Trends Impacting Customer Service

The corporate world, the consumer market and society in general is moving and progressing at a dizzying speed. The advancements in technology and the demand to use them have risen at a mind-boggling pace. Opportunities to service customers have increased and so has the face of the customers – who have become more demanding and impatient. Serving as the driving force are certain trends impacting customer service more than ever and are pushing companies to change the way they approach customer service.

– Smartphones with wonder applications are now commonplace and people are spending an increased amount of time on these. They are used as much for sourcing information and receiving information on the go, as for calling or keeping in touch. Customers are able to contact companies from wherever they are and irrespective of the time of day or night. With the power being in the palm of their hands, customers are now demanding that they receive a response to their queries and a resolution to their problems from the word go. This mobile scenario is certainly one of the most crucial trends that will impact customer service. Companies are expected to re-do their internal processes and business strategies to service their customers round the clock.

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– Then there is social media. Servicing customers via these channels has seen a massive increase. Social media puts a company’s customer service in the spotlight and hence having a tight grip on its processes and service methods is vital. Of course, customers are using their smartphones to tap in to these channels as well. So where is there the slightest opportunity to let up or rest on laurels when it comes to customer service? One minor service lapse can blow out of proportion if not handled carefully over social media.

– Customer perception is reality. From a customer’s perceived opinion all aspects of customer service are vital and work in conjunction with each other. They demand fast, reliable, courteous, empathetic, knowledgeable and top of the line customer service in every single connection they make with the company they are investing in. More often than not companies miss the mark since, apart from some of these expectations being unrealistic, they are juggling their time in a number of activities and also the traditional methods of doing business are proving very expensive. Companies need to look at moving to self-service approach which means that they put in place tools like troubleshooting diagrammatic representations, having on-line representatives to walk a customer through decision trees – tools that customers can access easily and quickly find solutions. Self-service seems to be fast catching on as the most pro-active, cost effective and time saving technique of providing 24×7 superlative customer service. It is one of the trends impacting customer service that will prove to be a winning concept for both customers and companies. As an example – who would want to make the effort of trudging to a bank and standing in a queue to complete a transaction, when it is easier to make such transactions on-line via the smartphone or computer system?

– Customers are also now seeing benefit in helping each other via the electronic media. Companies that understand this ‘crowd sense’ are more successful. Customers tend to rely on each other for information and are more comfortable doing ‘crowd business’ with companies recommended by their associates and friends. Companies that are able to please their customers and increase their loyalty will benefit most from this trend. Your company will have a future and be able to provide customer service on when customers see a future for themselves in working with you.

– The emergence of new players in the global market and the strengthening of current players has made the competition very fierce and upped the ante on customer service leading to customer loyalty. Servicing customers either through fully digitized manner involving minimal human contact, increases a company’s chances of growth and profit. However, the chance to build a personal rapport is very slim. However, if you conjoin digitization with a human touch the impact on the customers is much higher and positive. Using tools like interactive videos, troubleshooting guides through decision trees where companies have a customer service representative walk-through processes to resolve an issue – have a human contact and yet maximize the technology available. This is sure to be one of the major trends impacting customer service for the long haul. When customers can feel a bond and forge personal relationships, it leads to a comfort feel that in turn results in higher customer loyalty. Digitize with a personal human touch.

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Companies that understand the importance of these trends impacting customer service, they would have more than a head-start over their competitors. The evolution of and pointed focus on customer service just cannot be ignored. Companies that are able manage a large loyal customer base, with low costs will be the ones to sustain and grow in the future. As pointed out, giving the customer what they need and how they want it will be the game changer and key differentiator. Whether it is through self-service techniques of troubleshooting, on-line chats or user friendly applications for mobile devices – or through ‘crowd business service’ where customers have access to a broader range of services and customers can communicate with the company and other consumers – customers want service that they perceive as being efficient and personal.

As the face of customer service changes, each company will need to seriously analyse which approach would work best for them. For example, in the travel and banking sectors, self-service works very well for most customers and in fact is the preferred method of customer service. In the hospitality and healthcare sectors, people want personal service as remote troubleshooting is not practical in these particular segments. The trends impacting customer service have changed drastically and are slated to change in the future too. Having robust customer service processes, well trained and high quality staff and an overall customer focus is the flexibility that companies will need, irrespective of which trend takes over.

Personalized customer service is unlikely to vanish but its importance will fade over time in most sectors. Only sectors that will fail with self-service or crowd service will retain this form of customer service. Crowd service will work in sectors where public opinion matters – a destination to travel, hotel to stay at, things to do – are all areas where customer helping customer makes a better impact. With customer expectations rising constantly and being sky-high, it is for companies to evaluate the best method to stay on top of their game and provide customer service that is superlative at the lowest costs possible.

Whatever route companies decide to take to provide customer service, there are some common expectations that customers have.

1. Being able to keep track of all interactions taken place with the customer, irrespective of the channel used. Customers still want to feel important by not having to repeat any vital information or any details of the past that would still be relevant for them today. The company must present a united fore and face when it comes with valuable customer data. The ability to integrate all the data via all channels is an expectation that customers see as obvious and a mark of great customer service.
2. All channels of communication and interaction would necessarily need applications that would be compatible with mobile devices so that the busy customers don’t need to wait or find an opportune time to ask questions or even troubleshoot to find answers for themselves.

The importance of managing and running faster than the changing trends impacting customer service will make or break the deal for companies going forward. Customer service strategies need to be strong, robust and easily implementable. Customers have evolved now and are unlikely to follow trends that companies will set – rather they will set the mood and trends impacting customer service.

“Customer Service is everything and anything that touches a customer – directly or indirectly. Customer service means servicing customers and it’s so much more than just solving problems or addressing complaints. Customer service is part of a holistic customer experience that is capable of providing a critical competitive advantage in today’s increasingly cluttered and commoditized marketplace.”— Joseph Jaffe, Founder at Evol8tion

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