Is your business up with current trends in customer service? Any medium to long term customer service strategy needs to make sure it pays as much attention to external trends as internal capabilities.
From a renewed commitment to customer experience at the center of business operations to the unexpected decline of social media as a customer service force, we recap some of the key trends for 2017.
Customer Experience Comes to the Forefront
This is not so much a new trend as an intensification of an existing one.
We’ve been hearing that the customer has to be at the center of every business transaction, and at the heart of business strategy, for quite some time now. However, this wisdom is starting to be backed up with a considerable evidence base.
Entrepreneur.com contributor Susan Ganeshan recently cited a Forrester studyshowing that those companies who are best at customer service outperform customer experience slackers by around 80 percent.
It’s just these kinds of statistics that demonstrate why a concern for customer needs is not only good for customers, but also for the business bottom line.
And what’s more, companies have started to ensure that consideration for customers is embedded throughout all levels and functions of the business.
Some great resources on integrating customer experience include:
- What Customer-Centric Companies Do Differently by Helpscout;
- Designing and Starting Up a Customer Experience Transformation by McKinsey
- How to Ensure the Very Best Customer Experience Each and Every Time by Salesforce.
The Rise and Rise of Omni-Channel Marketing
It’s no longer a question of which out of two or three marketing channels you are going to focus on to connect with your customers and get your marketing messages out there into the world.
The last few years have seen a proliferation of new marketing channels, and there is every expectation that this is going to continue into the future. And not only that, but your customers are now going to expect that your brand experience and marketing messages provide a consistent story, no matter what device they are on or channel they are using.
As Daniel Newman, writing for Entrepreneur.com notes, omnichannel marketing refers to the process of a brand providing a seamless (i.e. consistent and uninterrupted) brand experience to the customer across all channels and devices.
In theory, it can sound pretty simple, but many businesses find it quite tricky in the execution.
To get started with omnichannel marketing, why not check out these great resources:
- Omni-Channel Marketing Defined and 7 Tips – Marketo;
- 7 Inspiring Examples of Omni-Channel User Experiences – Hubspot
- Omni-Channel Marketing Without the Fear Factor – MediaPost.
Increased Customer Support Provided via Mobile Devices
We indeed have entered the mobile era, with current projections estimating that there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users by 2020 – representing around 70% of the world’s population.
With such a large proportion of the planet using their mobile devices for all sorts of reasons, it makes sense that companies seeking to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty might explore mobile channels to provide customer support.
One of the most straightforward ways in which companies can embrace mobile to provide customer service is to design an app through which you can address most commonly asked user queries.
As Nicholas Klisht writes, one of the most important considerations, if you are to develop an app, is the customer experience of the app itself. To do this, you need first to need to think about what the user will be using the app for.
Will they be seeking to lodge a complaint, look for instructions or lodge a return? Are they merely wanting to scan through frequently asked questions or seeking to interact with a real live person? All of these questions will determine how you flow a user through the experience of using the app.
If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of mobile customer service, have a look at these articles:
- How Mobile Apps Can Customize Customer Service – Forbes;
- How to Deliver Quality Mobile Customer Service – TechTarget; and
- Bridging the Gap Between Mobile and Customer Service by Oracle.
Customer Service Will Be Driven by Prescriptive Analytics
Among the top trends that Forrester Research, via Kate Leggett, announced would take the customer experience world by storm in 2017, one of the more novels is that prescriptive analytics will drive the customer service of the future.
For those not in the know, prescriptive analytics refers to the process by which companies make use of the large volumes of data they collect to advise possible courses of action in a given situation.
As applied to the world of customer service, prescriptive analytics uses the power of advances in computer technology and big data to inform the process of customer decisions.
Customer decision solutions are a layer within your architecture that allow you to understand what is happening within a customer interaction and determine the next best action.
What the next best action is can depend on a myriad of factors that may be different for different customers; prescriptive analytics cuts through the complexity to take pattern and context into account to determine what this is.
There are a few good introductory articles for those wanting to delve into prescriptive analytics for customer service. They include:
- Descriptive, Predictive, and Prescriptive Analytics Explained– Halo
- 5 Things CIOs Should Know About Prescriptive Analytics – CIO
- The Future of Big Data? Three Use Cases of Prescriptive Analytics –
Social Media on the Outer?
One of the more interesting predictions from the pundits is the imminent decline in the importance of social media, particularly for managing customer service.
After hearing over and over about the centrality of social media to just about everything marketing and customer service-wise, one might be forgiven for thinking that the trend should be heading in the opposite direction.
But it seems that we’re all a bit over it and that this feeling shows no sign of abating. The Small Business Trends blog reports data from the NICE-BCG survey indicating that between 2013 and 2015 the number of consumers using social media for customer service shrank, whereas, for the two-year period before that, numbers had doubled.
What is at the bottom of this decline? Customers surveyed about their reasons for not using social media for customer service in the same study cited long response times, limited functionality and limited usefulness for complex issues. It seems like there is a role for good old fashioned in-person customer service after all!
For more information on these trends, go to:
- Social Media Customer Service Declines, American Consumers Don’t Know What Good Service Looks Like, New Survey Finds – Original NICE Study
- Research Shows Challenges of Using Social Media for Customer Services – Inc.com;
- 3 Effective Ways to Combat the Decline in Social Media Customer Service – Cayzu
Customer service is in a state of constant evolution, with new technologies and communication channels emerging all the time. For those companies willing to embrace the change and try something new, the signs point to every chance of success.