Top 5 Customer Service Trends to Watch Right Now

Jul 28, 2016
John MacDaniel

Sr. Director, Digital

The ways in which consumers and brands interact are constantly shifting. As technologies evolve, consumers continue to drive brands to explore new communication channels. At the same time, brands are — for the most part — eager to provide more opportunities and options for consumer interaction.

In the past, marketing strategy dominated communication channels for the sole purpose of creating and generating content focused on engagement — not necessarily service.

Today, we are seeing a conscious effort to use new communication technologies to respond to consumer questions and address their needs. Let’s take a look at the current communication trends in the consumer products/CPG industry, and how they affect customer service.

1. Through Direct Messaging, Point of Sale Becomes Point of Service

As a result of changes in application development, brands now need to think in terms of Point of Service.  Facebook, for example, now allows brands to interact directly with consumers using their Facebook Messenger platform.  New functionality also allows brands to offer a predicted wait time for customer service, a feature that had not been readily available on social media before.

Similarly, SMS/MMS texting is another viable vehicle for consumers to directly reach out to brands with customer service-related concerns. Third-party start-ups, such as Zip Whip, enable brands to utilize existing 1-800 numbers for texting.  The communication is not just limited to pure text, either. Consumers can send photos, or even videos, with MMS texting.

2.  Increased Video Marketing Offers Customer Service Potential

Brand marketers have already begun using Periscope, Snapchat and Facebook live video to provide live content to consumers. This opens the door for consumers to post questions and comments.  As these interactions increase, there will become a need to have customer service represented in these live events to ensure consumers are receiving the support that they require. As consumers use live video to ask customer service-related questions, they will expect answers.

This brings us to the next trend.

3. Customer Expectations Are Not Getting Any Easier

As technology advances and allows for more immediate interaction between the brand and the consumer, those same consumers have increased expectations about how they are engaged and how quickly they receive a response. Today, many brands, when attempting to provide service on social media, will simply request the consumer to call the brand’s 1-800 number. We expect to see less of this and instead, brands will need to provide customer care within the consumer’s channel of choice.

Conversocial’s 2015 Social Customer Service Trust Index provides interesting insights on consumer expectations. When consumers were asked, “When do you expect companies to be active on social media to solve your customer service issues?”, nearly half — 47 percent — of consumers responded, “24/7.”

While this is only one study, it is evidence for the growing consumer demand for round-the-clock coverage on social media, which may guide business decisions in regards to customer service staffing.

4. Expanding the Qualifications for Contact Center Agents

Having a pleasant speaking voice or the ability to resolve a customer’s issue via an email still remain important competencies for contact center customer service agents. However, the increased usage of social media and texting now require contact centers to recruit versatile agents who can handle more multi-channel service options. Today’s agents need to understand the impact of the “one-to-many” response effect on social media. Training on how to properly craft a response to consumers on social media will become increasingly important as contact centers look to improve efficiencies by employing multi-channel representatives.

Look to the past to prepare for the future. When integrating your customer service teams, consider how you handled previous communication changes, such as when the CPG industry shifted from receiving requests merely by phone to email.

5. Brands Seek a More Holistic View of the Consumer Experience

Marketing and customer service departments will continue to draw closer together as brands realize how contact centers are sitting on a treasure trove of consumer data. This is especially true now, with the increase of data from conversations taking place on social media.

By blending data from social media, SMS/MMS and other “newer” channels with traditional customer relationship management (CRM) data, brands can develop a more in-depth perspective on the entire consumer experience. This data can be leveraged for more personalized, one-to-one marketing, and as a way to provide a more personal and enjoyable experience for any consumer that seeks service — regardless of the channel they choose.

Looking Ahead

Today, companies have numerous customer service channels available for interacting with customers. Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and companies should be eager to embrace the latest customer service trends, provided that they tie back to business objectives. By venturing into new and improved communication channels that can extend reach to their customers, brands have the potential to improve operational efficiency and respond to customer issues in an extremely customer-centric and timely manner.

Ultimately, embracing the trends results in far-reaching benefits for both companies and consumers, and the customer experience can be enhanced more than ever before.

 

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