As millennials begin to overtake baby boomers as the majority of the workforce and consumer market, the desired customer experience is evolving along with them. Companies who are prepared to keep up with the latest customer service trends will be the ones who come out on top in the year ahead and beyond.
Here are the hottest 2017 customer service trends and how to get in on the action.
According to a report by Business Insider, people under the age of 55 send ten times more texts than their elders, with those aged 18-24 sending more than twice as many (on average, 67 per day!) as 25-34 year olds.
What does this mean for customer service? Young people like messaging. A lot. Among 2017 customer service trends, messaging support is going to become the forerunner of customer support channels.
Your training and Quality Assurance efforts should be centered not just on agents’ phone interactions, but on messaging as well.
Although chatbots are certainly not entirely new in 2017, it is likely that this year will see vast improvement in their sophistication and ubiquity. Advances in AI technology and machine learning will allow for significant strides to be made in chatbots’ responsiveness and versatility.
‘Cyborg’ service agents
Shep Hyken, customer service expert and bestselling author on the subject, has repurposed the term ‘cyborg’ to define a customer service approach that combines machine efficiency with human capability.
Each agent is equipped with a machine “sidekick” who can do the legwork of researching and composing a response to a customer query, putting the agent in the position of moderator between the customer and the machine by editing or personalizing the response.
The potential result? Agents who are more informed and efficient to provide quick, smart solutions for customers.
As an initial step toward this 2017 customer service trend, examine your data to determine what information could be useful for a “cyborg” team to have on hand. Then, rally your tech team or consider an outside consult about launching a ‘bot’ to work alongside your agents.
Omnichannel as a non-negotiable
The generation that would be satisfied with just one channel for contacting a company is, frankly, dying out. Even the ‘silver surfer’ baby boomers want to at least be able to find a company website or email address.
Let’s face it: the majority of consumers require more contact agility form a company than telephone and website.
But more important than how many channels a company has is how well-integrated those channels are. Customers in 2017 want to be able to follow the same thread of service from phone to email to social media to livechat to text and back to phone without skipping a beat.
If an omnichannel strategy is not already a central part of your operations in 2017, it’s time to make it a priority (or get left behind).
In an era of u-scan checkouts and one-click purchasing, customers are eager to help themselves to the goods and services they need. Having automated systems in place for customers to pay a bill, make changes to their account, or add or remove features from the products or services that they purchase is a win-win: customers like the ability to get it and out and on with their lives, and companies can free up valuable service manpower.
Consider what services customers could complete on their own and tools they would need to do so. Then, make these tools available via your website or mobile app to easily take advantage of this 2017 customer service trend.
The line between email and the world wide web is beginning to blur, much to the excitement of email service providers, I’m sure. Whereas we typically think of email as a static block of text, innovators are now embedding emails with features such as tabs, drop-down menus, and text input fields so that an email is less of an electronic letter and more of an invitation to interact with a company.
To maximize the return on your email interactions with customers, consider embedding upsells and self-serve options to emails.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet-connected devices and objects are filling our homes and workplaces at a staggering rate. This has huge implications for the customer service world. Imagine that your refrigerator is malfunctioning. Instead of discovering this a half day later by the funky smell coming from the egg salad, you receive a text message from the company alerting you to the problem and offering a solution. Pretty neat, huh?
Not only that, but the company could track the volume of customers experiencing this problem and respond proactively to a large customer base by posting about the problem (and solution) via social media. Clearly, this could potentially be a customer service game-changer.
This sounds like something out of The Jetsons, but did you know there are clothing stores with mirrors that allow you to try on clothes without ever setting foot inside a dressing room or taking your own clothes off?
Or what if instead of seeing a Pokemon pop up on a park bench, you instead see a virtual "breadcrumb" appear when you’re in the grocery store, reminding you to pick up a gallon of milk, a reminder you earlier tapped into your phone when you saw your daugher pour the last drops into her cereal?
As a customer service center, these augmented reality experiences could be opportunities for upselling or establishing a strong customer relationship from the get-go.
Which of these 2017 customer service trends do you thinkg will bring big changes to the customer service field in your sector? But most importantly, will you be ready?