journal Forbes recently published a list of ten predictions for the future of
customer service by Dr. Volker Hildebrand, the Global Vice President for Customer
Engagement and Commerce Solutions at SAP Customer Experience. As Dr. Hildebrand
notes, it is not always easy to predict how customer service will evolve
because sometimes there are unpredictable and unexpected changes – like
customers moving from phone calls to emails even though it takes longer to
resolve a problem.
You can read the complete list of predictions by following this link to the Forbes story, but I would like to comment on what I think are some of the most important trends and predictions mentioned. In particular where I strongly agree with Hildebrand or think that there has been an omission.
- Digital beats phone: Hildebrand says that during 2019 we will see the phone become a minority channel for customer service. I certainly agree that chat and messaging apps are growing quickly, but in my experience the phone still dominates. This will change in time, especially as digital natives become consumers, but it will not happen in the next few months. It’s also worth noting that different industries see a very different channel mix too – video gamers are unlikely to pick up the phone to resolve an issue. The phone is still an important channel that accounts for the majority of customer service interactions, but it pays to be ready for digital channels.
- Self-service will be the first choice: here I am in total agreement. Brands need to understand customer behavior. When people have a problem with a product their natural reaction today is to Google for a solution, not to call a customer care number. Creating helpful content that customers can find easily should be an integral part of your CX strategy even if this content ensures the customer never makes a support call – that call deflection actually equals success for the content creation team and creates a happy customer.
- Support before the customer buys: Hildebrand talks here about customers abandoning carts before a purchase if they cannot get a question answered, but I would go a step further and say that customer engagement is no longer about post-sale questions. Customer engagement should not be measured in minutes and short phone calls, we should be thinking about an ongoing engagement that lasts for half a century – every time the customer is in touch we remember the last time and it doesn’t matter if the engagement is before, during, or after a sale. Customer service really is about service at any stage in the journey, it is not just customer support.
- Everything connected: Hildebrand talks extensively about the Internet of Things (IoT) with examples such as the connected car even giving driving stats to a phone app – potentially to help negotiate lower auto insurance. I would go further and say that the IoT is being normalized for most customers by the use of voice-controlled assistants in their own home – the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Amazon has sold over 100m Echo devices and Google is now outselling Amazon (that Macaulay Culkin ad must have worked) – these devices are creating smart homes and brands need to connect their services into this voice-controlled world. For example, if you are a major hotel chain then is your brand being recommended if a customer says: “Hey Alexa, can you book me a room at a hotel in San Francisco tomorrow night?”
- Customers remain unimpressed: the good news is that CX is really high on the CEO agenda today – often the number one priority. The bad news is that customers are almost entirely unimpressed by the service they receive from most major brands. In a business environment filled with mediocrity you do have a chance to stand out from the crowd just by living up to some of those demands your customers are making – make it happen!
On the whole this is a great list of predictions, with just a few omissions (although Alexa is a pretty big one). We are still only in early February so there is a lot of time left in 2019 to see how these predictions go.