Customer Service in the Digital Age: Customer Service Trends You Should Know in 2016

Speed, omnipresence, and individuation are all growing trends in customer service.  Businesses now must be available by web, phone, email, and in person. Customer complaints are broadcast more widely than ever now via Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Amazon, and other outlets.  Simply being available is no longer enough, as customers engage with businesses in a very public way, bad experiences are quickly seen and shared.  The bottom line is those that do not offer quick and effective service through a variety of channels will lose business.

Walker Info reports that by 2020, customer service will replace products and price as the main brand differentiator, and this is motivated largely by social media. In their article “Your Company Should Be Helping Customers On Social Media,” The Harvard Business Review highlights some key statistics: the amount of people who have used Twitter for customer service has jumped from 22% to 37% between 2013-14, a 70% increase. People under 35 spend almost four hours per day on social media, and the volume of tweets aimed at brands has grown 2.5 times in the last two years. 30% of social media users prefer social care (i.e. attentive social media responses) to phoning a customer service line, and 72% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a reply within an hour.

“The very important thing about the Internet and social media: one is to recognize technology can and should do a mountain of repetitive work, but the moment that mountain for whatever reason is not producing the right experience for the customer, that’s the moment you want human being to be there,” said customer service expert Ron Kaufman. Customers increasingly expect both the ability to remediate a problem themselves as well as attentive services across all interphases. Though technology has increased the amount of self-service kiosks and 1-click ordering, users still need human service on the other end when technology malfunctions or gets confusing. The solution is to equip the customer with the means to fix the problem themselves, but develop a support network for times when they can’t. So while brands like Apple actively encourage intelligent self-service through self-diagnosis and self-repair when it comes to tech issues, they ready their stores with Genius bars and supply immediate phone support as well.

Speed is often the name of the game. According to a survey by NM Incite, 33% of social media users surveyed said they would recommend a brand that offered a quick but ineffective response, while only 17% would prefer a brand that provided a slow but effective solution. A quick response shows that you listen and take the complaint seriously. For those that need extra attention, Micah Solomon suggests in Forbes to provide a means for the customer to speak directly offline with a company representative. It’s all about building relationships, and the more you can strengthen your ranks on all levels — live chats, FAQs, Twitter presence — the more supported your customer relations will be. In a Tech Target article, Scott Sachs recommends a CRM system to record a history of the customer’s journey. This data can later be used to anticipate similar complaints as well as to produce special touches and incentives unique to this particular customer’s experience and preferences.

The more widely broadcast your social media successes, the bigger your customer base can potentially grow. While not all of these customer relations may lead to results, publicly demonstrating both attentiveness and individual touch can stimulate positive word of mouth. Sales expert and Predictable Revenue author Aaron Ross describes it as a process of planting seeds. “It’s about turning your funnel into an hourglass. Investing in customer success is the main way to proactively grow word of mouth. And treating that not as an expense but as a revenue investment, as a growth investment,” he said in an interview. Investing in your customer relations and attending to them in real time over social media is a much greater way of attracting sales than cold calls and impersonal e-mails; deal well with your customers publicly, and others will notice.


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