Customers today demand more from their service experiences than ever before. Compliment a friend on his new shoes, and he is likely to tell you not only where he bought them, but how fast they shipped. If your company is in the majority, then you probably already know about the importance of customer service.
According to Deloitte, 62% of companies view customer experience as a competitive differentiator. Staying competitive means staying on top of the latest customer service trends and harnessing their potential to gain and keep happy customers. Here are some current trends to focus on for 2017 and beyond.
Exceeding customer expectations is better than meeting them
Since customers today have high expectations for customer support, chasing that “wow factor” is more important (and more challenging) than ever before. Dopamine is that magical brain chemical that registers as joy or, to use the customer service term, “delight”. But dopamine is only released when the stimulus that causes it exceeds expectation.
The takeaway here? Never stop improving your customer care.
The moment you think you’re perfectly providing the support your customers need is the moment your competitors redefine customers’ expectations with something even better.
Customer support is the bread and butter of small businesses
If you’ve ever worried about how your small company can possibly compete with its large-scale counterparts, look no further than customer support. It’s the biggest advantage you have over big businesses, so exploiting this difference to its maximum potential is key to your survival.
According to April 2014 data from AYTM Market Research, personal service was the No. 2 reason US internet users preferred small businesses vs. large companies. And if you think price will inevitably drive your customers toward the mega companies, think again. According to the same source, 62% of customers said they would pay more if it meant getting superior customer service.
AI is here to stay
While skeptics may have at first thought that Artificial Intelligence was a fun and futuristic buzzword likely to fade with its novelty, those skeptics have turned out to be wrong.
Also wrong are those who once feared that AI would replace human service agents. Neither are true. What is true, however, is that AI is evolving quickly and insistently, bringing personalized automation (no, that’s not an oxymoron) to enhance customer support.
Thanks to big data and channel integration, customer support can include AI components and live agent interaction in one seamless system, even unbeknownst to the customer himself. Chatbots in particular are a customer service trend helping agents provide service that is quick, smart, and effective.
The first line of customer support is not the phones
Customers used to be a little leery of non-traditional support channels like live chat or self-service portals, but comfort with these technologies has improved due to increased use. Millennials, who are rapidly becoming the majority of the market, were practically born with a web-browsing smartphone in their hands.
Human telephonic interaction will always have a place in customer service, especially for more complex or nuanced customer support issues.
Nonetheless, companies are investing heavily in multichannel support technology not only because it’s a customer service trend, but because customers increasingly prefer it.
Customers do not want to put forth effort
The point of great customer service is not just to make the customer happy, but to make life easier for them. In a world where customers can deposit a check by taking a picture of it or hail an Uber in a mere two minutes, convenience is a must. Businesses who want to compete need to obsess continuously over how to make customer encounters with their company as quick and effortless as possible.
Customer journey mapping, tracking customer touchpoints, and simple customer feedback scales are more than just customer service trends; they can help you stay focused on customer convenience and improve it continuously.
Self-service is the best service
Along with a desire for convenience, customers like the chance to solve their own problems without having to interact with a sales or service agent at all.
By foregoing the niceties and socialization of human interaction, customers can cut right to the chase of getting what they need. Interactive, organized FAQ sections, self-service portals or kiosks, and YouTube tutorials are all recently booming as customers’ preferred methods of getting things done.
Lightning fast response time is not fast enough
Okay, maybe that statement is a bit extreme, but the truth is that customers expect a response from a customer service to come as quick as a click. Remember that bit about customers only being delighted when reality exceeds expectation? Well that dopamine effect has driven response time expectations to an all-time low. Seeking to make your customer support faster than fast is a worthwhile endeavor for impressing (and keeping) your customers.
Some customer service trends come and go, but some stick around for the long haul. When it comes to fast, caring, convenient service, customers have established expectations that are not going to go away anytime soon. Concentrating your efforts on specific practices that deliver on customers’ desire for speed, personalization, and convenience will keep you out ahead of the ever-approaching pack of competitors.