The Future of Customer Service

waiter holding a tray

As technological advance slowly levels off the differences between competing products and services, businesses will need to start looking elsewhere for differentiation. A prime candidate for investment, given this fact, is the customer service department. Indeed, despite it being a cornerstone of good business for a long time, it seems CS’s golden days may yet lie ahead. But what does this mean for the companies that will operate in this environment? Growing interest towards this area is sure to create fierce competition between the players. As such, they will need to be forward-thinking and wholly embrace the advantages that digitalization and new technologies introduce. Read ahead to learn how you can bring your customer service offering up to the standard of the future.

The first thing you need to do is develop a proper channel strategy. You can start by adopting an omnichannel approach to CS. Remember that consumers like having a choice – don’t go against this truth with a unidimensional offering. Instead, provide them with a comprehensive range of channels, placing an emphasis on reaching them where they naturally hang out, e.g. Twitter. Meeting them on their own turf, so to speak, minimizes client effort and improves your brand image. Also, if you’ve been paying attention to your audience, then you probably noticed these days they prefer to make initial contact through self-serve channels. That’s why any strategy that’s actually customer-centric should prioritize online and mobile self-service assistance – it’s what the majority of people use, and the trend is ascending. Live agent capabilities should be scaled back and brought forward only during escalations.

Once you’re done establishing a winning channel strategy the next thing you can focus on is digitizing and automating your organization’s routine processes to ensure clients have as streamline an experience as possible. This is not about costs, by the way. A majority of consumers actually feel the best trait a company can have is regard for their time. With that in mind, don’t worry about not having a human presence in all possible scenarios – remember that people are increasingly more drawn towards channels that don’t require them to interact with someone else. Sure, having the option there is great, but what they want, ideally, is to solve the problem quickly on their own and then move on with their lives. So, why not follow their lead? It doesn’t mean some clients are more important than others, just that not all problems require in-person attention. In fact, some issues are better dealt with by automated systems.

The best way to go about this is by monitoring your digital assets (e.g. your app, website etc.) and extracting key insights relating to people’s behaviour. What area of your website do they spend most time in? Can you identify any stage in your telephone protocol where there is an unusually high rate of abandonment? Once you’ve found the most salient pain points, you are in a great position to optimize. This can sometimes mean eliminating something altogether but most times it’s a matter of automating in order to speed up the process. Virtual agents and chatbots, may not yet be the norm but before long they will be. Companies wanting to future proof their customer service offering would do well to follow the winning trends now.

Moving on – this is more of a situational recommendation – it might be worthwhile to have a good look at some of the newer labor models sprouting in the marketplace. After all, customer service departments have a history of being at the forefront of innovative HR practices in the first place. They have traditionally sought to cover seasonal spikes in demand as well as niche language requirements by outsourcing. Why not consider an uncommon workforce strategy if what they need is flexibility. Of course, developing such a formula requires a fair amount of time and ingenuity to perfect, yet the potential benefits are enticing. Some of the most agile organizations today employ innovative labor models in order to create a market advantage for themselves. Think of businesses that function as networks of freelance professionals, or gig-economy workers. There may very well be a similar opportunity to exploit in the CS space.

One last area that is defining for truly leading-edge customer service is the presence of artificial intelligence features. AI-imbued applications can learn from interactions over time, predict certain outcomes and even conduct entire transactions without the need for human intervention. When you think about the percentage of all cases that are actually unique (and let’s be honest, that is a minority), having AI-imbued processes makes perfect sense. This type of innovation promises to make operations run smoothly, thanks to the intrinsic automated nature of AI, but also potentially highlight opportunities for expanding the current offer. The latter emerges as an unintended – albeit welcome – benefit of analyzing large, customer-centric data sets.

To conclude, as technological innovation dilutes the differences between competing products and services, customer service is likely to become the key factor behind a purchase. Consequently, only the players with the most mature and progressive practice will rise above the noise. To help you get an idea of what this means, in today’s post we went over the most important measures that CS leaders can take to establish such a leading practice – observation, automation, and intelligence.