The customer service trends of 2021 and beyond will leave no room for error.
For years, customer expectations have been evolving. Clients have demanded faster resolutions to their problems, better service on various channels, and more personalized experiences. When the pandemic pushed us into a more digital world in 2020, this demand for excellence increased. Since COVID-19, 59% of customers care even more about customer experience.
During the months of the pandemic itself, contact centre managers were forced to rapidly pivot their customer service strategies, and discover new business models for the new age. As we approach the “post-pandemic” era, there’s even more work to do. Any friction in the customer journey could result in lost opportunities, and consumer churn.
To be prepared for the new age of CX, companies must be aware of the customer service trends set to change the marketplace. Here are just some points to consider for your:
Trend 1: Empowered Agents Drive Better Outcomes
There are around 6,035 contact centres in the UK, responsible for 812,000 agents. These agents are among the most valuable resource for any customer service strategy. The question for today’s companies, is whether their employees are properly equipped to handle a new age of service.
89% of contact centre leaders in the UK say that the pandemic has forever changed the industry. Employees no longer need to be located within the contact centre building to generate results. 35% of contact centres even agree that their workforce will mainly work from home going forward. Another 58% believe that the hybrid model of home and office work will win.
Either way, the rise of the new contact centre agent requires a shift in contact centre management. Customer experience starts with great agent experience. Prioritizing the needs of your teams and helping them to leverage their new environment successfully is how you ensure you continue to deliver exceptional audience experiences.
How to Empower the Evolving Agent
Discussions about the future workforce of the contact centre need to consider both managing and motivating the post-pandemic agent.
So, how do we empower the evolving agent?
- Better management: Managers and supervisors should be able to deliver remote training, support, and guidance to staff wherever they are. Analytics should give business leaders insights into what’s happening with any employee, giving them the freedom to step into conversations and deliver advice when necessary.
- Improved motivation: Employees need help to stay focused and on track when working outside of the office. Real-time reporting and analytics will ensure that staff can consistently track and manage their own performance. The same statistics make it easier for companies to evaluate and optimise their operations.
- Enhanced technology: Agents need to be able to access the same powerful technology for customer service wherever they are. This includes clear phone lines for voice conversations, collaboration tools for support from colleagues, and knowledgebase or CRM access to personalise the customer conversation.
Employees everywhere are navigating a new environment, attempting to overcome challenges and discover their own ways of reaching personal and professional goals. The more guidance managers can give, through everything from real-time analytics to regular training opportunities, the more teams will thrive.
Trend 2: The Evolving Customer Demands New Experiences
During the initial months of the pandemic in 2020, customers got a taste of how quickly companies could adapt to digital environments and service. Now, studies show that customers demand access to the companies they want to contact on the channels they prefer. Digital interactions are becoming a new must-have component of customer experience.
Aside from offering immersive, human phone calls, companies will also need to build aligned experiences through WhatsApp, social media, online messaging tools, video, and SMS. Around 80% of customers will switch to another brand after just one poor experience with their initial vendor.
Now, simply not having the right channels available is enough to lose your customers. On top of that, customers are becoming increasingly used to having access to new forms of service and problem resolution. More than 41% of customers expect to see live chat on a website, and many prefer to talk through SMS or mobile apps than over the phone.
How to Drive New Experiences
Crucially, just having the platform available isn’t enough. Companies also need to ensure that the agents managing those platforms have access to an aligned environment on the back end. A 360-degree view of the customer journey that considers all of the potential touchpoints between your brand and consumer is the only way to offer a truly relevant and personalised experience.
Companies will need to build contact centre tools that integrate with their CRMs, ticketing solutions, and various analytics tools to ensure they have the right level of insight. These aligned environments should reduce the risk of customers having to repeat themselves.
Aligning your omnichannel environment with an intelligent routing system takes the strategy even further. With smart routing, you can improve a customer’s chances of reaching the right agent with their first call.
As the focus on integrating, optimising, and evaluating information in the customer journey grows, companies will also be more equipped to serve the increasing trend of self-service. Today, 40% of customers prefer self-service over human contact. However, they want that service to be efficient, fast, and convenient.
The more information you gather about your audience, the more easily you can create knowledge-based articles, chatbots, and automated systems to help them serve themselves.
Trend 3: The Transforming Technology Stack
Technology is at the heart of the new era for customer service trends.
Virtually every customer service trend set to make a lasting impact on this environment is influenced by technology in some way. We use AI to predict customer needs, rely on analytics to track agent performance, and access VoIP for global and international calls. The CCaaS market alone will reach a value of $10.06 billion by 2027, demonstrating a CAGR of 16.1%
Though human connection still counts when delivering exceptional experiences, we’re increasingly discovering the benefits of aligning different technology tools for success. For instance, as the workplace grows more complex and distributed, many businesses are looking to remove the gaps between their internal and external communication stacks.
Siloed teams and technology lead to confusion, lost information, and inefficiency. APIs, integrations, and flexible technology allow companies to simplify the path to becoming customer-centric. Going forward, companies will need to focus on building a technology stack that’s not just future-focused and customer-first, but also integrated and aligned.
Optimising the technology stack
Companies keen to align their CCaaS technology with UCaaS offerings are discovering new opportunities with partnerships, direct routing, and carefully crafted technology bundles. Microsoft Teams, for instance, is now the most popular collaboration and UCaaS tool in the world for many major brands. Rather than separating team interactions from the contact centre environment, Microsoft Team Contact Centre solutions allow the two worlds to merge.
These optimised and agile environments keep employees connected on the backend while delivering the exceptional omnichannel customer experiences that clients crave. Built on an API-first architecture, business leaders can even enhance their technology stack with custom integrations ranging all the way from sentiment analysis to predictive insights.
This end-to-end environment paves the way to a more proactive contact centre environment, preferred by 87% of customers, according to Gartner. As we move forward into a post-pandemic era of customer service, the companies keen to place customer-centricity at the heart of their culture will demand a flexible, scalable technology stack.
The right technology, and the right partnerships behind those investments, give today’s teams the agility and strength to adapt to an environment still in a state of constant transformation.
Are You Ready for the Future of Customer Service?
There’s no arguing with the value of customer experience in today’s digital age. Customers have increasingly gotten used to being able to reach companies through a multitude of channels, in the format that suits them. As companies strive to find their footing in the new world post-pandemic, it’s crucial they take steps to future proof their investments.
The customer service trends for 2021 and beyond aren’t just about getting “back on track” following a disruptive period. Companies need to be willing to rediscover their audience, and the needs of their customers all over again. This will pave the way to better forecasting, planning, and investment opportunities. In the meantime, accessing a flexible contact centre environment that grows and adapts to suit your needs will be essential.
Only with the right, scalable solution, can businesses be prepared to pivot in any direction, as the new customer service trends make themselves known. Are you prepared for the future of customer service?