The future of customer service is the future of your business. Consumers demand amazing service and will spend more to get it.
Companies that don’t adapt to providing a higher standard of customer success ultimately risk their future. And companies that do reap the rewards.
Each day brings new ideas and new challenges at a faster, break-neck pace. And in a service-oriented space, you might feel a bit lost.
What can you do to ensure your business keeps pace with customer service trends? We’ve got you covered. We've outlined 12 customer service trends to watch and even get ahead of your competitors. Our approach has earned us multiple, back-to-back customer service awards.
12 Trends Driving the Future of Customer Service
- Omnichannel support
- Customer Success
- Artificial Intelligence & Chatbots
- Real-Time Communication
- Social Media
- Empowered Customer Service Agents
- Ticketing Systems
- Self-Service Options
- Data-Driven Support
- Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology
1) Omnichannel Support
A study by Oracle shows that 77% of customers are “fed up” with bad customer service, and 91% of consumers only buy from brands they trust. That means poor customer service leads to lost customers and revenue.
Omnichannel is one of the most successful trends in marketing. An omnichannel contact center treats each customer experience as a single journey with the customer at the center. All contact channels work seamlessly along every step of the way.
Although many companies offer multiple channels, they aren’t necessarily omnichannel.
Multichannel approaches put the business at the center. And in this approach, channels often operate in silos, which disrupts the user experience.
According to Shopify, the omnichannel vs. multichannel difference is clear: “Omnichannel removes the boundaries between different sales and marketing channels to create a unified, integrated whole.
The distinctions between channels—onsite, social, mobile, email, physical, and instant messaging—disappear as a single view of the customer as well as a single experience of commerce emerges.”
But, omnichannel doesn’t mean every customer or every company uses every channel. Instead, successful strategies engage customers where they are.
It doesn’t tell them where they have to go. And they know what their various types of customers need. If a channel isn’t well-executed, you’ll do more harm than good. In fact, you’ll erode the customer experience.
2) Customer Success
Customer service is one thing, but it doesn’t guarantee your customers will stick around. In a world where it’s easier to do customer service right, great customer service experience might not be a differentiator. Customers must also get value.
A focus on customer success delivers value faster and more consistently over time. And results show up in your retention numbers.
So what’s the difference? Customer service is about reacting to situations and interactions. Good customer service happens when a product delivers on its promise. Or when the package arrives on time or early.
By contrast, customer success is proactive. It addresses problems before they start. And it arms customers with what they need for success. Customer success identifies metrics that create successful customers and works to help every customer succeed faster.
Ask yourself, what can we do today to help our customers get value from what we offer? You might even hire a Customer Success team to track, plan, and facilitate customer success.
3) Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots
Conversational marketing is trending, but conversations take time. So, chatbots are on the front lines.
A chatbot is “[P]owered by pre-programmed responses or artificial intelligence to answer a user’s questions without the need of a human operator.” Think of them as virtual assistants right in your app, ready to help customers at any time.
While chatbots aren’t right for every business, they are making waves in customer service. And now that building a chatbot takes just two minutes, companies have no excuse to ignore this trend.
Customer service AI chatbots can handle many questions and issues. For example, chatbots can respond to easy questions about where to find a function. They can offer price estimates based on algorithms.
They can even connect consumers directly with human agents. This keeps the customer from filling out an internet form and waiting for a response.
And bots are there when your customer needs them. Even at peak times, chatbots have no waiting. Plus, machine learning also means your bot gets better over time.
Chatbots can also connect customers with resources from your knowledge base. Then that content can be continually updated by user feedback. Wins all around.
4) Real-Time Communication
AI can do a lot, but that doesn’t mean people are obsolete. Even if you have chatbots, you still need human agents available for the trickier issues. And they should be available right now.
Because that’s what real-time means. Here are some examples of real-time communication channels:
Phone calls may be taking a back seat to other channels, but some problems and some customers require it. For those occasions, it may make sense for you to maintain virtual call centers.
Internet of Things
The internet of things connects us through our devices and possessions. And these things offer opportunities for real-time communication.
Think about how Amazon allows customers to place orders through Alexa. There’s nothing more real-time than that!
Where chatbots and help centers leave off is where live chat takes off. Live chat software gives your business the chance to speak directly with customers online. However, humans run the chat instead of AI.
Efficient companies make chat easy to find. Take Netflix, for example. The support page offers a quick link to chat with an agent:
Ticketing systems can combine perfectly with live chat, too. Robust systems (like Nextiva) let you tap into your knowledge base and automate customer service actions.
5) Social Media
Go beyond the algorithm and use social media to provide stellar customer service. Social media is about more than ads. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn let customers vent about or celebrate a brand on their networks.
Here are some winning social media customer interactions:
- Say thanks for kind words and recommendations.
- If the customer has a complaint, solve it for them right on the post. Nothing shows off your commitment to service than actually showing it off.
- Answer questions and offer resources.
- Get out ahead of issues. Did your latest release have a confusing element? Explain it on social media and reach your followers right in their feed.
- Show off your most useful or new features right in the feed. After all, they’re not going to open that new release email, but they are scrolling Instagram right now.
You work hard for customer engagement like views, comments, and follows, so get the most out of it. Social media is the ultimate in personalization. Businesses that use social use many customer service trends in one go. What’s not to “Like”?
Even as our world gets more virtual, face-to-face customer service interactions are trending.
One look at YouTube or Skillshare shows that video is a powerful tool for delivering content. For Millennials and others, video is a natural fit. Here are some ways to use video in your customer service portfolio.
Web-based seminars provide real-time, face-to-face content right to your customer’s device. Platforms like Zoom or Go To Webinar give help you manage attendees, personalize the platform, and run webinars. You can even record webinars for attendees to review later.
Get up close and personal with face to face meetings throughout the customer journey.
From virtual demos during the sales process to educational meetings during onboarding, online meetings help you stay in touch with your customers. They build bonds you can’t create any other way.
Email has long been a tool for stellar customer service. Take it to the next level with embedded video. Video emails have higher engagement too!
And you can deliver highly personalized and detailed communication right to an inbox. When you find yourself writing, “Sorry if this is too complicated,” consider a video email explaining the issue.
Research says, “Consumers expect highly personalized shopping experiences from retailers and are willing to spend more money when brands deliver targeted recommendations.” (Source: Segment)
The same research says 71% of consumers are frustrated by impersonal experiences. So, it’s clear that personalized customer service increase profits.
With so much at stake, it’s time to take personalization seriously.
Seamless In-Store to Online Experience
In-store employees should know what you purchased online. It’s all well and good to have an online store and an app, but they can’t live in a silo. Leverage an omnichannel approach and make all the info available to all stakeholders.
Recommendations should be on point. Since they drive impulse buys, they should be specific and personalized.
If not, you miss an opportunity for profit and invite screenshots of your ad on social media: #advertisingfail. Take Old Navy’s lead offer quality suggestions at every turn.
Get it Right, Fast
Brands should interact on a personal level right away. If a customer calls for help, your rep should know their purchase history. Should a customer comes from a social media post, tailor their experience around that.
8) Empowered Customer Service Representatives
Ticketing systems can empower your agents with knowledge. But go beyond that and enable them to take action. Virgin Atlantic’s customer service agents can reach out directly to customers—and customers can reach out directly to them. Talk about customer care!
Other companies give agents the go-ahead to offer solutions to problems without escalating issues. If a customer is angry on live chat, a real-time refund discount boosts customer satisfaction. Ritz-Carlton empowers reps to spend up to $2000 to make a customer happy.
Don’t make them wait while your rep asks management. Or worse, has to email the customer later. A good result builds the customer relationship.
Because your agents on the front lines of customer service, they may be the first to spot more widespread problems. Give your agents the channels they need to alert you or even solve the problems themselves.
9) Ticketing Systems
When customers interact with you on many channels, you must centralize customer issues.
Enter help desks and ticketing systems. Ticketing systems empower support teams with information at the right time. They can assign, redistribute, and collaborate to solve problems fast. This makes all touchpoints more productive.
For example, the rep can see past user behavior to see what they are having problems with.
This also provides a better experience for the consumer. Everyone they talk to knows what they are talking about. Plus reps can interface with the knowledge base to find the answers. And that’s even if they’ve never seen the problem before.
Ticketing systems also help businesses identify common pain points and issues. Quality systems offer high-level analytics so you can easily see and address trends.
10) Self-Service Options
Self-service happens when your customers can do the thing on their own. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, “81% of all customers attempt to troubleshoot themselves before reaching out to a live representative.”
Self-service customer support is the DIY of commerce. It can take many forms. But the main goal is that customers do what they need to do quickly and without help. And they thank you for it. Here are some self-service trends:
The original self-service is where you get it yourself. Once upon a time, we all had someone to pump our gas, check out our groceries, and bring food to our tables. Now customers dispense their own yogurt, scan their groceries, and do what they need to do without help.
A knowledge base is a central repository for information about your product. Think how-to documents, videos, and FAQs to help customers answer their questions. Can’t remember where to check your order status? Find out on the knowledge base.
A long time ago, customization was done item by item, person by person. That’s if you could customize something at all. Used to be you had to fit into that one size or too bad. Now customers can customize interfaces, notifications, and more themselves.
11) Data-Driven Support
Data isn’t going away. But the newest trend is using it smarter to meet customer needs. Sure, it’s great to have lots of likes and lots of followers, but if people aren’t using your product, then those KPIs don’t help you.
Luckily, data collection these days goes way beyond likes, ticket resolution rates, or even customer satisfaction surveys. To provide the best customer experience, you need to invest in the technology to get the metrics that matter.
Then you need to properly use those analytics across all teams—not just at your help desk.
However, your help desk is a great place to look for key KPIs, especially if you have a robust ticketing system to lean on.
12) Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies
Blockchain and other Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) are behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
The value of DLT goes to customer service goes way beyond cryptocurrency transactions. It’s about the new technologies involved in tracking each transaction.
e-Commerce is already figuring out how to use this evolving sector. Some potential benefits include:
- More access to financial transactions to people currently outside the dominant systems.
- Easier tracking from a central location.
- Reduced or no-fee transactions.
This technology is still so young. We don’t know where it’s headed. But we know that now is the time to help plot that course.
Are You Ready for the Future of Customer Service?
The face of customer service continues to change and evolve. Successful businesses will test new ideas and create versions of their customer service strategy. This is good for customers and great for your bottom line.
What upcoming trends are you testing today? If so, how they are changing your customer service? They might even change the way you work.
Head of Community and SEO at G2, a B2B software and services review site with over 650,000 real-user reviews. Levi is an Indiana-native and IU alum who in his spare time enjoys solving paranormal mysteries with his dog Frodo.