The Customer Service Technology Arms Race: What’s Now, What’s Next

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Customer service is an arms race. Smart businesses know that service, not product or price, drives repeat sales. And repeat sales make or break a company’s profitability. Staying ahead of the curve on the latest customer service tech helps businesses offer superior customer experiences more efficiently.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on in the customer service industry in order to offer better service and better experiences.

Omnichannel customer service

A new study from Aspect Software shows that customers hate having to repeat themselves multiple times to multiple people via multiple channels more than anything else, including not getting any issue resolution at all. That’s because, according to an Aspect explainer on omnichannel customer service, “customers don’t think in terms of channels – they think in terms of finding an answer to their question or a solution to their problem.”

If only companies felt the same. A recent Conversocial survey found only 43% of companies saying their customers now expect seamless issue resolution whatever the channel.

It’s high time for companies to catch up with what their customers want. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • When customers look for help, are they able to do so from multiple channels?
  • When they reach out to you via Twitter, for example, does someone respond quickly?
  • When requests come in from different channels, does your customer service software automatically create, assign, and track tickets?

If the answer to any of these is “no,” you may be behind the curve.

DIY customer service

What’s even better than only having to explain yourself once to an agent?

Not having to explain yourself at all.

A Loudhouse and Zendesk survey corroborated that people want seamless service. But they also found that younger customers are more likely to demand brands deliver self-service support options. The Aspect Software survey also showed 82% of consumers preferring to use self-service to resolve simple customer service issues.

In Five Trends Shaping The Future Of Customer Service In 2015 for Forbes, Blake Morgan cites a Forrester survey which found that in 2014 web self-service surpassed the voice channel for the first time, to become the most widely used communication channel for customer service.

Morgan writes that full YouTube channels of how-to content in addition to blogs and other media make companies really stand-out. “Remember that every company is a media company and your service department better have a voice. Lastly, all of that gorgeous content better be mobile and tablet friendly!”

Morgan looks forward to software that proactively connects struggling customers with how-to information. She suggests sensors will detect when a customer is struggling with a product, which will trigger a message with how-to content sent directly to that customer.

This will hopefully replace customers having to Google their product questions when they don’t know how to do something.

In fact, WDS predicts that research into machine-learning and natural language processing will reinvent self-service. They see companies moving beyond web-based self-service tools–which are just knowledge repositories for support content–toward a new generation of virtual agents that can learn from terabytes of data to provide contextual, relevant responses instantly and with the same accuracy as a live agent in a call center.

Social

On social, Morgan at Forbes pulls no punches. “Social support is no longer a nice-to-have for companies, it’s a must-have.”

Customer Service Technology

According to Entrepreneur, five years ago, only 10% of organizations used social channels for customer service. But today, J.D. Power and Associates estimates that number to be 67%. Even the C-suite is on board. A majority of respondents in the Conversocial survey said that upper management now values social customer service.

social-media-customer-service-101

Mobile

Mobile phones are the most used devices for people in need of customer service. The vast majority of customers, 70%, use their phones for their customer service requests. Customer service firm Synthetix found that 75% of consumers want access to online knowledge bases on their phones. That’s part of why Hilton Worldwide recently invested $550 million into their mobile customer experience.

Optimizing your customers’ mobile experience should be a priority. Customers are there, and you should be too. Here’s more on how and why to make mobile customer service a priority.

SMS

According to a recent study, more than half of customers would prefer to text with an agent over other methods of communicating. HeyWire Business found a majority of respondents preferring text with a live customer support agent over their current method of reaching customer support in a study last year.

Big Data

The Aspect survey also revealed that nearly everyone wants to pick up where they last left off, regardless of the channel, when they contact customer service about an ongoing issue.

Unfortunately, most shops are a long way from this dream. In reality, customers are having to give all sorts of personal details to service agents each time they call in order to verify their identities.

The solution is clear to Shep Hyken – use software to recognize a customer’s phone number.

“This allows the agent to get all of the information necessary to start taking care of the customer before the conversation begins, rather than the customer having to share his or her account number, last four numbers of their social security number, and mother’s maiden name,” Hyken writes. American Airlines is already doing this, for both Hyken’s mobile and office phone numbers. These are connected to which flights he has booked so agents are ready to deal with any question or problem almost immediately.

Another way to use data to verify identity is voice recognition. “Again, not having to put the customer through the drill of answering traditional security questions creates a more streamlined and effortless process that enhances the customer’s experience.”

Service as sales

Keeping customers from having to repeat themselves requires easy access to their information and history. To do this, customer data, including identifying information, sales and support history all needs to  be stored in one place. As businesses realize that sales is inextricably linked with service, more and more are using CRM software to unify data and automate and optimize interacting with customers.

Ideally, you will use a CRM that integrates with your customer service software or CSS with a CRM component. The goal is to unify data and outreach into a central pipeline. This information doesn’t just make for a better customer experience when people reach out. Lots of unified, deep data makes it easier to evaluate the role different strategies play in the overall effectiveness of customer support efforts for retention and satisfaction.

Conclusion

Your business’ profit depends on your ability to delight your customers. Staying on top of what’s next in customer service tech is one way to ensure you don’t fall behind your competitors in what your company offers. Customers expect to be able to reach you when they want to, on whatever channels they want to, and get an answer fast. They also expect to be able to find simple answers themselves. And they don’t want to bother telling you who they are, what they want, and what business they’ve done with you in the past. They expect you to know.

How are you using customer service tech to keep up with increasing customer demands? Let us know in the comments!

Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.

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Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a former Capterra analyst.

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