Happy New Year! As we embark on 2014, I thought about the key trends that we’re seeing in the customer service business and how they impact you as well as the impact to the Oracle Service Cloud business. Here's my 2 cents on what matters for the new year. Feel free to put in your own 2 cents in the comments!
1. Customer Service Becomes a Boardroom Priority
We’re about 3 years into the Age of the Customer, a 20-year cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.” (Source: Forrester Research, Inc., Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, October 2013) The strong correlation between customer service, brand equity, and sales conversions is becoming conventional wisdom. And, the cross-organization initiatives that are required to deliver the best customer service require boardroom-level sponsorship. According to Joanne Causon, CEO, Institute of Customer Service, “There is a close alignment between the financial performance of an organization and its customer service… It is about the decisions made in the boardroom. Focusing your customer service strategy across the whole of the organization, how it relates to other parts of the organization such as finance and marketing.” (Source: Institute of Customer Service)
2. Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You
As Gen-Y and Millennials are increasing into the demographic mix, more of your customers don’t want to talk to you. Talking on a phone is “so old school” to these generations. They prefer to serve themselves via the Web, and increasingly on a mobile device. And, when they do find that they need to talk to you, they want the transition to be easy and seamless – with the click of a button, without repeating information, no writing down a service request number, etc.
In a recent survey conducted by Unisphere Research, “31 percent of all customer interactions today are conducted via the Web, and an additional 9 percent are conducted via the mobile Web or mobile applications… The highest concentration of Web self-service capabilities right now is in the finance/insurance (52 percent) and government/education/nonprofit (50 percent) sectors.”
According to a blog post written by Kate Leggett, Forrester Research, “we’ve seen a 12% rise in web self-service usage, a 24% rise in chat usage, and a 25% increase in community usage for customer service in the past three years”. Voice is still the most used service channel, but self-service channels are experiencing significant growth. (Source: Forrester Research, Inc., Forrester’s Top 15 Trends for Customer Service in 2013, January 2013.)
3. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
Fifty-five percent of all time spent with online retailers in June 2013 occurred on a mobile device, surpassing time spent on PCs, according to comScore, a Web and mobile measurement firm. Our own customer usage data tells us that 20% of support interactions are taking place over mobile. So, it’s no surprise that 62% of companies think mobile customer service is a competitive differentiator. (Source: ICMI) The challenge is that the mobile device mix continues to get more fragmented with the various operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, RIM, etc.) and the device formats (tablets, mini-tablets, smart phones, etc.) And, many customers begin transactions on a mobile device and later transition to Web or assisted channels to complete a transaction. Amidst all this complexity, two things are clear: 1) providing support for the most common transactions in the mobile format that customers use is a must, and 2) ensuring a smooth transition between mobile and other support channels will become a strong differentiator against the competition.
4. Your Coffee Maker Serves Itself
Connected devices such as game consoles, TVs, appliances, personal fitness devices to name a few are expected to grow to 25 billion in 2015. (Source: CISCO IBSG) So, your coffee maker may request its own service by going online to troubleshoot issues and download updates – without you even knowing it’s happened.
Again, the seamless transition between support channels is a differentiator. If the customer contacts you with an issue, the ability to link that customer to their device and access support data for the device helps your support agents provide more efficient and effective service. If they know the status of the device and what has happened, they can more easily take the appropriate corrective actions.
Additionally, customers may want to use their device to get service without having to switch to another channel. For instance, if a customer is having a technical issue with a game, they want to be able to get service from within the game without switching to a phone, PC, or mobile device. Providing service directly from internet-enabled devices will become a more common expectation.
5. Knowledge is Everywhere
We all know that customers have a lot of choice in who they do business with and that attention spans are very short. A substandard service experience leads to customer frustration and negative perceptions about the product as well as the company. An interruption in the buying process may mean abandonment. The end result is an increased likelihood that customers will go to a competitor next time. To address customer’s expectations that everything should be fast, easy and accessible, knowledge can’t be a separate destination, living in the support or service portal only. It needs to be woven into the entire customer lifecycle and accessible via any channel the customer chooses. It needs to be contextual to what the customer is doing. And, it needs to leverage the collective community of experts – both inside and outside of your company. Share your knowledge everywhere so it adds value to your customers!
6. The Web Comes Alive
Given that many of your customers don’t want to talk to you, there is a need to provide them with the best possible experience on your online channels. Doing so requires the ability to answer the questions online that historically ended up in your call center, providing the ability to deliver a personalized interaction in what have been, to this point, very impersonal online interactions around knowledge. In an effort to create a more human-like interaction that can replicate the knowledge of their best service representatives and provide a more personalized Web experience, more companies will adopt a virtual assistant, an intelligent online concierge, to increase customer loyalty and reduce costs.
7. Social Gets Real
We’re past the buzz phase and into the reality phase with social customer service. Our own customer usage data tells us that for established peer-to-peer communities, 30-40% of self-service interactions are coming through this channel, indicating that collective knowledge is becoming a significant part of solving customer issues. And, 62% of customers have already used social media for customer service issues (Source: Mashable), raising the importance of monitoring social channels and responding to issues in those channels before they become crises. But many businesses today have bolted social customer service onto their existing customer service platform. Instead, in order to best leverage social channels to achieve the greatest business benefits, organizations will need a tightly integrated social service platform that helps customers find answers they can trust--and helps the companies tune and optimize their social investments.
8. Employee Experience Takes the Limelight
“Engaged employees work harder, stay later, and make more recommendations. You can’t create or sustain great customer experience with disengaged employees.” (Source: Bruce Temkin) While this wisdom isn’t new, 2014 will see increased focus on employee engagement in order to drive better customer experiences and company results. Relating to customer service specifically, we’ll see companies invest in more training, empowerment, and tools to make it easier for employees to deliver on great customer experiences.
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