Customer service standards are at an all-time high and are continuing to make life difficult for entrepreneurs in this pandemic-stricken backdrop. Recent stats speak louder than our speculations, and studies show that 56% of customers have higher expectations of customer service standards as compared to the previous year.
So, while it is important to ask, “What do my customers want?”, understanding “How do I meet my customers’ expectations?” is becoming increasingly important.
Hence, merely investing in customer service tools will no longer suffice, and you have to look into more innovative and out-of-the-box ways to deliver above customer expectations.
Given below, are the customer service trends that you can focus on while planning your business agendas for 2021. Take a thorough read to figure out how your customers have evolved, and embrace this evolution the best way you can!
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Top 10 emerging customer service trends in 2021
1. Real-time Customer Support
In our real-time, digital world, customers are always online and reaching out to their favorite brands via multiple channels of their preference.
Take a look at the communication channels preferred by customers to resolve their queries:
Image Source: Statista
Now, let’s see how many customers favor brands that offer query resolution via social media:
The need to be consistently in touch with your favorite brands has become even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are worried about deliveries, logistics, transportation, and of course, the quality of services.
Hence, now, is the time to turn to real-time support and offer a Live Chat option on your website. Make query resolution even faster via automated responses, canned responses, and self-help modules that also boost customer service team productivity. When coupled with AI and chatbots, Live Chat becomes a powerful tool to deliver exceptional support to your customers.
Further, it is important to share critical information in a proactive manner, such as which stores are open for picking-up your orders; or which products will be available for deliveries even during holidays, etc.
2. Video and Streaming
Videos do an impressive job when it comes to information dissemination and engagement. It is an excellent means of communication that helps brands offer complex information in an effortless and easy manner. While video and streaming have been powerful entities in marketing, they have recently found their utility in customer service.
Instead of clunky flowcharts or long step-based write-ups, brands favor engaging “How-to” videos to understand their products and services better.
Videos also promote self-learning and are becoming one of the emerging trends in customer service.
Forbes points out that 85% of internet users watch online videos (monthly basis), and perceived authenticity is a big part of the appeal behind live videos.
Ways to leverage videos and streaming for customer service:
- Behind-the-scenes company culture videos
- Product reviews
- Troubleshooting videos
- Brand films
3. Social Media Customer Service
As per the State of Global Customer Service report from Microsoft:
- 59% of customers have a more favorable view of brands that respond to customer complaints on social media
- 5% of customers across the globe prefer social media as a customer service channel
- 32% have used Facebook for customer service
- And, 18% seek an immediate response for their social media queries
The Boston Consultancy Group recently outlined that 62% of Gen Z and millennials are spending more time on social media in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, social media is going to be one of the most powerful trends in customer service this year.
Ways you can leverage social media for customer service:
- Track and respond to passive mentions
- Answer customer queries, and offer useful resources via social media
- Have a strong online presence on social media where you share your products, latest services, and pandemic-related information
- Conduct interesting polls, contests and share customer feedback surveys on your social media handles
- Thank your customers for their trust and contribution in making your brand what it is today
4. Customer Self-service Channels
Image Source: Microsoft
73% of global customers prefer to resolve issues independently, which is increasing as you read this line. Self-service is becoming one of the major customer service trends in 2021. However, all customers might not be able to resolve all types of issues on their own. Hence, offering self-help modules or self-help forums takes you one more step ahead of your competitors.
You can also leverage the functionality of a cloud-based help desk software that allows you to create a knowledgebase for easy repurposing of customer queries and resolution histories into blog posts. This way, you can create a robust online knowledge repository for your customers, as well as employees.
Image Source: BCG
Given the advantages, self-help customer service will continue to grow and is one of the customer service trends to watch out for this year!
5. Live Chat and Chatbots
Recent studies reveal that 82% of customers find Live Chat more satisfying and better for query resolution as compared to Email (61%), and Social Media (48%).
Live chat not only reduces the query resolution time but also proves an excellent option when it comes to proactive customer support. For example, you can set customer expectations by displaying messages, such as “We normally respond to questions in less than 60 seconds“, or by automatic assignment of chats to a free agent if it goes unanswered within 40 seconds.
Live chat support accompanied by AI-powered chatbots has become a powerful duo that can transform your customer service standards and help you deliver exceptional customer support. AI-powered chatbots encourage self-help, lower ticket volume, automate mundane and basic query resolution, and boost agents’ productivity.
Hence, if you are looking for a technology-driven addition to your customer service tools’ suite, Live Chat and AI-powered chatbots are the ones that you must not miss!
6. Remote Customer Service Agents
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an experience of everything remote. Freelance workforces, remote collaboration, remote service, and remote events – the future of customer service will be spun around the “remote” functionality.
It is a known fact that customer service jobs can be well-accomplished from home as well. Prior to this pandemic, remote support teams were just a nice-to-have feature, but now, they have become mandatory.
Remote customer service agents are not only more cost-efficient but they are perfectly in-line with the current pandemic requirements. They also prove beneficial when it comes to delivering support across different timezones.
Another advantage of having remote customer service agents is that your customers can even meet with your support staff (located nearby), which can be highly useful for certain sectors.
So, if you were wondering what is the “next” thing in remote customer service? Freelance agents and remote contact centers are your answer!
7. Omnichannel Support
One of the most unpredictable things about customer service is – your customers contact you “when they want” and “how they want”, and if you fail to respond, they are highly likely to switch brands. Hence, you need to keep your communication lines open and live 24X7.
An omnichannel support system has all the communication channels threaded together to deliver consolidated and integrated real-time customer support. Thus, your customers can make a call to your agents, can join a screen-sharing troubleshooting session, and close the ticket with a response to a survey shared on social media without having to switch the instances.
As per a 2019 survey, 53% of respondents planned to invest in technology to improve the omnichannel services of their companies.
An omnichannel service system will empower customer support teams to curate end-to-end customer journeys instead of focusing on standalone touchpoints.
Image Source: McKinsey
By offering omnichannel support to your customers, you make it simple for them to get “what” they need “when” they need it. You are constantly available to them on a service platform of their choice. For better resolution and collaboration, your entire interaction with them is accessible to every single agent in real-time.
Thus, it is a given that omnichannel support is going to rule the customer service trends of this year.
8. Customer Support for Crisis Management
The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned several new normals, and robust crisis management customer support is one of them. It enforced overnight shut-down of offices across the globe, with millions of customers left with dangling queries and know-hows of “what comes next”.
The pandemic also persuaded leaders to focus on crisis management support as one of the futuristic customer service trends stemming from proactive measures for customer satisfaction.
Take a look at Deloitte’s crisis management lifecycle:
Image Source: Deloitte
A thorough crisis management planning and simulation module ensure crisis-readiness and preparedness for events that can, otherwise, lead to customer frustration. Proactive crisis-related information dissemination makes your customers witness you as a strong and reliable brand that they can trust in all situations.
One excellent example of connecting with your customers in time of crisis is from Mckinsey, and shown below:
One of the key points to consider here is, ensuring transparency in times of crisis. Your customers would never want to be served with false promises and assurances. A clear-cut acknowledgment of issues at-hand and sharing information about measures to counter them – robust crisis management customer support stems from them.
The incidents of Best Buy sharing its COVID-19 update and critical information with its customers is a commendable example brands can follow. It is also a trendsetter for efforts in this direction from other brands in the future.
9. Personalized Customer Service Experience
Customers are ready to leave a business that does not offer them a personalized experience. So, it will be one of the major customer service trends this year and will enhance customer experience and rule the entire sector.
Market and e-retail experts also recommend keeping personalization first in digital transformation strategies and showing customers only what they want to see. Offering unique product recommendations and personalized promotions is one way to do that.
However, personalization requires collecting and processing huge chunks of customer data that is largely unstructured in most organizations.
Hence, if you wish to take a step in this direction, it is important to either go for centralized data repositories or AI and ML-based data processing to identify trends and patterns in customer data.
Personalization has also become a bottleneck for established players that still have not taken a step towards it. Customers who are accustomed to personalized experiences offered by major brands like Amazon and Google are now expecting the same service standards from them.
CX leaders can overcome this by digitizing the core processes behind the most crucial customer journeys and align the organization to deliver against customer-specific tangibles.
10. Focus Shifting to Customer Service
In 2013, McKinsey talked about a paradigm shift in customer service that included focusing on the entire customer journey, instead of touchpoints. Fast forward a few more years, and this has become even more crucial because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are expecting different things from service agents, and brands are redefining customer success.
From pure numbers and graphs, customer success has transformed into happy experiences shared across communities.
What does customer service mean to professionals?
- Personalized support to each customer
- Going that extra mile for customer satisfaction
- Monitoring unhappy customers and trying to delight them
- Taking responsibilities for everything – good or bad
What does customer service mean to customers?
- Transparent communication delivered effortlessly
- Real-time support on a channel of their choice
- Genuine concern and active involvement of the support agent
- The feedback that brands actually work upon
- Getting personalized notifications instead of traditional newsletters
This focus is shifting to customer service calls for the integration of traditional customer service methods with technology and data-driven customer support.
Customer service trends 2021 – Strategize to stay on top
Customer service is a highly evolving business sector that is responsive to technology and industry disruptions. Hence, in order to stay ahead of your competitors, you must embrace disruption, innovation, and walk towards impactful digital transformation.
Customers are becoming more vital and more detrimental for every business across the globe. Hence, it is time to foster an organizational culture built around them and focus on humanized aspects of support as well. Take cues from the customer support trends shared in this blog and stay miles ahead of your competitors.
Guest author: Jared Cornell is a customer-support specialist, a marketing evangelist, and a book lover, associated with ProProfs Chat. Jared is passionate about customer support and loves to solve customers’ queries. He is always keen to develop new strategies to help customers seeking live chat assistance for a delightful experience. Connect with Jared on Twitter.