The death of amazing service is greatly exaggerated. For most small business, amazing service now can be the brand differentiator.

Here are 5 trends to watch for on the coming year that will impact your business:

  1. Technology everywhere. The Internet now allows any product to be shipped to any customer anywhere in the world at anytime. This makes customer service the only sustainable competitive advantage for every small business. The powerful combination of mobility, the cloud, social media and big data now makes it easy to give customers personalized service. Consumerization from companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Zappos set the expectation bar very high for every small business. Customers can even customize their own product solution. Technology now enables them to receive their product the same day (instead of the standard two day free shipping.). Customers can even “try their clothes on” by uploading their image to the Internet instead of having to shop in person.
  2. Self Service. Technology has come along way since the automat and the ATM. Now customers are more likely to communicate with your company via an automated tool like the web, social media and kiosks. In fact, according to Zendesk, 91% of customers would rather use a computer knowledgebase to solve their needs than talk to a live person! This allows the educated customer to get the solutions to their queries much more quickly. They increasingly demand to have full visibility inside of your company.
  3. Customers talk more. The explosion of communication alternatives makes it easier to talk to your customers, but also makes it more difficult for your staff to keep up with this multichannel communication strategy. Customers are always more likely to complain than to give a compliment. However, satisfied customers can become an unstoppable marketing machine for your company and give the feedback necessary to make even more successful products and services.
  4. Proactive support. Companies are no longer waiting for customers to reach out to them to solve problems. They now proactively communicate with customers on an ongoing basis to see how they can help before problems occur. For example, the team at Sage North America  routinely calls its customers and business partners before the busy tax season to see how they can help.
  5. 24/7. Forget 9 to 5. Most customers now expect to get answers to their questions 24 hours a day. This can be done through an automated computer interface or a staff taking care of customers that are employed remotely in different time zones around the world.

Requirements for offering amazing service have never been higher, but the opportunity to differentiate your brand by doing outstanding work in this area has never been greater.

What trends are you seeing in your business for next year?