You don’t have to be in any specific job, industry or vertical to understand customer service.
It’s a discipline that impacts each and every one of us. Why? Because the concepts of customer service is truly universal.
It touches us all because we’re consumers and customers. And, to make it hit home even more, we’ve all had negative (and positive) experiences that shape our thinking about how business works.
And, if we think back to the jobs we’ve had and the careers we currently have, customer service is ripples through these organizations and effects way more than the ‘frontlines’ or the customer service department. From the highest rungs of the corporate ladder, the way a company thinks about how they treat their customers impacts not only their bottom line and revenues, but also their employees, engagement, and how long they’ll stick around.
Here’s six trends in customer service that will be influencing business in 2019:
Consumers Will Tap New Channels For Help
Today, there’s hundreds of ways for consumers to reach out for help.
Gone are the days when you picked up a phone, dialed one-eight-hundred and then waited for what seemed like an eternity to get someone to provide a solution.
That’s because there’s more channels than ever before. The phone has been relegated -- transformed, into a smartphone that does far more than call. It can communicate and reach brands at any moment, day or night.
Now, the expectation for a younger generation of consumers is that a brand will assist us whenever we need, regardless of business hours.
So, what channels for messaging are available to customers in the upcoming year?
Chatbots - According to research by Harvard Business Review, more than 24 percent of companies take longer than 24 hours to respond to customer questions. Yet, the expectation amongst millennials and even baby boomers is that they’ll get answers to issues immediately. Wondering how important this channel will be in the future? According to Gantner, chatbots will help fuel more than 85 percent of customer service interactions by 2020.
WhatsApp - What’s one of the easiest ways to get customers to reach out? By finding them where they are, and since a majority of the world is communicating with friends and families using WhatsApp, some businesses -- with the help of recently introduced enterprise APIs, are using the texting channel as a way to solve consumer problems.
Facebook / Messenger - People’s use of mobile messaging apps has been on a meteoric rise. It’s part of the reason why Facebook’s global platform has been so dominant, across not just their social media platform, but also their messaging ones. Consumers want convenience and accessibility and a platform like Messenger streamlines their experiences. According to Facebook, by the end of 2018, 78% of the world’s smartphone users will message every month. And the growth is only expected to continue: By 2021, it’s predicted that the global user base for mobile messaging apps will have risen by a further 23%.
Point of purchase doesn’t have to be relegated to the front of a store, in a bank of checkout counters.
Have you been to a retail store where the person who's helping you says, oh, this is what you're going to buy and they hand you your item. Just go to an Apple store and they just pull out their iPhone and they swipe your card, you don't have to go to a checkout center. There's a great example of creating less friction right there. You don't have to go and wait in line, you just checkout right with the employee that you're hanging out with and who's helping you. So there's a great example of how technology can help a retailer at the brick and mortar level.
Meet Customers Where They Are
Along the same lines as exploring new and evolving communication channels, it’s also important to think about “meeting” the customer, no matter where they are. Consider what this means for your business, and the creative, innovative places you can help your customers, engage them, and keep them coming back.
As with any digital experience, the ability for it to continually learn and understand from your previous visits is a huge benefit and helps explain why they’ve devoted resources to their mobile experiences, ordering technology like in-store kiosks, and a customer loyalty program.
Early learnings are that the digital advances are helping connect brands to multiple generations, while keeping a brand fresh.
The more you use them, like any digital experience, the more it can learn about you. Data can help pinpoint areas of concern, improve communications, address scalability and speed processes, and even help determine future product iterations.
This new era of personalization has all sorts of benefits for a fast casual restaurant like Panera, but can help benefit nearly any type of customer-facing industry from fast food to small chains of stores.
- Data is a big part of personalization efforts. The more a brand can build personalized experiences, the more succinct and swift the end product will be.
- A company that can use data, and therefore, personalization to help create entirely new experiences or food items based on what you desire is a company that is building relevance. In the food world, relevance means repeat visits, which equates to improved sales.
- Personalization efforts helped the brand improve and scale engagement within its digital fronts by allowing consumers access to caloric informations (one of the first in the industry). Now, customers can see interactive menus and customize them accordingly.
If you’re beginning to think this sounds more like a tech company, than that of a restaurant, you’re on the right track. As digital experiences, customer engagement, and technology continue to shape our world, they’re also shaping how new industries and verticals think about their products.
The CRMs Are Changing
For many businesses, small and large, customer relationship management tools help us control many layers of our work, from fielding and responding to leads, to helping resolve customer service issues.
In 2019, there’s going to be changes to the trends in the software that we use to help make business run more smoothly and efficiently. Here’s a list of three key reasons to explore and think about CRMs this year, from Green Rope.
- CRM is becoming as much about gaining new customers as it is about managing and tracking existing customers.
- About a third of buyers want email marketing and sales pipeline/funnel monitoring, and a quarter want reporting/analytics functionality and specific integrations with other platforms—this is slightly more advanced functionality.
- Buyers are coming from a wide variety of industry segments. Perhaps the most noticeable finding from this data is that no single industry accounts for a majority of CRM buyers.
Better Employee Experience = Better Customer Service
We think it's time for employers to start dedicating more focus on their most valuable asset: Their employees.
Today, more than ever, it's important for companies and their hiring managers to understand that without your employees, you have zero customer experience and service.
So, if you start to rewire that concept a bit, you'll track backwards and see that, ultimately, environment, culture, and company offerings (and yes, that includes pay, insurance, benefits, and perks) have a hand in creating a place that your employees will want to work at, and keeping coming back to.
Obviously, this has to work both ways. Executives and leaders need to understand that they may have some serious questions about how their mission and brand are built to make employee engagement important. Hiring managers also have to be on the lookout for hiring the calibre of employees who will help provide engaging and empathetic service.
In the end, if you have engaged, happy employees, you'll more than likely have a company that is respected for its execution of consistent, exemplary customer service.