Year after year, the customer support landscape is changing alongside the formation of new tech trends and innovative ideas. Let’s look at five of the most significant, research-based insights we discovered this 2016.
Every industry out there is saturated with fast-growing firms vying for global dominance. So in addition to launching impressive products, businesses are trying to perfect their blend of marketing and customer experience strategies to rise above the competition.
To outpace other industry players, you need to stay abreast of the newest business trends. This article compiles five customer service insights we discovered this 2016. These will surely come in handy as you update your company’s customer experience roadmap for the coming year.
1. Chatbots are on the rise.
Driven by artificial intelligence, bots are changing the way brands talk to their customers online. Much of the bot revolution started when Facebook announced it will allow businesses to develop chatbots. These text-based automation tools can take care of simple customer requests—transaction updates, product orders, and easy questions. Much more recently, Twitter also rolled out a similar feature through their Direct Message platform.
Although some customer relationship experts argue that bots are dehumanizing interactions, no one can deny that they’re reshaping people’s experiences in major ways. For one thing, they’re helping brands cope with ever-increasing amounts of messages from customers. For another, the ability to reply instantly to queries gives businesses a competitive edge.
In fact, by 2017, it’s predicted that only 33% of customer service interactions would require human intervention. So if you’ve yet to develop your own chatbot, now is the best time to do so. Just be careful not to sacrifice the quality of interactions by using a human tone, collecting customer feedback, and connecting your bot-operated live chat platforms with other touchpoints.
2. Customers still prefer the phone as a support channel.
Most brands have already embraced an omnichannel strategy so they can catch customers’ varied preferences. These days, people can tap into social media, email, SMS, live chat, mobile apps, and the phone to get assistance from call center reps. A survey among US Internet users showed that people’s choice of channel depends on the type of their query or request. For the most part, however, people would pick the phone as a customer support platform in these instances:
• when handling billing/payment issues (60%)
• when resolving problems (56%)
• when making account changes (46%)
Email, on the other hand, is customers’ most preferred channel when making comments and suggestions. Do note, however, that people’s preferences also differ per age group.
3. Social media is becoming a little less popular.
From 1,704 surveys in five countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, and France), it was revealed that social media use among customers has been declining over the past few years. This year, 65% of respondents said they never used social networking sites to seek customer support. Some of their reasons were as follows:
• It takes too long to resolve issues via social networks.
• Social sites have limited functionality.
• They’re not applicable for complex tasks.
• A phone call is still required for follow-up transactions.
• There’s no privacy over social sites.
Mobile apps, on the other hand, are gaining traction as customer service channels. In 2011, 78% of customers said they never used smartphone apps to contact brands. This figure dwindled to 43% in 2013, and to 54% in 2016.
4. Customer experience is emerging as a key brand differentiator.
More and more brands are now shifting their focus to people’s experiences, more than their products and services. Consulting firm Walker predicted that by 2020, companies will start building customer support strategies to enhance the buyer’s journey. This way, they can build strong customer relationships and foster people’s loyalty.
Although Walker’s study focused on the B2B industry, their insights hold true for B2C firms as well. By 2018, Gartner predicts that more than half of the world’s organizations will change their business model to improve the way they treat customers.
5. Tech talent shortage is at its peak this 2016.
Although this one isn’t fully about customer support, tech talent shortages are a big concern for brands and their contact centers. We already know that great services are a result of how well an organization leverages their data and tech tools. Without a team to operate their equipment and carry out data analytics processes, they’ll lose the opportunity to personalize interactions. This can translate to huge profit losses and customer churn.
The sad part is that we’re currently dealing with the highest rate of tech talent shortage ever seen since 2008. A survey revealed that 65% of tech leaders are having a tough time hiring IT professionals, citing the role of “analytics experts” as the hardest to fill. The gap may be even more alarming than we think. There’s also a talent shortage among people with coding and cloud computing skills, both of which are crucial for omnichannel call centers.