The customer service outlook for 2015 shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; multiple communications channels, integrated and seamless, social media as a customer care platform, convenient, instant, and round the clock. This just paints a clear picture, customer service simply needs to match the customer lifestyle in order to provide outstanding experiences and to achieve customer loyalty. It sounds simple, right?
No matter how simple it seems, adapting to the customers’ lifestyle in order to provide great customer service is not easy. It requires a substantial change in the way companies operate, it has to become a vital part of the business strategy. In 2014, most companies began to pay closer attention to customer experience. Substantial investments have been made in technology, staff, and attractive offers in order to provide great customer service and to keep customers happy and loyal. For 2015, the challenge is even greater as companies move from “investing” in customer service to fully “integrating” it into their business strategies.
As we go deeper into 2015, let’s take a look at what the customer service industry will experience for the rest of the year:
1. Customer Experience Becomes a Differentiator.
Companies have realized, sometimes the hard way, that a better customer experience will lead to higher customer satisfaction, which in turn results in improved customer retention, brand loyalty and brand advocacy. A happy customer is a loyal customer! But keeping customers happy comes at a steep price. Gartner revealed that in 2014, the cost of customer retention has increased significantly, they report that companies spent almost as much to keep buyers (45%) as they spent to acquiring new ones (55%).
This is no surprise. Companies need to make significant investments to deliver outstanding customer service. That is a real challenge as it affects the bottom line. Service delivery requires fully integrated multiple communications channels: customers expect that all their interactions with your company are funneled into a single customer profile that gives the agents full visibility into the customers’ background. Whether you are on the cloud or on premise, this requires additional investments in technology. Not only that, you also need to up your investments in staff across channels as well as longer and more complex training of agents.
Global or multinational organizations face other costly challenges: providing instant and round the clock support to customers anywhere in the world. Let’s face it, you need to provide 24 hours of customer service as customers no longer expect to bring up issues during business hours. Customers expect that all issues are looked into and solved as they happen. To be able to satisfy these expectations, companies need to offer seamless support across live-agent channels and self-serve channels. What does all this mean? Further investments to keep customers happy!
Strategically, this requires full executive commitment. As in any other aspect of your business, there has to be a clear mandate along with governance and oversight. According to the experts, in 2015 more companies will hire more customer experience professionals to execute and implement their customer service strategy. This is good news for customers!
2. The Customer Experience Continues to Go Mobile.
Did you know that more than 55% of adults in the United States now own a smartphone? If this surprises you, then you need to know that more than 82% of young “millennials” rely on a mobile phone to do pretty much everything. Making purchases, restaurant reservations, check whether, troubleshoot, collaborate with other through social media, and as you probably know, voice their opinions about your products and services.
Companies have already caught up to this fact and now offer fully responsive web sites, easy to use apps, more frequent and interactive communication via SMS, and more active presence on social media. But where some companies have failed is in the integration of these different channels. For 2015, we foresee companies looking at providing a seamless experience by achieving full and almost instant channel integration.
As companies continue to provide mobile support, they will take advantage of customer information and behaviors in order to predict and anticipate customer needs. This is where the power of analytics meets the capabilities of mobile technology. Companies will look at patterns, location, and proximity to make suggest that can influence a customer’s behavior. In 2015 mobile device support will continue to take the main role in providing great customer experiences.
3. Social Media as a Customer Service Platform.
Customers are loud and clear on social media. If you want to know what your customers think about your company just take a look at your social media sites. In addition to gauging the sentiment towards your products and services, you can also gauge how much engagement those positive or negative comments can generate. Companies have timidly launched themselves into social media; in 2015, companies will look to be more proactive and engaging, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to address a customer issue and to impress potential customers. As such, social media becomes a powerful one-on-one service and marketing platform.
4. More and Closer Collaboration with Outsourcing Partners.
So, companies make the commitment to a customer experience strategy, they have the right people in place, they have all the ideas. What is missing then? Most likely the missing link lies in the execution. With the constant evolution of mobile technology, companies need to be nimble and react quickly to adapt to the constantly increasing customer expectations. As the number of channels increase so does the complexity of your operations, from selecting the right agents, to training, to ensuring all your staffing levels are good enough to help you cover all the bases.
Working closely with an outsourcing partner can help companies minimize the risk of a failed “customer experience” strategy implementation. Companies will look at redefining their goals and effectively communicating with partners in order to ensure a great customer experience. Partners bring in the experience navigating through constant technology changing, channel integration, and the most important aspect, the customer interaction.
It is evident that providing the best customer experience possible comes at a cost. As companies prepare to make additional investments in people and technology, they will also look at effective ways to provide outstanding experiences while containing costs, and remaining financially successful.
Are you Ready to Compete on Customer Experience?
While the products and services you offer continue to be a great point of differentiation, competing solely on price is no longer viable. As competition increases, products and services become commodities. It’s time to up the game by bringing in the customer experience. By adding a great customer experience to your arsenal, you will likely increase customer satisfaction and boost customer loyalty. Loyal customers become your most loyal brand advocates, which is exactly what you need in order to ensure that as you invest in keeping customers happy, those happy customers will help you acquire new ones at a lower cost.
For information on our customer service programs and to discuss how we can help you take your customer service strategy to the next level, send us an email and one of our customer experience strategists will get in touch with you shortly!