Customer service never stops improving. Every year we see new trends, higher expectations, and better technology. It can feel rather overwhelming at times. How can we, as customer service leaders, keep up with the new customer service trends and continue innovating?
First of all, to help our readers prepare for the new year, we’ve looked into our crystal ball and discovered four top predictions for 2017. Find them below. They also come along with actionable advice on how you can get ahead of the game and hit the ground running!
Conversations not tickets
While Intercom has been humanizing interactions between customer and company for a couple of years now, there’s more momentum heading into 2017. Companies are beginning to realize that great customer service is authentic and human. We build an excellent experience around making it easy for the customer – not for the company. Since treating customers like a number and shepherding them through a queue isn’t going to build a fanbase.
As a result, companies like Drift, Help Scout, and Intercom are all turning their focus towards developing products that simplify getting a resolution to customers’ issues. While, at the same time, they are maintaining efficient processes for customer service leaders who need metrics.
To get ready:
Evaluate the process customers need to go through to get in touch. Most of all, do you force them to call a 1-800 number? Also, do they need to fill out endless forms or hunt through a website to find the magic contact button? Because such business won’t fly in 2017.
Therefore more and more companies will be placing conversation starting widgets on every page of their website. You’ll start seeing easier ways to begin conversations in-product or during checkout and fewer old, complicated tickets or “issue resolutions” Help Desk solutions.
Solution suggesting robots
Fewer problems will need to be resolved by talking with a human in the future – and that’s a good thing! 81% of customers would prefer to help themselves rather than pick up the phone. To help businesses provide solutions to customers, top Help Desks are coming out with new AI-based products in 2017. Zendesk’s Automatic Answers (in beta) uses AI to suggest answers to customers’ questions and then allows them to close their own ticket. It learns as you go, so the more questions it sees, the better it gets at choosing the right answer. Solvvy, the newest product on the market, is a machine learning add-on to existing Help Desks. It helps “unlock the power” of your knowledge base to generate automatic answers. They launched in December 2016 with $4.5M in funding, so you can expect to see more of them in 2017.
To get ready:
Robots can only do so much – they need quality help center content to deliver results. So make sure you update your documentation, organize it well and use test. When you’re ready to bring in the AI backup, you’ll see results much faster.
Customer Service as a career
With AI and self-service solutions becoming commonplace, the role of the customer service rep is changing. They are becoming more involved in customer experience projects and resolving much more complicated problems. Customer expectations keep increasing. That’s why the skills of top customer service reps are increasingly in demand. However, turnover is way up, at an estimated 24% this year! To combat their top talent leaving, we’re expecting more companies to spend more time developing and retaining excellent customer support in 2017. This additional investment means customer service roles will need to move away from entry level jobs to a more meaningful career option.
We already see this trend in 2016: Conferences like SupConf and Elevate continue to grow and build a community of customer service professionals. New podcasts designed to pass on skills to others in customer support (like Support Breakfast) are popping up.
To get ready:
Evaluate your plan for customer service agent development. Don’t you have any? It’s the time to get on it! Create defined paths for team members to increase their skills, develop their professional abilities and bring more value to the company. Creating a comprehensive roadmap for long-term growth, and communicating it well, will be the key to retaining top customer service talent.
All hands on deck
While All Hands Support has been around for a few years, usually just trendy SaaS companies have been adopting it. But most companies realize how important it is to break down the silos between the front line customer service reps and the rest of the office. In 2017, we’ll see better collaboration and closer relationships between support and … everyone else.
Software is facilitating this as well. Kayako’s new release this year featured free Collaborators – primarily light agents then can view and help resolve conversations. Help Scout just added @mentions into their interface. It is making it super easy to pull in other users to a ticket without having to assign to them.
To get ready:
With all these extra hands on deck, it’s important to be really confident in your support team voice and processes. Update any internal documentation. And share it with other teams. You can also host a lunch and learn to train other departments how customer service works at your company.
Happy New Year and Happy Customers!
We can’t wait for all the great new trends we’ll see in 2017.
Every single one of these predictions will help agents deliver even better support in the year ahead. And we’re excited to be part of that.