Customers’ behaviors and expectations evolve quickly. To differentiate themselves, companies have to adapt their strategy continuously. More and more digital channels, advancements in AI, and the expectation for seamless journeys mean the need for outstanding customer service has never been stronger.
How to stay ahead of the competition in 2020? What are the new expectations of customers? Find out more with 6 essential trends to consider in 2020.
1. Customer Experience becomes the main criteria of choice
In 2015, a Walker study predicted that, by 2020, customer experience would overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Now that we’re at the dawn of 2020, is this prediction actually happening?
The shift in recent years has confirmed this. We now live in the “Experience Economy,” where customers value more experience than the actual product. Leading companies such as Netflix and Amazon reflect this evolution by providing a convenient experience minimizing the customer’s efforts.
HubSpot found that 93% of customers are more likely to be repeat customers at companies with excellent customer service. On the other side, CITE Research found that customers have stopped doing business with brands an average of four times (five times if we focus on millennials) in the past year after a bad customer service experience.
Prioritizing customer experience is shown to have a positive economic impact: 84% of companies that work to improve this area report an increase in their revenue.
2. Customer Service is not limited to a department
As customer experience becomes the main criterion of choice, this area is gaining more importance within companies. While it used to be seen as a cost center solely dedicated to answering customer inquiries, it now has a more central role and is transitioning to a profit center.
We can see a growing interest in customer experience from the C-suite. A YouGov survey found that 97% of executives believe customer satisfaction is key to business success. These leaders contribute to driving investment in CX and spread a culture centered around the customer.
To support this vision, companies must rely on a connected ecosystem of tools. An open customer engagement platform allows users to provide a seamless experience and encourage the circulation of data across departments. Integrating this tool with CRM or BI facilitates customer service teamwork and the ability to leverage information from customer interactions that can be used by other departments such as sales and marketing.
3. UCaaS + CCaaS make Customer Experience better
The transition from on-premise to cloud solutions brings several benefits to companies, such as reduced implementation time, costs reduction, and more open frameworks for integrations. UCaas (Unified Communications as a Service) and CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) are two of these main cloud services.
UCaaS is dedicated to internal communications between employees, and CCaaS enables them to interact with customers. While they used to operate in 2 distinct spheres, these areas can now be linked thanks to the Cloud.
This integration supports a better customer experience. Customer experience is gaining a more central role and is not limited to a department, meaning that any employee can have an impact on CX. When frontline employees lack information, they need to access those with the right expertise inside the company, ideally while engaged with the customer. Still, 70% of employees report they have to leave the customer communication app to consult with coworkers – increasing customer wait times and time to resolution.
Having a single platform for both CC and UC reduces the time needed to switch between apps, improving both the employee and customer experience. Integrating UCaaS and CCaaS is a necessary step to support a customer-centric vision and contributes to improved customer satisfaction, retention, and sales growth.
4. The majority of customer interactions are becoming digital
Digital channels such as messaging are gaining more and more importance for customer interactions. Customers are used to these channels to communicate within their private circle and expect to use the same with companies. While the phone is still used, there is a general decrease in its use.
Some studies outline this evolution: by 2022, Gartner predicts that 72% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as messaging, mobile applications and chatbots, up from 11% in 2017. They also expect that, by that time, phone conversations will make up merely 12% of customer service interactions – vs 41% in 2017.
The growth of digital does not only require to adopt new channels, but also a completely new approach. The new challenge for companies is to go beyond omni-channel to offer multiexperience. This means being able to provide seamless and effortless experiences across all digital touchpoints. It becomes evident that customers are not thinking in terms of “channels” anymore: they naturally choose the contact method that is the most convenient to them.
To adapt to this evolution, brands must adopt an omni-digital strategy, that allows to centralize the management of channels. With this approach, silos disappear and agents manage any channel with a single tool. We don’t know what customers’ preferences will be tomorrow: by becoming channel-agnostic, brands gain the flexibility to deploy quickly any new touchpoint where customers expect them.
5. The use of Live-Chat is declining
Live-chat is still widely used and relevant for customer service, especially for sales. However, it has some limits such as its synchronous character, the lack of conversation history and the limited compatibility with mobile devices.
Messaging is the fastest-growing channel for customer service and tackles these limits. Its asynchronous character doesn’t require customers and agents to stay focused on the conversation. Other advantages are the conversation history and usage across multiple devices. Like live-chat, it can also be offered while customers browse the website to answer their questions quickly.
Messaging is mainly adopted through external channels such as WhatsApp and Messenger. It can also be offered in the brand’s mobile app, thanks to messaging in-app. This offers more control and flexibility on the features and data. The next wave of this technology will be cross-device: in that way, the brand can deploy its proprietary channels on mobile and desktop with continuity in the conversation.
6. AI empowers Customer Service agents
Do you remember that, not long ago, chatbots were seen as a threat for agents? This fear is now gone, as chatbots become more widely used, and models of collaboration with agents are developed. 88% of CX professionals actually believe AI will enhance, not replace, agents.
As a Forrester study points out, companies must start creating Human-Machine collaborations to free employees to do more important work. There are many ways in which AI can be leveraged to assist agents in their daily tasks. By routing messages, collecting customer information or providing a knowledge base, AI is saving agents a lot of time. This approach allows them to focus on more added-value tasks such as solving complex issues or identifying opportunities for upselling.
A collaboration between AI and agents also answers to customers’ expectations: 86% of customers believe there should be an “escalate to agent” option when talking to a chatbot. In that way, they enjoy the best of both parties: instant answers from chatbots for basic requests, and interactions with an agent for more complex situations.
2020 will be marked by the central role given to customer experience. This shift started a few years ago and now becomes a reality for most companies. Brands convinced of the importance of CX are prioritizing this area to better match customers’ expectations. The challenge is now to adopt the right strategy and tools to provide multiexperience rather than organising the contact center in terms of channels.
Originally published Dec 02, 2019, updated Apr 18, 2021