Customer experience and great customer service is more critical now than ever before.
In our 2020 report, Creating Value From Social Media Customer Service, we identified six key trends that every brand should consider. Some of them appear to contradict each other: automation is increasing, and yet people value the human touch above all else; brands must deliver standardised levels of customer service across markets, and yet consumers want personalised content and services. If you did a bit deeper, those apparent contradictions are, in fact, different sides of the same trends.
Here is a summary of our findings.
Trend 1: Customer convenience drives how and when brands respond
The ability for customers to self-serve is increasing. When a customer has a simple problem, they don’t need live support. This takes the strain off the customer service team, and Gartner’s research shows that 40% of live service responses could be done using self-service. Ultimately, what customers want is a fast resolution to a problem, in the manner (and on the channel) that they choose.
Trend 2: Automation is improving.
Customers are happy to use automated tools if they get what they need, when they need it. Retail research from Capgemini shows that consumers believe automation can help to solve in-store issues such as queuing (66%) and finding items (60%).
Online, retailers are using automation to provide more efficient customer service in the form of chatbots and robotic process automation.
That might be by linking customer interactions across different channels, for example, so that human customer service teams get a full view of the customer at the point at which they speak to them; or even connecting proactive customer service to sales, so that customer service becomes a profit centre.
Trend 3: For complex problems and personal service, you need skilled humans.
For more complex customer service issues, you need skilled humans. Automation will support those people by taking the mundane queries off them, so they can spend more time with the customers who need them. The key skills are good communication, empathy, creativity and problem solving, and critical thinking. Accenture’s research shows that people stop doing business with a company because of poor customer service. The person they deal with matters.
Humans can deliver proactive and personalised customer service, too.
They can express empathy, and override rules to get a resolution to a problem.
Trend 4: Customer service continues to move to digital, social and voice-assistant channels
Research from Salesforce has found that:
- 40% of consumers prefer using online chat and live support to communicate with businesses
- 33% prefer messenger apps
- 27% want to use social media
- 27% prefer text/SMS
- 25% would choose online communities to talk to businesses
- 15% prefer to use voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home
The lesson here is that organisations need to diversify their customer service channels, and use whatever channel their customers favour.
Trend 5: Brands have to provide a standardised customer experience across global markets
Brands want to provide the same high level of customer service across different regions, but also localise the service to be relevant in each market, and to each individual. Social media allows brands to be responsive across multiple time-zones, and it makes it easy for brands to use social listening tools to help inform their communications and create personalised content.
Trend 6: Customer service builds consumer trust in the brand
Trust is hard-won between a business and its customers. Great customer service will build trust in the brand by using everyday interactions to demonstrate that the business is not just competent at what it does, but is ethical, acts on its values and remains true to its word.