15 Customer Service trends in 2019
If you still have doubts about why you and your company should invest in chatbots and what robots can do for your business, keep reading this blog post.
Predicting the future is difficult, especially if you turn to the field of Customer Service, an ever-changing area in our fast-paced digital world. However, we’ve managed to gather 15 predictions for the biggest trends of 2019 that every business owner should be aware of.
- The customer in focus.
- Simple and faster customer engagement methods.
- Digital channels versus traditional channels.
- Service 24/7.
- Self-service is on the rise.
- Customers are tired of going through customer service.
- Human support should always be there as a backup.
- Support the customers while they’re making their purchases.
- Digital assistants improve customer relationship.
- AI and Machine Learning investments.
- Will chatbots take over?
- Data is becoming the most important resource.
- Humans will be assisted by The Internet of Things.
- Digital technologies create new business models and opportunities.
- The gig economy thrives on crowd service.
1. The customer in focus
Having an increased focus on customer success is about building a strong relationship with the customers. Today there has been an increase in the focus on the customer and the customers’ experience. A business must prioritize its customers to make sure that they don’t just jump to the next competitor, hence, the outcome of an improvement of the customers’ experience will first and foremost be a good reputation, customer satisfaction and loyalty towards the brand. This will in turn help increase sales, as it will help expand the company’s customer base.
2. Simple and faster customer engagement methods
This shift in organizations’ business strategy towards a prioritization of the customer has also had a great impact on simple and faster engagement methods.
Customers want both the buying/service experience they have and customer service to be easy, convenient and fast, and for a company to gain their trust, the technology should live up to the customers’ expectations and be easy to interact with. When customers experience a problem, want to gain knowledge of the company or simply want to make a purchase, it is crucial that the company is up to speed and there to assist. This will allow for customer engagement that encourages them to interact with that particular organization.
“To ensure both growth and operational excellence, leaders must not overlook the proliferation of digital technologies and growing customer expectations in the service space.” Valerie Streets, Senior Principal at Gartner
3. Digital channels versus traditional channels
Maybe you remember those situations where you had to get in contact with customer service due to a problem you simply could not fix by yourself. This used to take place primarily on the phone with a real-life customer service representative and you probably had to wait in line for a long period of time to even get that far. Annoying, right?
Today, almost every business happens to be (or better, has to be) on the Internet – in fact, it is nearly impossible to gain any market share without being visible online, as this is where most of the customers are too. More than half of the world population, 56,1 %, use the Internet per 2019 according to Internet World Stats. With the digital devices at hand at basically all times, digital channels, such as the Internet, online chat and Social Medias are overtaking traditional channels and it gets increasingly easy for customers to get in contact with the company, or so it should be…
Slow or bad customer service still occur of course, but luckily more and more companies are implementing online chat or messaging service and these types of services will only continue to grow in 2019. This all goes back to convenient customer engagement methods. According to The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce, only 12 % of service interactions will be phone conversations with a customer service representative in 2022. This is a decrease from 41 % in 2017, thus, companies are increasingly abandoning traditional channels in favour of digital channels.
4. Service 24/7
Along with customer engagement methods and digital channels, customers are increasingly making their purchases anywhere, anytime and with any device of their choice.
Nowadays, with smartphones almost permanently glued to people’s hands, lots of new opportunities the companies arise – but also lots of new expectations from customers.
In fact, customers now expect to be able to interact with the companies on any device, either while doing their online shopping or in the form of customer care. This interaction can happen while they are having a ‘quiet’ moment sitting in public transportation or even during the night – simply whenever it suits them.
Companies today have to live up to these expectations and take the necessary measures if they want to be able to compete. Living up to these demands entails being present and approachable in any suitable channel e.g. on the phone, text, on the web, Social Media, online chat or through physical presence.
5. Self-service is on the rise
As most of the customer service will take place through digital channels; self-service is on the rise. Customers are getting ever more used to the convenience of taking care of matters themselves as they go on a hunt for answers on a company’s website.
According to Matthew Dixon and his colleagues at CEB, the authors of the book The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, 57,7 % of all customers try to find the answer they’re looking for themselves on a company’s website before calling the customer service department. In fact, while calling, 34 % are still on the site trying to find a solution.
One way to avoid the customers’ annoyance with customer services is to reduce the customer effort and, of course, provide excellent service directly on the company website. Better and more thorough information on the site or instant support in the form of a digital assistant will lead the customer in the right direction. Investing in self-service can be a beneficial solution to many companies, as it reduces the number of calls that the customer service department needs to attend to every day. For instance, implementing a customer service chatbot that provides instant support 24/7 and takes care of routine tasks, will save a business on average 264 hours a year per employee. This means that 33 days per year, the employee can focus on other tasks that require extra care – that way improving customer loyalty and take the pressure off customer service.
Many companies invest in self-service with the goal of reducing the effort spent on service and saving on the cost of service. However, in order to succeed, it is important to remember that improving the customer experience must be a central factor in the decision to switch to digital self-service solutions. The trouble here is that customer satisfaction might decrease if it isn’t done right and the need for human support might increase, putting a strain on the customer care team.
6. Customers are tired of going through customer service
There are several reasons why customers don’t want to talk to customer service representatives.
You would think that picking up the phone to get in contact with a company would be easy but according to The Effortless Experience, it turns out that 62 % of customers had to call support multiple times to find a solution to their problem. Other reasons are that 56 % of customers are tired of explaining their problem again and again to get some assistance. 59 % reported that they were transferred at least once while in contact with the support.
Furthermore, 59 % of the respondents felt that they had to put moderate to high additional effort into resolving their issues. All of these ‘obstacles’ make it feel like a hassle to have to go through customer service. In correlation with this, it is stated in The Effortless Experience that the chances of customers turning disloyal towards the brand are four times higher because of customer service interactions.
7. Human support should always be there as a backup
Though many customers try to avoid customer service interactions with human representatives, human support should of course always be there as an option. Sometimes the problems that arise are just too complicated and it would be a mistake not to provide that service.
However, a downside to human support occurs when the customer has to switch channels and give basic information more than once, resulting in the customer having to spend even longer on getting the needed help.
Luckily more and more companies are finding ways to tackle this issue, as they manage to automatically collect certain data, such as the customers’ personal information which is already stored in the system. This is possible due to the type of software robots called Robotic Process Automation (RPA) robots. These robots help organizations as they ‘collaborate’ with, for instance, the customer care team by flawlessly automating repetitive tasks and thereby enabling the team to concentrate solely on the customers.
8. Support the customers while they’re making their purchases
Today, companies need to consider all phases of the customer journey. Customer service used to take place face-to-face while customers were making their purchases, or afterwards when the customer needed help.
Now, the shopping cart is abandoned by more than 50 % of online customers if they face a problem that they can’t find an answer to and solve quickly.
E-commerce needs to be assisted by up-to-date customer service. Providing web chat, while customers are in the process of buying, will secure a smooth and consistent customer experience that can lead to an increase in conversion rates and revenue. For instance, having a specialized commerce chatbot provide a relevant, convenient and frictionless purchase experience 24/7, will prevent lost sales due to an impersonal shopping experience. In fact, when a chatbot combines sales and customer service, data shows a 300 % increase in conversion rate, as well as an increase in qualified leads.
9. Digital assistants improve your customer relationship
Digital assistants, AI Agents, chatbots – you name it. As customers are turning to self-service, they will increasingly be supported by AI technology. In a rapid pace, companies are implementing digital assistants that can help to guide the customer and answer the most basic questions or even answer questions within a specialized field.
Digital assistants are for most companies a step in the right direction, however, there are numerous possibilities where this can go wrong. Therefore, if you decide, for instance, to get a chatbot, first you have to make sure you are building the right one before you build it right. You need to think about what kind of bot is suitable for your business, define the purpose of the chatbot and clearly communicate to the user what it can help with. That way, the user will avoid spending an unnecessary amount of time interacting with the chatbot, only to realize that it can’t help with that question. Secondly, the bot should be able to guide the user while the interaction takes place, that way preventing any form of confusion. Additionally, you can consider implementing personalised content within your chatbot. For instance, if your customers usually make inquiries related directly to their personal situation and not just frequently asked questions, then it can be worth your while to personalise the chatbot a little further. Lastly, keep in mind that the chatbot is representing your company and should contribute to an on-brand, effortless and synergized user experience, thereby maintaining a good customer relationship.
If you are interested in getting more insights into how you can improve your customer relationship with a chatbot, check out this blog post.
10. AI and Machine Learning investments
Today there is a lot of focus on the use of AI and Machine Learning in customer service, and the investments in AI/ML are increasing. Danish Statistics shows that in 2018 only 5 % of Danish businesses overall used Artificial Intelligence. Of the bigger companies with more than 250 employees, 20 % used AI. However, in the business of information and communication, the use of Machine Learning went up from 13 % in 2017 to 18 % in 2018.
According to the Future of Customer Engagements and Commerce, AI will be embedded in at least one service process in 50 % of companies by the end of 2019, and within 3 years AI will handle 15 % of all customer service interactions.
Numbers like these are contributing to the rising concern related to the AI machines. The worry is if AI will be the end of certain areas of business. AI is slowly being implemented in our society and automation are replacing humans in many different tasks. One area that, according to some, could be in ‘danger’ is the (human) customer service departments.
11. Will the chatbots take over?
Take chatbots for instance. It’s said that chatbots could become one’s closest colleague and your customers closest friend. With Natural Language Processing (NLP) and the research in the AI techniques Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Generation (NLG), chatbots are becoming better and better at ‘understanding’ what humans say or write, even if they do it in an unconventional way. This means that chatbots automatically can give a customer the right answer and thereby imitate a real dialogue between humans. But will the chatbots take over completely?
Well, potentially. With more research, more collected data and if the chatbots are done right, they could eventually answer any question the customer might have concerning a specific business, but the tasks of the customer service employees might just change. For instance, the bots need someone to create them, monitor the data collected and further develop them. But there will always be a need for customer care, the difference now is that the employee will have more time for a customer that needs extra care.
12. Data is becoming the most important resource
By now everyone who uses the internet has become accustomed to their data being collected and stored by the companies they interact with online. Most people are also aware that their data is collected through search engines and social media and used for profit. Most people know the deal – they pay for online services with data.
Data is becoming the most important resource as companies can gain a competitive advantage if they manage to collect and analyze the information properly. With data, companies can predict consumer behaviour and make better decisions. By automating data gathering they can track their customers and collect data in an easy and convenient way.
13. Humans will be assisted by The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is slowly making its way in people’s everyday lives. According to Statista, there are 26.66 billion connected devices worldwide in 2019. This is estimated to increase to 75.44 billion in 2025, which is an increase of 183%.
IOT is the term used to define mechanical devices that are connected through the Internet. In ‘smart homes’ for instance, smart locks can be installed on front doors and connected to the owner’s smartphones, fridges are now able to let people know if milk is running – the list of smart devices goes on.
People can monitor and control these data via their smartphones and companies can monitor the data collected through the devices. This is convenient and is said to improve people’s quality of life and it will be of huge importance for the companies that make use of this data. However, it does raise some privacy and security concerns for the user and questions of ethics surround the IOT adoption into everyday life.
14. Digital technologies create new business models and opportunities
In 2018, every second company in Denmark in the private sector (54 % to be exact) uses minimum one advanced technology, e.g. internet-connected sensors, satellite-based services, Big Data, service or industry robots, 3D print or AI – according to numbers from Danish Statistics.
Today, digital technologies are transforming companies and industries as they open up for new business opportunities. Some innovative companies, for instance, have changed the industry because they build their business model on digital technologies and for many companies, the product has become their service.
If we take a look at the movie and television industry, for example, it used to be necessary to go to the movies, watch tv-shows directly in the television or buying the DVDs as a physical product. When streaming services, such as Netflix, came around, the ‘product’ was replaced by a service in the form of an online subscription to their digital platform. Now people can sit at home and watch tv completely on their own terms.
Besides development in digital technologies, this transformation is taking place due to the responsiveness of the customer. The customers react positively because the customer experience is more convenient and better. Being up to speed about innovative digital technologies will help businesses expand their revenue and growth.
15. The gig economy thrives on crowd service
The business opportunities that come with the digital transformations are for more and more companies based on the evolving gig economy. The gig economy is a free market system, built on independent workers and the employment is often short-term engagements. These workers are either professional freelancers, independent contractors or lower-level experts that perform simpler tasks.
The gig economy is expanding as workers, due to different forces, choose to work freelance and abandon the traditional secure full-time work employment with a 9-4 fixed work day. According to the Intuit 2020 Report from 2010, which explores demographic, social, economic and technology trends that will affect consumers and small businesses, “The long-term trend of hiring contingent workers will continue to accelerate with more than 80 % of large corporations planning to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce”. Further, the Intuit Report 2020 states that the freelance workforce will increase worldwide. By 2020, in the U.S. alone, the freelancers will exceed 40 % of the workforce.
Some companies are today taking advantage of the gig economy by offering crowd service. Take for instance the company Happy Helper. It’s based on crowd service, as the workers are freelancers that sign up as cleaners, or ‘Happy Helpers’. Hereafter, the customers can choose a cleaner through the digital platform to come and clean their house whatever time suits them best.
The service is convenient for the customer and in many ways beneficial for the company.
To sum up
The digital transformation within customer service is happening due to the impact of new technologies and organizations focusing on providing better customer experience and maintaining customer satisfaction. Customers, on the other hand, expect simpler and faster engagement methods when interacting with companies.
To stay on top, companies need to prioritize the customer and make investments that are not just beneficial to the company but also satisfactory to the customer.