At Kayako, we do our best to understand not just our customers’ needs, but their customers’ needs, as well. Armed with that empathy and over ten years in the business, there’s been one consistent signal that stands out from the noise in this year’s customer service trends: customers want effortless experiences.
Customers hate putting in effort to get problems resolved. We’ve all been through a customer service experience that’s required more effort than we thought was possible.
Does this sound familiar? Setting aside 20-30 minutes of your day with the idea you could be on the phone or live chat to get a small problem resolved. This isn’t something anyone loves doing.
Something like the above happened to me recently. I’d purchased flights through a popular comparison site only to find double charges in my bank account. I spent the morning hopping from phone to live chat to find who was at fault. Did my bank have an error? Did the comparison site or airline double book me? I got my answer in the end (and my refund), but it wasn’t an ideal way to spend the first hour of my Sunday morning—or my first customer service transaction this year—that stressed out.
Which brings me neatly toward 2018’s customer service trends:
Customer Service Trends 2018: Creating Effortless Customer-Centric Experiences
Becoming customer-centric will be the goal of most businesses this year. According to Google trends, search intent for “customer-centric” has been on the rise for the past two years.
What will make a business more customer-centric than the next one? We predict it’s the technology they choose that will reflect how close they want to get to their customers. This is how we see the breakdown happening.
Navigate the trends:
- Customer-centric through a customer experience strategy
- Will AI and bots create friction or free up resources for teams?
- Consumers want a messaging experience over live chat
- Self-service will become a form marketing
1. Businesses will be more customer-centric with a whole customer experience strategy
In 2016 one study found that 75% of companies said their top objective was to improve customer experience. That’s because smart companies know they’ll be competing on customer experience: Gartner predicts customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Excellent customer experiences grow customer loyalty
An example of great customer experience in retail would be choosing Warby Parker over your standard optician to purchase your next pair of glasses. Warby Parker realize that customer experience is not a hype and actually generates profits in the long-term.
Imagine you’ve paid $95 for a pair of Warby Parker glasses. You checked out online with ease. You received two-day shipping for free. When you realized you preferred the other color, your phone call was answered in six seconds, and within four days, your new shiny frames arrived.
Next time you need glasses, would you go to an overpriced opticians, choose from their small selection, pay two-to-three times the price, and have to wait a week to collect?
A brand like Warby Parker are focused on increasing a customer’s lifetime value: the full amount of revenue a customer generates over their lifetime through repurchases. Building a low-friction experience that delights your customer increases the probability they’ll buy from you in the future.
“I think we need to consider throttling back on our obsession with what’s next. Customers still complain about inconsistent and unsatisfactory experiences. Have we moved forward? Are things better? Arguably not. Organizations often cite lack of collaboration and communication, and silo-ed thinking. Being brilliant at the basics and delivering better and more consistent outcomes for customers and employees seems like a great option and one that, I hope, we see more of.”
Adrian Swinscoe, best-selling author of How To Wow. @adrianswinscoe
Collaboration will power personal customer support
Personalization will help drive a customer’s respect and loyalty. They want the company to know them well enough to make relevant suggestions, send the right marketing messages, and more.
While Warby Parker store visitors are personally welcomed by a greeter who get you to where you need to go—and their POS system remembers you. It’s easy to see why this retail customer experience makes it effortless for returning customers.
But for an online business, copying this approach is a little trickier. That’s why collaboration will be key to personalization within the business.
“One terrific trend I’m starting to see is companies are creating a customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding customer service that gets everyone on the same page. This is the most important step towards becoming a customer-centric company since it’s pretty hard to be customer-centric if you can’t get everyone to agree on what that means!”
Jeff Toister is the bestselling author of The Service Culture Handbook. @toister
Customer support works better as a team sport. This doesn’t mean that everyone works on support. It means that support is respected as a profit-center in your company—as it should— and that engineering, marketing, and sales teams dip in with useful information to help customer support out.
We built this theory into Kayako, via collaborators. Making, say, an engineer a collaborator means he/she can provide information to support reps without directly speaking to customers.
Not only should your customer support software allow other departments to collaborate with your team. But Integrations will make you more customer-centric than ever.
For a business aiming for an effortless experience, it’s vital you’re tapped into the full customer journey. Connecting your customer support software through integrations with popular CRMs (like Salesforce) so that support, marketing, and sales teams know everything they possibly can in any conversation.
Creating a consistent and personal experience as customers move from prospect to customer will make customer journeys effortless. But most companies don’t have this context. Only 8% of organizations say that they have all of their channels connected and, in fact, as many as 70% say that none or very few of their channels are connected, according to Dimension Data.
Organizations that take customer experience seriously through personalization will stand out from the noise and create loyal customers.
Kayako makes customer service simple and personal. Bring customer activity from all your apps into Kayako for true context and faster, more helpful support. Start your free trial.
2. Will AI and bots create friction or free up resources for teams?
Bots and AI can’t be ignored when it comes to customer service trends of 2018. Bots and AI have been building in momentum for years now and will continue to be in discussion for years to come.
Why wouldn’t they be? The idea of reducing costs and human input is very alluring for a department like customer service—one often sees the tail end of a company’s budget.
The idea of bringing down first response time and resolution time over live chat is enough to make you invest in the solution. But how well do they do that?
And chatbots are somewhat successful…
When a chatbot pilot program was initiated in a telco company, it could handle 82% of common queries in customer service. After 5 weeks of tweaking, analyzing, and optimizing by human agents, its success increased to 88%, According to Accenture.
The businesses that build these bots showcase this in their marketing. There’s promises of bots connecting people to right humans when needed—and 86% of consumers expect this.
…But there is still a long way to go
Providing the right information at the right time without human intervention remains a vital flaw in chatbots and AI. Disappointingly for AI and bots, The Information reported that chatbots fail 70% of the time and require a human to intervene.
Imagine this frustration over a customer service interaction. You’re going to be raging with fury when the bot can’t understand you and doesn’t pass you over to a human help you. And who gets the brunt end of your fury? The first support agent you connect with. They’re not perfect, but they will improve their accuracy quickly.
“AI will serve both customers and employees. For customers, AI will continue to handle basic questions and requests, such as a change of address or answering frequently asked questions – and will continue to get better at it. And, while most companies seem focused using AI to interact directly with customers, it is also being used to support the agent, helping them with real-time answers to customers’ questions. No longer does the customer have to wait as an agent looks through screens of information to get accurate answers. And, AI can quickly identify a customer, give the agent relevant history and predict (with uncanny accuracy) what the next problem the customer will have or product the customer will want to purchase.”
Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert and New York Times bestselling business author. @Hyken
3. Consumers want a messaging experience over live chat
Live chat needs to adopt the same kind of user experience as messenger apps, as 38% of customers are not happy with the current live chat experience—and 43% of businesses know their user experience is not good enough.
Consumer messaging offers much less friction and makes it easy to chat with friends. Look at the explosive growth Messaging apps have seen worldwide over past few years:
- Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp users send over 60 billion messages a day.
- Line Users exchange 20 billion messages every day.
- Over 70% of WeChat users spend over 1 hour per day on the messaging app.
Think about the usability these popular mobile apps offer. They have evolved to offer users features such as sending payments, ordering, and booking all through one app. So rather than having to download an additional app or use another website, users can buy goods, submit orders, and book restaurants all through their favorite messaging app.
And these popular apps know this. Facebook has announced it’s beta testing website integration for Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp has launched a business app.
“The first thing customer-focused companies think, “what can I do to make my customers’ lives easier and better?” To become more customer-centric, simply to talk to your customers and find out what their experience is actually like. Then you can begin to chip away at processes and product aspects that no longer serve customers. You can start with the biggest offenders and work your way down. By listening to your customers, and starting small, you will begin to make great strides in customer experience.”
Blake Morgan, customer experience author, speaker, HBR and Forbes columnist. @BlakeMichelleM
How will the messaging experience look in B2B?
The one perk of messaging experiences over typical live chat is that customers can take their conversations anywhere. When you use typical live chat software to talk with customer service, you have to go to a laptop or desktop. You’re rooted there until your problem is resolved.
Consumers don’t want this. They want to be able to solve their problems on the go, like solving a problem while commuting on the train or bus. Consumers want to take their support conversations with them.
Creating effortless messaging experiences over live chat will see the conveniences of integrations across apps make life even easier:
- Want to see where your recent order is? Live chat and Messenger will be proactive in displaying an update on the status of your order so you don’t have to ask support.
- Is your main website is experiencing downtime? On your Help Center Messenger will show the latest update from your status page.
- No live chat context will be lost in your help desk. Messenger conversations will easily switch from live chat to email and back again losing no context of the conversation as you switch between channels.
4. Self-service will become a form of marketing
When customers want to solve a problem or have a question 7 out of 10 people will search online, according to Software Advice. But surprisingly, 55% of customers find web self-service portals difficult to use.
User experience expert, Kathy Sierra, argued in her book, Badass: Making Users Awesome, that the issue is marketing and support documentation isn’t aligned. Kathy argues that customers don’t want to become an expert at using the tool like becoming a master at using a DSLR camera, they want to become an expert at landscape photography with rich depth.
The marketing focuses on the bigger picture that the user wants to achieve, where as user documentation will focus on getting the most out of the tool.
Marketing departments will be working with self-service teams more than ever. There will be an increase in the production of how-to videos and problem-focused product guides. In a sense, self-service will take up a form of marketing.
“Helping users find value in your software or products in a matter of minutes is vital for customer retention. Marketing are just as in control of the customer experience as support teams. It’s great to see that marketing is extending its role to both sides of the purchase—becoming not only accountable for acquisition but success as well.”
Jamie Edwards, co-founder at Kayako. @JMEdwards
How do you make a support portal easy to use?
Great self-service starts with a searchable support portal that’s easy to navigate and equipped to escalate customers to a better-suited channel when they need it.
Not every customer knows what they are looking for. If you’re using self-service software that allows you to get into your customer’s head, you’ll have no doubt delighting your customers.
Kayako’s smart search understands real language, anticipates what you are looking for and instantly makes suggestions as you type.
Here is some recommended reading to get your self-service center helping customers as quickly as possible:
Is your site missing simple self-service software? then it’s time to get started. Sign up for a free trial here and get the most out of your Kayako self-service feature.
That’s a wrap on customer service trends for 2018
Businesses that put the customer at the center of their plans will see the most growth. It may not be instant, but customer-centricity is the long game to loyalty. It’s been a clear indicator that customers want support to be made personal and simple. The tools and technology you choose will set apart each business from the next as they journey towards becoming a customer-centric businesses.