You can feel it. The role and nature of customer service is changing. Looking back on 2013 we have seen the continued evolution of customer service to meet the demands of 21st century consumers. The maturing of social channels combined with the adaptation of traditional channels is creating a multichannel experience full of promise but creating challenges for customer service organizations.
So what does the new year have in store for us? Here are 5 trends in customer service for 2014:
Real-Time To Right Time
The focus of customer service, particularly in social media, moves from real-time to right time. While tools and process will continue to deliver efficiency and value, the challenges of scale will be difficult for most businesses and organizations. The key then becomes communication and managing expectations. Successful customer service organizations will be those that set, communicate AND meet expectations rather then letting their customers set the expectations for them.
Customer Service As A Marketing Opportunity
We will see a focus on integrating customer service data into overall market research and customer experience. It’s not about Big Data, but correlating data that helps to give us a better view of the customer. Customer service activity, community forums and knowledge bases will be moved out of the back rooms to be a more integral piece of the puzzle. The edge will go to the companies that can effectively mine their data and find value, whether it’s in an improved customer experience or as a feedback loop to product development and marketing strategy.
Bonus: It’s also about helping your customers find you. Google’s new Hummingbird update has tipped the scales in favor of the user rather than the keyword, which brings greater value to your knowledge bases and community forums.
Multichannel To Customer-centric
There was a time when it was enough to have a toll-free phone number as a single channel for customer service. The focus will now be on the evolution of the integrated multi-channel customer service experience. That’s a complicated way of saying customer service organizations will need to more strongly consider the customer view. A customer may initiate an interaction on social media but expect a unified, integrated experience as the conversation moves through email, web, voice and any other channels.
Mobile Apps Will Have Support Buttons
Customers are less likely to go to channels for support and more likely to expect support to come to them. For mobile apps, having a support button inside will be table stakes. And hardware device vendors will start to incorporate a support button in their devices. Amazon set the bar by putting a “mayday” button in Kindle Fire.
Gamification And Beyond
A big part of the customer service experience is the interaction between customers and customer service agents. As much as customer service organizations focus on the “customer experience” they will focus inwardly on the “agent experience.” Customer service organizations will increase adoption of Gamification and other techniques to improve agent morale.
Whether your business is B2B or B2C, in the end customer service often boils down to P2P — Person-to-Person. There will be an increased focus on the productivity and effectiveness of customer support agents — looking to reduce the friction at the point of contact. Happy, motivated customer service agents provide better support and a better customer experience.