We’re already a few months into 2017 and it’s looking to be another exciting year for customer service (CS). With expectations constantly rising and customers wanting to talk to businesses wherever they are (no matter what time of day) it's important your CS is keeping up. Is this the year self-service finally gives customers the power to find their own answers, whatever the time or day?
A quick round up of 2016
With more and more customer interactions being public and, in some instances, going viral, it's more important than ever to put a fire out quickly. Customers are now using a business' CS as a measure of whether they want to buy from them or not, whether that be by checking their score on Trustpilot, or seeing how their customers are tweeting about them on Twitter. Public forms of CS mean there’s no hiding from a missed delivery or a faulty games console. But with channels such as webchat and email - unless the customer decides to post it publicly - the effect on the brand might not be as detrimental. This, of course, doesn’t mean less-public channels don’t need as much attention as public ones do. In fact, to make sure customers don’t feel the need to post about private CS on social media, you should ensure it’s to the high standard they deserve.
2016 brought an expectation of faster responses. Even in regards to email, 31% of customers expect a reply within an hour. So even channels generally considered to have less of a need for speed, now need attention. Of course, social channels, like Twitter and Facebook, were demanding a much faster and smoother service, with customers on Twitter expecting a response within 60 minutes.
Customers’ expectations for a fast reply weren't the only thing that changed in 2016: businesses needed to be ready to reply to every (and we mean every) interaction. It wasn’t enough to just concentrate on the negative responses, regardless of the customer’s mood or issue with the business. If a customer contacted a brand on Twitter, 70% expected a response, no matter what the context.
Video made inroads in 2016, with brands like Schuh and Amazon introducing the method to allow customers to feel closer to the brand. Video CS can almost replicate the service of talking to a sales assistant in store too. It’s not just stores that were using videos for CS advice; medical advice is even being delivered by video to remove the need for sick patients to leave the house and potentially get worse.
Employee happiness was heavily linked to better performance. The Workplace Research Foundation found highly engaged employees to be 38% above-average in regards to productivity too.
What can be expected this year?
So, after all the great advancements of 2016, what has 2017 got in store for us?
Chat bots will become more commonly used
Artificial Intelligence is truly coming on in leaps and bounds for CS, giving machines a stronger ability then ever to communicate with humans. It won’t be taking over the current human roles within the CS industry. Instead, it will just help businesses speed up their CS process; customers will be able to talk to a company’s customer support center more often this year.
With chatbots not only being able to respond to requests and questions, but also being able to sense when a customer is confused, they can recognise when they need to pass over conversations to a human operator. Voice-activated bots will reach even more consumers, following a further advancement of pre-existing bots like Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa and Cortana.
Chatbots will also be used to improve users' experiences by delivering a direct, easy channel for communicating with a business. They give customers access to data, get answers to questions, find out the best sale price, and more – all at the cheaper cost of implementing a bot rather than having an operator answer. American Express is using its Facebook bot to let customers request receipts, track charges and redeem reward points, all without talking to someone. Gartner is predicting that only one-third of CS interactions will require human interaction.
Customer service standards will improve
With so much focus and attention placed upon businesses' CS operations, it’s not surprising that customer service is getting better. Forrester have found that 72% of businesses state their top priority is improving customer experience (CX). Because the top businesses are setting a high bar, smaller counterparts must react or face falling behind the times. This should lead to vast improvements across most industries.
CS standards have continued to improve as value of the product and experience of the customer continues to rise. This means that smaller businesses' can offer personalized service to gain an advantage over large retailers, which have a much more extensive range of stock.
Data will be used to improve CX
Collecting data has positives for both your business and your customers. Customers have been saying for years that they would prefer businesses to use their personal information if it lead to a better experience. But if you want that gold-mine of data, you, as a business, must be prepared to be honest regarding your policies and practices and only use it for innocuous activities.
It’s not just data about customers' preferences that businesses are using. So far, in 2017, businesses are getting smarter and using cognitive analytics to improve online and in-person experiences. For example, some stores are setting up facial recognition cameras to detect which customers are coming into a store. This system can begin to send sales recommendations based on their previous purchases. A customer could walk in who prefers Italian-leather goods and has two little boys. A sales assistant can then use this knowledge to personalise their shopping journey in store and even push certain products as extra purchases at the till.
Businesses will fall behind if they don’t keep up with 2017 CS trends. If customers don’t feel they’re getting a worthwhile experience from a brand, there are lots of competitors who can offer the same product but with better expectations. Remember, your customers will see an advancement in CS provided from many businesses and will start to expect the same from you. Don’t let trends and movements cause your business to crash.
Article Written By: Elena Lockett - Marketing Assistant, focusing on helping us build up strong personal relation contacts and improving the exposure of the company through appearances, events and entering awards suitable for the company.