What does the future of customer service and customer experience look like?
Before we can predict the future, we must understand a little about the past and a lot about the present. To see where we’re going, at least in the next year or two, just look at what’s been trending in the last twelve months. Now, some of these have been trending for much longer than a year. Our first item on the list is a perfect example. I said the same thing about customers being smarter than ever last year, and even the year before. Then there are cutting edge trends, such as cognitive analytics, where computers are thinking, not just computing.
So, here are 16 of what I see as the most obvious trends in customer service and experience that are relevant to the majority of businesses.
1. Customers are smarter than ever. When it comes to customer service and customer experience, they know the difference between good and bad. Our marketing and advertising teach them what to expect. And, they not only compare you to others in your industry, but also others outside of your industry.
2. Omni Channel will become more omni. There’s the phone, email, instant chat, social channels, smart phones and more. Customers are connecting with companies in more ways than ever. Which channels are right for you? The ones that your customers are using.
4. Big Data gets bigger. We have access to so much data in the form of direct feedback from customers as well as analytics we pick up from monitoring trends and buying patterns. The key is to know what part of Big Data makes sense to look at.
5. Micro Data gets smaller. Maybe smaller isn’t the right term. Maybe it’s more specific data. While Big Data looks at trends, Micro Data looks at the individual customer’s buying patterns and preferences. A customized experience will help create a connection with the customer that brings them back to do business with you.
6. Pay attention to the weather. It is more important than we think. The connection between your customers’ buying patterns (in almost all industries) and weather is stronger than one would imagine. So much so, that IBM bought The Weather Company because of the data.
7. Thank you for sharing. When a customer has an amazing experience, they share it. Companies realize the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Be so amazing that your customers want to tell everyone about their experience. Customer service and/or customer experience is the new marketing.
8. Targeted advertising that is delivered at just the right time. Through tracking data, you can now know when your customers buy; what day, what time, how hot or cold it is outside when they buy (go back to number six – paying attention to the weather) and more. So, if you know I love ice cream, and only buy it on the weekends when it’s above 80 degrees, don’t send me a coupon for ice cream on a Tuesday morning in the middle of winter.
9. We’re watching you. You will notice a theme here. It ties back to data. Software can track how you like to buy how long you stay on reviews, the amount of time you spend comparing other products and more. With this data, you can customize your customer’s buying experience. For example, if your customer loves reading reviews, the next time they come to your website, the reviews may be at the top.
10. Self-help customer service is a powerful solution. Directing people to a self-help solution doesn’t mean you don’t want to deal with the customer personally. More and more customers are appreciating the speed and efficiency of finding answers to their questions online versus calling a company, waiting on hold and having to potentially repeat the question to more than one support rep. Start by posting an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) section on the website. Post YouTube videos that teach how to use your products and answer your customers most frequent questions.
11. YouTube is HOT! While YouTube is a great place to host self-service solutions, as just mentioned above, it’s also a great place to post general video content. Imagine you own a hardware store. You could post videos on how to do household projects. Or, you may own a restaurant and post videos on how to prepare your favorite food items. Posting valuable video content is a great way to enhance your customer’s experience.
12. Social Media customer service is here to stay. This has been a rising trend over the past few years. More and more people are turning to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other online channels to share their thoughts (good and bad) with the world. Monitor these channels to ensure a timely response and look for opportunities to turn complaining customers into your biggest fans.
13. Value continues to trump price. Even in a hyper-sensitive price environment, customer service can make price less relevant. Just about every stat and fact you read says that customers will pay more for good customer service. Some stats are predicting that the customer experience, which service is a part of, will be the biggest competitive differentiator in the next three to five years.
14. Customers want and expect to be appreciated. This has always been the case, but companies who take the time to spend an extra moment or two to thank their customers are standing out. It can be a simple thank you as a customer leaves the store. A phone call from the sales rep or an executive. Even an email or text that is personalized helps make you stand out. And, of course, a personalized hand-written thank you note may be the most powerful, because hardly anyone does it anymore!
15. Your millennial customers are growing. This generation (born around 1982 to 2004) is almost 25% of the population. They have different expectations than the baby boomer population. They tend to be more tech savvy and interact with companies differently than older generations. They have a lower tolerance level for slow response time and are open to the newer and different forms of communication. Don’t ignore these (and other) differences. It would be like ignoring your customer.
16. The new hot phrase in customer experience and marketing is cognitive analytics. In the movie The Graduate, at Dustin Hoffman’s graduation party, someone recommends investing in plastics. Back then, plastics was the new hot thing. We’ve seen growth in a number of areas of business since then. The hot new area today is cognitive analytics, when computers are doing more than assimilating data. They are now analyzing and interpreting data – faster and more accurately than humans. IBM Watson’s analytics program is the leader in data analytics. What they are doing in this area is nothing short of amazing. It’s like Watson can think.
So, there you have it. Some cutting edge trends, some continuing trends, and some new trends in the way we customize our business for our customers. There are likely some that I missed here, but the sixteen listed above are all things that you can put to use right away to improve your interactions with your customers. Here’s to making 2016 amazing!
Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and New York Times bestselling author. Find more information at www.Hyken.com.
The Year Of The Customer: 16 Customer Service And Experience (CX) Trends For 2016