- What are your top three customer service priorities for 2018?
No company can be all things to all people, so it’s vital that organisations take the time to be really clear about who their core customer base is and how the organisation’s purpose relates to them. This is also important from an employee’s viewpoint as well. Where organisations try to do too much and lose focus, they run the risk of miscommunication and confusion.
Additionally, a business needs to be able to measure the impact of what it is doing. Most organisations measure inputs and activity, but it’s showing the impact that really brings everything together. This is why measuring customer satisfaction is so important. It’s the external yardstick of how well a business is actually faring. Demonstrating high levels of satisfaction is very motivating to staff.
I also see a growing need personalisation. Just as companies need to engage their staff, so it is essential that they engage their customers if they are to gain their loyalty and repeat business. The key to this is personalization is, giving customers a bespoke service experience that reflects their own preferences. Customers are yielding more data and information to companies – the quid pro quo for this is that they expect a more tailored service and that there information is used to in an authentic and transparent way.
- What is going to be the the biggest game changer for customer service professionals this year? E.g. new technologies, new channels, change in customer expectations.
Customer motivations and priorities are dominated by the desire to work with organisations who are easy to do business with, whether that’s through technology (e.g. online or mobile apps) or through human interaction. They want to deal with staff who are knowledgeable, keep their promises and are willing to help. When a problem arises, they want to feel valued and that their issue is important to the organisation. This is likely to become even more important as 2018 progresses. If the past 12 months were tough for businesses, with a challenging economic climate – evidenced by the slowdown of growth in Q1 - and uncertainty abounding over Brexit and other political issues, 2018 will be the same and more.
Meanwhile, the cost of living is likely to continue to rise, squeezing consumers more and driving even more pronounced customer polarisation. We could also see a continuation of the trend for government and regulatory intervention in industries where there are perceived market blockages or concerns. The ‘sharing economy’ will come under even greater scrutiny and its big players will face more pressure to demonstrate that they are looking after the workers in their care. The drive towards automation will continue – but this will have to be integrated into the customer experience not just a separate activity or purely a cost saving exercise!.
Put all of these together and the search for the ultimate return on investment from service strategies will be the ultimate game changer for organisations.
- What role do you think Chatbots will play in scaling customer support? Do you plan to use them as part of your CS operations within the next year?
Chatbots and artificial intelligence in general remains one of the most talked about customer experience areas. During the next year to three years I expect more organisations to expand their deployment of technology from robotics and automation to cognitive applications which are capable of improving processes and resource allocation, diagnosing and fixing problems, predicting customer needs and behaviours and identifying training needs and creating new services.
Yet the challenges of implementing cognitive technologies to transform customer experience and business processes will be as much organisational and reputational as technological. Many of the most powerful applications will harness technology alongside people and the opportunity for artificial intelligence to create more joined up and seamless customer experiences will gather pace.
Yet this will also mean that traditional customer experience attributes of trust and reputation will be needed more than ever to demonstrate to customers, and in some cases regulators, that artificial intelligence deployment is reliable, secure and delivers outcomes that benefit customers.
- Do you see self-service playing a larger role in 2018? If so, what can companies do to help empower customers?
From the customer’s perspective it is less about self-service and more about securing a personalised experience. Depending on the activity many of us will be very happy to self serve, particularly where the activity is transactional and pretty simple or straightforward – functional. However where we require advice, knowledge and a more joined up experience that is often relationship based we will want a more personalized and genuine customer experience.
In a climate of expanding choice, customers will also want integrated services across businesses and sectors. Above all perhaps, emotional and values driven factors will become more influential in shaping customers’ preferences and behaviour.
Organisations will need to excel both in providing self-service facilities that don’t compromise the experience and deliver fast, efficient, convenient experiences and more empathetic and relationship based services. A key challenge will be the capacity to address both sets of needs and to move seamlessly between them.
- How is social media customer service changing in 2018?
The rise of social media has fuelled and coincided with an increasing demand for speed, convenience and transparency which is challenging organisations’ customer service. Public visibility, immediacy and integration with other channels have forced organisations fundamentally to review their communications strategies.
Our research highlights that a growing number of customers are using social media in a variety of ways to interact with organisations. This is why organisations are justified in approaching their social media strategy with some caution. Numerous high-profile cases have shown that the public nature of the channel can bring risks to corporate reputation, if not managed appropriately and consistently as part of a coherent customer service strategy.
Social media has also created a need for a dynamic new mixture of skills in the workforce including heightened competences in emotional intelligence, commercial awareness, risk management, judgement and style of communication. But one of the most exciting aspects of social media is the opportunity it presents to listen and gain insight from customers and to demonstrate the learning and improvements that can be achieved as a result.