With each passing year, innovations and technologies are playing a more crucial role in customer service. While traditional channels aren’t going anywhere, new trends emerge every day.
Automations like chatbots and clever IVR (interactive voice response) systems are becoming more and more popular.
Live chats and call centers are demanding nothing less than immediate responses from your customer service team.
Every interaction becomes personal to the point when companies know your name, IP address and social media accounts after the first visit.
And don’t get me started on the whole AR/VR trend.
So, what are the hottest customer service trends these days? Is the cyberpunk future already here? Or, maybe, nothing really changed since the first ticketing system?
Let’s take a closer look at these 6 emerging trends in customer service in 2020:
1. The demand for customer service representatives will decrease
The demand for customer service employees of all kinds has been growing rapidly for the last decade. But recently, this growth has been disrupted by increasing popularity of various automations (someday, robots will replace us all, won’t they?)
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of customer service representatives is projected to decline 2 percent from 2018 to 2028. This decline is expected as more tasks are being automated by chatbots, self-service technology, interactive voice-response systems, etc.
2% doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but it’s still a huge shift if you think of how many people are working in the customer service industry right now. The same report says that customer service representatives are still employed full-time in nearly every industry. And retail, insurance, and business support industries are staying the largest employers.
Businesses have understood long ago that high-quality customer service is the only way to stand out from competitors when other factors are equal. That’s why they invest in customer service training as well as the new technologies and automations.
2. AI will be gaining its momentum
Automation isn’t exactly a new customer service trend. Mainstream IVR (interactive voice response) systems appeared in the ‘90s, while the first wanna-be chatbot ELIZA was created even earlier — in 1966.
Today’s chatbots are not what they used to be in the ‘60s. Back then, ELIZA would just pick random phrases from people and generate pre-prepared or pre-programmed responses based on them.
Chatbots were rather primitive until recently. But then artificial intelligence became a game-changer. The technology has been advancing rapidly ever since with the new improved know-hows appearing every year.
Now, AI-powered chatbots can analyze human language and learn from it over time. They can search the web and their inner knowledge base, generate interactive responses and guide people from their first visit to the final purchase. All without human help.
So, does it really mean that automations will replace human customer service completely in 2020?
No, AI technology is not there yet. It’s great for automating routine customer service tasks like pre-qualifying potential leads with the help of simple yes/no questions or helping customers find answers in your help center. However, they still lack basic sympathy and can’t help with more complicated issues.
AI isn’t your savior yet, but it’s definitely a force to be reckoned with in 2020.
3. Customer service goes omni-channel
Contrary to common belief, omni-channel customer service is not just offering more than one communication channel to your customers (if anything, it’s called multichannel).
Omnichannel means offering such a seamless experience across those various communication channels that customers won’t even notice the difference. Like, if you have a brick-and-mortar store, an e-commerce website and a mobile app, they should be in perfect sync with each other. Сustomer data should be fresh and instantly updated across all channels.
At least that’s what customers expect of modern businesses. So many researches have confirmed this already that I just can go all day citing them. Here are just a few:
- 75% of customers feel frustrated having to repeat themselves when they contact a brand with an issue.
- Companies with an omni-channel customer engagement strategy retain on average 89% of their customers (compared to 33% for companies without one).
- 73% of customers use multiple channels while shopping.
One thing is for sure. In 2020, omnichannel support isn’t a customer service trend you MIGHT consider — it’s a MUST. Customers will switch from desktop to mobile, from a website to a mobile app, from a live chat to social media. And you must meet them everywhere with up-to-date information and timely help.
Modern customer service tools have made it even easier. For instance, HelpCrunch as an all-in-one customer communication tool connects live chat and email support while collecting real-time data about every customer. Support agents have access to default info like visitor’s language or time zone, while you can also transfer your custom data.
4. Customer service is becoming real-time
Let me put it this way. Customers expectations are constantly rising to the point when ALL businesses are expected to be fast and convenient like Amazon or Google. As Brad Birnbaum, CEO & Founder of Kustomer, so accurately put it in his piece for Forbes:
Since Amazon first sowed its success through the democratization of consumer ease and changed the way we view what’s possible just about anything can be delivered to your house within 24 hours. A car can show up for you within minutes. A new wardrobe can arrive within a day or two. Groceries can come within hours…
… With every great on-demand experience customers have with one brand, they expect it to be replicated by other brands, regardless of industry.
So, where are we on the whole real-time thing?
The most common customer service channels haven’t really changed over the past decade. Email, live chat, and phone calls are staying equally popular among users with social media becoming increasingly drawing. What has changed is the time that people are willing to wait. That’s why providing real-time support with a first response time of 1 minute or less is one of the biggest customer service trends now.
But don’t be afraid just yet. Real-time doesn’t mean you have to hire dozens of call center operators and go all in on it. There are several ways to make your customer service as real-time as possible:
- Having a live chat on your website or online store, which will allow your support agents to handle several requests simultaneously.
- Offering detailed self-service portals with answers to all common questions.
- Incorporating a chatbot that can answer basic questions and find relevant articles in your help center.
5. Personalization has never been so personal
Account-based targeting had hardly gained wide popularity before the new customer service trend took its place – people-based targeting. Before, businesses were trying to provide personalized customer experience to certain companies, now customer service can target certain people within those companies.
For instance, tools like Userproof allow you to set dynamic website images, CTA’s, and blocks of text that will change for each visitor and use case separately. Basically, you can create different versions of your website and each visitor will see the unique one tailored for their use case.
Proactive customer service went even further. You can now see chatbots’ messages that not only target you precisely based on your behavior but can call you by name and mention your personal info.
Of course, the other side of this medal is the question of necessity. Does it really make sense to take personalization this far? Where is the line between personalized and creepy?
I guess we’ll see. This customer service trend is relatively new and it is too soon to draw any conclusions. But one thing is for sure: you can’t target every potential lead the same way. Segmentation and personalization are the new big trends, and you can still jump on the hype trend.
6. AR and VR can be a great way to stand out
I had found sections dedicated to augmented and virtual reality in almost every recent article about business trends I’ve read. Gartner has named it as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends two years ago already. And although marketers have been discussing various ways to implement this tech, you don’t usually see them succeed. Not often, that is.
There’s a very simple reason for this. Due to the high price and complexity, AR/VR are still mostly available to big brands with vast resources.
But that only means that if you do try and implement AR and VR in your customer experience strategy, this will give you an incredible edge over the competition. One of the most often cited examples is the IKEA Place app. You can install it on your phone and try how any piece of furniture will look in your room through the AR technology.
So yeah, I don’t think that AR/VR technologies will be the next big thing in the customer service industry. For one thing, it’s still inaccessible for mid-size and small businesses. But if you have some innovative ideas, maybe they’re worth a try?
Customer service isn’t developing in some kind of vacuum where nothing new can come through. As any other industry, it’s also largely influenced by hype trends like artificial intelligence or virtual reality.
But there’s one thing in the customer service industry that will never go out of fashion and that is genuine timely help. Get a decent customer service tool like HelpCrunch, give customers all necessary means and ways to contact you and your work is half done right there.
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