This time last year, we wrote about the top four customer service trends to look for in 2018. These trends reflect a growing push toward creating an effortless customer experience. Across the board, we’ve seen brands invest more and more energy and resources in an attempt to remove all friction from the customer journey and respond to consumers’ changing demands.
So what’s on tap for 2019?
The effortless customer experience is still the ultimate objective. But this year, count on leading and emerging brands to focus more intently on its three main components: cutting-edge technology, “superhero” agents, and customer and VoC data.
1. Use AI to Reduce Customer and Agent Burdens
AI is changing the CX landscape, enabling everything from personalized product recommendations to speech recognition. It’s also transforming customer service operations, making contact centers more efficient and giving customers the means to get answers and solve routine problems more quickly.
Chatbots, which are capable of resolving an estimated 10-35% of customer inquiries, are becoming a more familiar fixture. Virtual customer assistants (VCA) bring something more—a human-like face and personality—to customer encounters. They can answer basic questions, assist with checkout, and follow up after the sale.
Chatbots and VCAs will never replace front-line teams, but they can help alleviate the contact center burden. And they can make it easier for customers to do business with brands. According to Gartner, less than 2% of customer service operations used chatbots or VCAs in 2017. By 2020, that number will surge to 25%.
Organisations report a reduction of up to 70% in call, chat and/or email inquiries after implementing a VCA, according to Gartner research. They also report increased customer satisfaction and a 33% saving per voice engagement.
“A great VCA offers more than just information,” said [Gartner Managing Vice President Gene] Alvarez. “It should enrich the customer experience, help the customer throughout the interaction and process transactions on behalf of the customer.”
2. Build a Contact Center Dream Team
According to Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report, consumers’ #2 customer service complaint—second only to being trapped in IVR hell—is being connected with an agent who doesn’t have the knowledge or ability to solve an issue. When customers run into problems they can’t solve themselves, they want to connect with a human being who will listen, care, and respond effectively.
For more and more brands, cutting contact center costs is taking a backseat to strengthening customer relationships. This is reflected not only in the KPIs contact center leaders are using to measure performance (e.g., customer ratings vs. average handle time), but in their growing interest in the employee experience: the physical work environment, coaching and training, compensation, career advancement, recognition and rewards, and more.
As brand experts and customer advocates, front-line agents are uniquely positioned to fuel serious business growth. They can’t deliver if they feel expendable. Building a happy, seasoned, stable customer service team has never been more important to brands’ health and profits.
3. Put Customer and VoC Data to Work
As they shore up their front-line teams and tech tools in 2019, brands will also be taking a hard look at how they collect and use customer and VoC data to achieve brand consistency, personalize their service delivery, and drive improvements and innovation across the organization.
Managing the customer relationship
According to research from Salesforce and Deloitte, brands use 39 different systems, on average, to manage the customer relationship. To handle service calls efficiently and minimize customer effort, every front-line employee needs a “360-degree view of the customer”—meaning easy access to complete, up-to-the-minute customer histories.
Tracking the omnichannel customer journey
It’s been said countless times: consumers see brands, not channels. Identifying discrepancies, gaps, and glitches in the omnichannel journey helps to align internal teams, ensure brand consistency, improve customer satisfaction, and reduce call center volumes.
Collecting real-time feedback on the front line
According to the Customer Contact Week 2019 Trends report, “Reducing [customer] efforts will only begin when organizations understand customer journeys and personas.” Agent-level customer feedback is a critical part of the intelligence-gathering mix.
A steady stream of real-time front-line VoC data delivers value on many levels.
- It helps team leaders hire well, coach effectively, and align performance management with customer priorities for the service experience.
- Agents get the kudos they’ve earned and insights they can act on—two big morale and retention boosters.
- The data can be used across the organization to improve the customer experience, drive product development, and inform high-level brand strategies.
The value of this type of data owes to its timeliness (usually within minutes of a service interaction) and its volume (response rates of 30–50%). Not only does front-line feedback allow brands to respond quickly to problems and changing customer demands, but it also provides a representative view of the customer experience so brands can stay the course or implement changes with confidence.
Get Inspired for Customer Service Success in 2019
Customer service leaders continually aim higher. They’re never satisfied—not even with a leading market position and five-star reviews. They take nothing for granted, least of all their customers. And they invest accordingly (and wisely) in the things that make their service great.
Read about how leading brands use customer data to simultaneously inform high-level CX strategies and drive front-line service improvements in our free ebook, “How to Supercharge Your Customer Service by Combining Objective and Subjective Data.”