It should come as no surprise to customer service professionals that 2018 will be a year of innovation and change in the industry. Customers continue to demand more from companies and the role of the customer service agent has become more important than ever before in keeping satisfaction levels high. In an industry that moves so quickly, staying ahead of the curve can be important to exceed expectations with customer service and make it a competitive advantage during the sales process.
Without further ado, here are 6 trends in customer service to watch in 2018…
1) Increased internal and external automation in customer service – This is one of those “hot topic” issues people are always talking about but, in the past, was easy to dismiss or put off. However, according to Forrester, it’s now time to set expectations around automation and AI for your business. In the B2B (business-to-business) industry, some companies are starting to utilize external chat bots for simple requests like addresses, hours of operation, and phone numbers. On the back end, complex automation rules created in customer service software are enabling agents to work more efficiently as applicable tickets and information are routed directly to them with little effort.
2) Budget increases and reallocation for customer service teams – With this new emphasis on technology in customer service, companies are now investing more financial resources into their customer service solution. Led by increasing technology investments in general, many companies have come to the realization that customer service is not “just a cost center” but a team that can efficiently curb customer retention rates AND upsell customers when appropriate. Globalization is also a key factor in these technology investments, with companies needing technology to communicate seamlessly with off-shore customer service assistance to provide extended hours. Having a cloud-based customer service software solution in place lets agents around the world help customers anywhere, any time. It provides a full history of all past communication and detailed “notes” (i.e. top customer, demanding personality, etc.) so all team members can be in a better position to be successful. All of this information makes agents smarter than ever and better equipped to find the right answer quickly and deliver it in a manner the customer will accept.
3) Reliance on self-service solutions will become stronger – Another reason so many companies are investing in customer service technology is because of the strong customer demand and response for customer self-service solutions. Now that these solutions are included automatically within customer service software, there is little reason for companies to not have an online support presence. What will take self-service a step further in 2018 is the ability for companies to create a more personalized self-service experience for their customers. For example, many solutions now grant a substantial amount of power to customer service teams so only certain content is shown to customers based on the products they have. This prevents confusion and ensures customers are trying to solve their own issues with the right information.
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4) Customer service teams will continue to emphasize software integrations – With so much spending on different technology systems, one of the big trends in 2017 was facilitating communication between the systems through integrations. Especially in the B2B industry where saying the right thing is crucial, expect the number of integrations to grow and for these B2B integration solutions to become not only more complex but also more seamless. The amount of information shared between systems will increase and a wider acceptance of “webhook” technology will make it easier for more integrations to share information in real-time.
5) Mobile customer support (and live chat) will continue its rise in popularity – Simply put, over the past decade mobile has significantly changed the ways companies provide customer service. With USA smartphone ownership in 2017 (77%) more than double what it was in 2011 (35%), companies will continue to pivot away from traditional phone support and become more well-versed in other offerings. Self-service is obviously on the list, but one that will continue to grow and see increased usage is live chat. If you’re still holding onto that stand-alone chat solution, 2018 may be the time to move away from it to a customer service technology solution that has chat built-in from the start. More chat sessions are being initiated on mobile than ever before, and the drop off rate for long response times is higher with these devices than other mediums. Having a chat solution built-in to customer service software with easy access to information and conversation history helps to boost response times and decrease the disconnection rate.
6) Customer service hiring will focus more on “agent agility” than ever before – What exactly does this mean? Instead of looking for an agent that does one thing very well – be it chat or phone service – companies will look to hire more agents that are great at assisting customers in multiple ways. Having these utility agents on staff can be a life saver for a customer service team as they can move seamlessly as needed to whatever channel customers are utilizing to seek out help. By employing agents with a high level of omnichannel customer service experience and agility, you’ll decrease wait time across the board and help keep agents on their toes. The customer service industry has a historically high turnover rate because agents get bored doing the same thing every single day. Keeping them engaged and challenged will create moments of accomplishment and boost morale so they stick around and become true assets to your business.
Of these six trends, there are two common themes that remain consistent – technology and communication enablement. In 2018 companies will continue in 2018 to use technology so customers can find their own answers easier (through personalized self-service) and agents can be more efficient in assisting customers. This year will also see smarter and more frequent conversations occur as companies make themselves more accessible to customers. In addition, businesses will enable agents to peruse a larger but more organized information center to create better responses. The key link between the themes mentioned – customer service software – will play an important role for companies who look to be at the forefront of their industry in tackling these emerging digital trends to stay ahead of competitors.
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