What’s going to happen in the future?
Every time you make a major business decision, be it changing your marketing strategy, launching a new product, moving to another market or adopting new technology, what you’re essentially doing is trying to answer this very question. You try to foretell what your customers will need, what the market will look like, what products will sell well - in short, you attempt to see the future.
So, as 2022 comes to an end, let’s make predictions about something that affects all businesses. No matter your size, location, industry and anything else, if you have customers (and we hope you do) and want to keep serving them, you must be interested in the future of customer service.
And while in no way can we claim to know the future, what we can do is make some informed predictions based on the past evolution of customer service and the current trends.
How will customer service change? What will people expect? How can your business keep up? Here are 8 predictions that can help you answer these essential questions and stay at the top of the game.
1. Customer Support Will Merge With Other Departments
Customers don’t care whether they’re talking to Jack at Customer Service, Linda at Accounting or Sydney at Deliveries - in their mind, they’re just talking to your brand.
In other words, any representative of your company that comes in contact with your customers is essentially a part of your customer support team (customer experience team, customer relations team, customer satisfaction team, whatever you happen to call it). So, Linda the accountant and Sydney the delivery person must be just as skilled and knowledgeable at interacting with customers as Jack the customer support agent.
This is just one reason why the trend of merging customer support with other departments and creating multidisciplinary (also called hybrid) teams is gaining more and more momentum among customer-centric brands.
The growing popularity of AI assistants, the utilization of which requires pooling knowledge from multiple departments, is just one proof that brands are starting to realize that customer support is not just a team effort, it’s a multi-team effort.
Looking into the future, we see such merging becoming the norm and companies shaping their whole organizational structure around the customer, as opposed to delegating customer relationships to a separate department.
2. Customer Service Will Become Highly Personalized
71% of customers expect brands to deliver personalized experiences, and 76% get frustrated if brands fail to deliver the necessary customization. So, it’s no wonder that customer support personalization has been a growing trend in the last years, pushing one-size-fits-all solutions to the side.
As the trend continues to affect the evolution of customer service, friendly responses and generic answers to questions will no longer satisfy the ever more demanding customer. Instead, they will expect brands to be aware of their individual histories, recognize their specific needs, offer custom solutions and create personalized experiences across the board.
At the most basic level, this will entail collecting, storing and analyzing customer data from each individual’s support history and utilizing this information to customize their future interactions. More advanced approaches will include extreme personalization efforts like creating individual care plans for each customer (especially relevant for high-profile customers).
3. Customers Will Expect to Be Served 24/7
Customer issues don’t just occur Monday to Friday, 9AM to 5PM. And while up to now, most customers have been tolerant of 8-hour schedules (only over 40% of customers expect 24/7 support as of recently), more and more of them are coming to expect instant responses and resolutions, no matter the day or time.
Just as well, more and more brands are expanding their support hours in order to be available to customers at all hours. And as the trend continues to gain momentum, 24/7 support will become a fundamental customer expectation and brands that fail to deliver around the clock support will lose business to always-there competitors.
So, if your customer support team goes home at the end of the business day and your chatbot is set to say something like “We will get back to you during our working hours” if a customer messages you at 2AM, you may want to start thinking about making a change.
4. Proactive Customer Support Will Become the New Norm
Up till now, customer support has been largely reactive - a customer asks you a question and you respond, a customer notifies you of an issue and you offer a resolution. If you are like most brands, chances are, the most reactive thing you do is having an FAQ section on your website (and with people’s ever so short attention spans, who even reads those nowadays?)
But, as brands look for ways to differentiate themselves from competitors through exceptional customer service (more on this right below), proactive approaches are slowly gaining in popularity.
While this shift from reactive to proactive customer support will require a thorough change of practices and processes. At the most basic level, this will mean anticipating potential questions and issues and communicating appropriate responses and solutions to customers in advance, without waiting for them to contact you.
So, if standing out with truly excellent customer service is in your future plans, start working for a way to provide assistance to your customers before they come asking for it.
5. Customer Service Will Become a Key Differentiator
- 81% of customers say that positive customer service substantially increases their likelihood of making another purchase.
- 61% of customers say they’ll switch to a competitor after just one unsatisfactory customer support interaction.
- 64% of customers consider customer experience more important than price.
Traditionally, the majority of brands would differentiate themselves from competition through things like quality and range of products and services, marketing efforts, price, etc. But as more and more surveys produce statistics like the ones above, customer support is steadfastly turning into a key brand differentiator.
Looking into the future, we predict a race among brands to secure the position as the brand that cares most about its customers. And the faster you enter this race, the better your chance of winning it.
6. Customer Service Will Become a Profit Center
We’re used to considering customer service as a cost center - a part of business that incurs expenses, as opposed to one that generates revenue. And with the way customer support has been traditionally approached, where its key purpose is to respond to customer questions and complaints, this does make sense.
But, as more and more brands recognize that each customer interaction is an opportunity to build customer loyalty and increase repurchase rates, customer service of the future will most likely be viewed as a profit center.
This change in mindset and perspective will lead to fundamental changes in how customer support is carried out, from a change in goals and objectives to different team compositions and different ways of measuring success.
7. AI-Powered Automation Will Become a Key Part of Customer Support
- 85% of customer conversations in 2021 were handled by AI chatbots.
- Within the next 3 years, 70% of all consumer experiences (not just conversations) will include some form of AI.
- 57% of high-performing companies use AI to enhance customer support.
- 87% of businesses that don’t currently use AI customer support plan to do so in the near future.
- Business leaders say AI chatbots have increased sales on average by 67%.
This is just a small chunk of the considerable weight of data indicating that AI-powered automation is not just a passing fad - it’s here to stay. And some of the key reasons why this is the case have already been explored above.
Want an easy way to make your customer support 24/7 without spending more? Automate your customer communications through AI customer support assistants and stay online around the clock.
Want to differentiate your brand from your competitors? AI-powered automation is a great way to stand out.
Want to merge customer support with other departments? The easiest way to start is to get your staff together and have different specialists train your AI assistant as one.
Want to deliver higher personalization? Well, you get it.
In a nutshell, whichever one (or seven) of the predictions we’ve made here sounds like something you’d like to focus on, advanced AI-powered automation solutions like specialized customer support assistants can help you prepare your customer support for the demands of the future.
8. The One Prediction That Will Definitely Come True
Things will change.
That’s the only thing we know about the future for sure. So, if there’s one thing you’re going to take away from this article, let it be this - be open to change. Be ready to adopt new processes, technologies and approaches to keep your business in step with the ever-changing needs and expectations of your customers.