents spending less time responding to inquiries and answering simple questions, and more time tackling complex or difficult problems.

Kustomer 2019 Developments

Not only was this a huge year for the customer service space, it was also a momentous year for Kustomer as an organization. In 2019 we:

  • Raised series C, D & E funding, totaling $135M
  • Achieved company growth of 350%
  • Opened a brand new office in Durham, North Carolina

We’ve also witnessed tremendous product developments in the past year, including the official announcement of KustomerIQ, which embeds artificial intelligence and machine learning across the platform to enable companies to provide smarter, automated, and more personalized customer experiences. We launched our first EU data center in Dublin to better serve our growing international client base, and achieved SOC 2 Type I and HIPAA compliance to address our client’s regulatory requirements.

Spotlight on Events

In 2019 we held our first annual user conference, Kustomer Today, which gathered a group of leading experts in customer service for thought provoking and informative discussions. The free, all day event for Kustomer clients explored the Kustomer platform, showcased new product releases, and facilitated networking with innovators shaping the future of customer service. Kustomer’s Bosses Unite event gathered an intimate group of leading women in customer experience (CX), in a Gatsby-like atmosphere, to eat, drink, and share the successes and challenges that come with being a woman in the CX industry.

Kustomer attended industry-leading events such as the TaskUs Summit in San Francisco, where executives from the world’s most innovative and disruptive brands debated the future of customer experience, and explored the changing CX landscape. Kustomer also broke into the European market at the Call and Contact Center Expo UK, where we showcased the innovations of the Kustomer platform and met industry professionals looking to excel in the customer engagement space.

Kustomer Top Content

In case you missed it, check out some of Kustomer’s top content from the past year, where we explore consumer expectations and showcase the brands that are delivering superior customer service:

REPORT: The State of Retail Customer Service
E-BOOK: Brands Doing Customer Service Right
GUIDE: 3 Ways to Deliver Personalized Support
BLOG: Why the Kustomer Experience Matters to Abercrombie & Fitch Co
CASE STUDY: How Glovo Delivers Customer Service to Millions

 

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