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The world’s changing faster than ever.
When my grandma (born in 1925), wanted to do some fancy shopping, she had to drive 40km to the next big city and then she was shopping for a whole day. She was asking store assistants or other shoppers which product they would recommend and then - she was buying it.
How do I shop?
It takes 10 minutes from a thought that I should do some shopping to the moment I make a purchase. In the meantime, I’m able to read reviews about this product and find the best price. The only difference is that I have to wait about 2-3 days for delivery.
The gap between generations is huge now, but it’s not only regular people who have to keep up with fast changes. Entrepreneurs have to cope with it too if they don’t want their businesses to be out of date.
In this post, I’d like to focus on customer experience trends. Here’s how customer service of the future will look like.
A quick history of customer service
Before we get to the future of customer service, let’s see how it looked in the past.
A hundred years ago people used to go to the store and would get help in person. Even though people knew the telephone, no one thought about it in terms of customer support.
But then, in the 60’s, forward-thinking companies started to see an opportunity in technology. They began to fill large rooms with call center agents who spent their time answering incoming calls and helping their customers. The 80s introduced toll-free numbers, and during the 90s, call centers become essential for customer service.
It took almost 100 years for the phone to become one of the main customer service channels.
For comparison, the Internet went global in the early 90s and before the 20th century ended, high-tech companies like Microsoft and Oracle became major players within the industry, providing contact centers with everything from CRM software to cloud-based solutions. That’s about 10 years.
Next, was live chat. Although first prototypes were invented in 1970, it came back at the beginning of the 21st century as a customer service software and gained popularity a couple of years later. No wonder why, it quickly turned out that comparing to phones and emails, live chat is the most efficient way of contact (you can try it too, by signing up for the free LiveChat trial.)
Same thing happened with social media channels. Facebook was invented in 2004, and although it was just a network back then, many businesses adopted it as an additional customer support channel.
When I was talking with Shep Hyken about the future of customer service, this is what he said about how mobiles and Internet access have changed customer experience:
“Mobile device. Here is the thing about it. That little computer we carry around in our pocket, allows us to go onto all kinds of different channels. We can go to a website. And from the website, we can search frequently asked questions. \n
We can go to the Youtube and watch videos on how to do something if a company has set up a video tutorial. We can log onto a website, and we can watch, or ask a question. And crowdsource from other customers answers on how we can best use a product. We can jump on a social channel like Facebook or leave a review on a review site to let companies know how we feel. We can instant chat. \n
And all of those are channels that can be found on that as you called earlier this smartphone. Without even using the phone function.”
Now, the winners are companies that know how to make use of cross-platform customer service and train their agents not only to answer calls and emails but also to live chat and respond on social media. It’s the era of omnichannel customer service.
Trend #1: Cross-channel CRM integrations
The best customer service comes from having the clearest understanding of your customers, because you can understand them more easily, you have past context to work with and you know their preferences.\nThe ideal omnichannel integration is to bring all the information you know about your customers together so that whenever they need you, your support team is fully informed and ready to help.\nRather than trying to make a single tool do everything — “It blends! It dices! It polishes the car!”—deeply integrating separate specialist tools (for example chat or phone channels) into your help desk gives you the benefits of a single customer view without the compromise of “all in one” design.\nMat Patterson, Help Scout
Customers expect you to be able to respond on every channel of their choice.
That’s why many CRM applications offer integrations with social media, email or chat so customer service agents don’t have to check other sites. Instead, they can be notified about a message as soon as it’s sent.
So if you’ll be looking for an eCommerce platform or a help desk, make sure that they provide chat, social media and email integrations.
Trend #2: Self-service
“Time has become one of the most valuable assets in consumers' life, so they highly appreciate those brands which let them save it. Making customers' lives easier is a distinctive advantage in terms of retention; that means providing customers easy-accessible, useful information, even before they might think to ask you about that. Self-service is the essence of proactive support and - as I usually say - the best answer is the one you didn't even have to give.
The whole idea of self-service is focused on the fact that the company should give its customers the knowledge and tools, so they’re able to make a purchase without the assistance. Here are quite basic ways you can help your customers to save them some time:
- Make user-friendly websites,
- Build a knowledge base and FAQ section,
- Record video tutorials,
- Host webinars,
- Create blogs and publish podcasts,
- Give your customers access to their data.
Self-service is one of the main trends in the customer service industry as it brings many benefits: reduced costs, increased productivity and high return on investment.
Besides, people hate to waste time! They love it when they can avoid waiting in a queue or get their questions addressed ASAP.
The biggest companies spare no expense to keep ahead of the competition and provide their customers’ a new level of experience. For example, Amazon has introduced Amazon Go, a store without checkout.
Our “Just Walk Out” Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.
No lines, no payment, just a seamless experience. It’s a completely new way of thinking about self-service!
Trend #3: Empowerment of emotions in customer service
Many customer service agents are afraid of a possible unemployment caused by chatbots. They think that there is only one scenario: chatbots are going to take over human tasks.
Well, here’s the good news: it’s not going to happen yet.
There is one thing that makes a great difference if comes to customer service - emotions. We can teach chatbots everything we can, but they will never be able to empathize with customers. That’s a huge problem, as emotional intelligence is known as one of the most important customer service traits!
In 2013, American Express Service conducted a survey with 1620 consumers. 63% of them said they felt their heart rate increase when they thought about receiving great customer service. For 53% of those tested, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved.
It proves that the key to customers’ hearts are positive emotions associated with awesome customer service. In other words, customer satisfaction is something that makes customers want to come back to you and make business with you.
Sorry chatbots, you have a lot to learn!
Customer service of the future
Marcin Borowski, my colleague, is a host of LiveChat webinars. The topic of his last webinar was “Quo Vadis? Customer service in 2020,” so I asked him to sum up the conclusions for me. Here’s what Marcin wrote:
We were discussing the future of customer service with Jonny Everett (The Chat Shop) and Szymon Golyski (Crazy Call). Apart from pop culture visions becoming reality (Siri or Cortana vs. Jarvis featured in Iron Man), companies are embracing solutions that allow them to move closer to the customers - and increasingly popular messaging platforms like FB Messenger, WeChat or Kik are just that. \n
Combined with a booming chatbot industry, we can expect a surge of both artificial and human operators available right next to our friends in the messaging app we’re using every day. \n
What’s worth mentioning is an avant-garde vision presented by Mark Zuckerberg - introducing virtual reality on a large scale. If VR sees its way to our homes, joining an assistant personally inside a virtual office would no longer stay in sci-fi movies.
Can you agree with above customer experience trends? Is it how customer service of the future will look like?
Leave a comment!