What Customer Support Looks Like in 10 years

As technology plays a bigger role in every day life, common wisdom says attention spans are shrinking. Consumers interact in 140-word chunks and memes, instead of 30-second ad spots or long-form content. That voracious desire for the latest thing also leads consumers to engage with more brands. Long-term loyalty is a casualty of the digital age; instead, consumers chase the latest offers and hottest trends.

What if your company could reverse that trend? The quality of customer engagement is the antidote to “swipe right” generation.

A deeper level of genuine customer support can address the threats of the “switching economy,” which has been made worse by this thirst for the next new thing. Accenture reports that 56 percent of consumers say they now consider more brands than they have in the past 10 years, and 46 percent are more likely switch providers than they were a decade ago. Overall, the switching economy represents a $1.6 trillion share of revenue from changes in consumer spending habits and switching patterns.

Today’s “always-on” consumers expect 24/7 customer support  available in whatever format they desire: online, phone, chat bot, email, apps, social media and whatever the next trend is.

It’s easy to jump on the digital bandwagon to stay ahead of shifting consumer focus. But investing in the latest experience can mask some of the fundamental problems that are the root causes for poor customer service. After all, the best customer service is when the customer’s don’t need it at all.

Customer support is still one area in which companies can differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. But following the same old strategy but doing it more intensely isn’t the answer. Standing out means standing apart from the pack.

Excelling at customer support begins with a shift in corporate culture from maximizing shareholder value to maximizing stakeholder value. When employees and customers are valued, then shareholders reap the rewards as well. It has become clear that a positive customer experience drives positive shareholder value. With a focus on customer support companies will finally see a major increase in customer retention and lifetime value.

As the digital experience continues to reshape the ways consumers and companies interact, the customer experience will evolve over the next several years. Those companies that attract and hold attention with service that satisfies.

1. Video Support

With video chat available on just about every smartphone, consumers will come to value video chatting with their favorite brands. Some brands are already doing it. For instance, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablet offers live video tech support. Amazon reports about 75 percent of users who seek support use the video chat feature. If you can chat with

friends and family in real time, consumers will be comfortable chatting with a live rep to get the help they need.

Keep in mind, video is real-time interaction, so staffing and training will be vital to providing a good experience. Brands will have to be careful to have agents that will be comforting to those who call in. A young person replete with a purple Mohawk and multiple piercing may not be the right choice for a senior citizen health care support line.

It will be important to train agents to maintain a professional tone and visage. It may be hard for the agent to suppress an eye roll when a caller asks the same question for what seems like the thousandth time.

2. SMS Texting 

For many people, SMS or text messaging is the preferred way to receive transactional information. From flight updates to bank account updates to coupon offers, SMS is fast, relatively unobtrusive, and asynchronous, meaning users can respond at their convenience. It’s also one of the most direct ways to interact with consumers — most people look at a text when the receive it, compared to overlooking messages in an app or email.

3. Data Driven Intelligence

Consumer behavior data will be flooding in from an array of sources — social media, geolocation, iBeacons, wearables, mobile apps, facial recognition and other tracking tools. Smart companies will not only be able to respond more quickly than ever, but can initiate customer contact proactively.

Improved data flow will allow other retailers to compete with Amazon on service. The online giant tracks customers’ past orders, preference, browsing history and other factors. The bar for personalized customer service is being raised every day. Consumers expect brands to have their personal information on hand, and not have to repeat it with every new contact.

Future tech developments will lead to preventive customer service, based on helping consumers through each stage of the buying journey. Brands will be able to identify the touch points that lead to customer service issues and focus on those problem areas. Perhaps the ordering form is difficult, or shipping and processing charges aren’t available early enough in the process. The data can help address those issues and capture lost revenue opportunities.

4. The Cloud

Multi-channel customer service is more accessible than ever, for companies of all sizes. Some customer service centers offer essentially on-demand service, in which the company pays only for the time agents are engaged in a call.

With off-premises support centers enabled by cloud computing, small and medium-sized companies can compete with big brands on service. One company can provide turnkey services that are transparent to consumers.

5. Speech Recognition 

Advances in speech recognition will support big data analytics, collecting and analyzing audio data to detect common customer service issues and gauge callers’ stress levels. Speech analytics will be a powerful tool to uncover issues that might otherwise go unnoticed in the daily flood of customer interaction.

6. Customer Service Democracy 

Customer service is becoming a two-way street, as brands rate customers in the same way that customers rate brands. Internal ratings can help identify problem customers that soak up an inordinate amount of resources compared to their revenue. Spurred by sharing apps like AirBnB and Uber, it’s becoming more accepted for service providers to rate customers. That will spread to other areas, in particular service industries, as companies seek to focus on highest revenue, lowest cost relationships.

7. Better Execution

With e-commerce growing by 75 percent by 2019, the last mile of the journey may be the most important. The delivery experience, and returns, when necessary, must be very easy and simple. Delivering that “Wow” factor when the box is opened can be a competitive advantage. Going the extra mile can make the last mile a game changer.

8. Increased Customer Service Culture

Creating a corporate culture that values customer service starts at the top. That’s why more companies are establishing a new C-suite office focused on the customer experience. Leadership is vital but customer service has to permeate the organization, with a chief customer officer guiding the end-to-end process. Awareness of the customer journey must cut across departmental lines, and support investments into optimizing the customer journey.

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