Last year I predicted the Top 3 Customer Service Software Trends for 2015. They were:
- Cloud Hegemony
- Further Social Integration
- Better Teaming Up with Sales
The cloud definitevely dominated in 2015. The vast majority (175 out of 201) of help desk software options in our directory are either entirely web-based or offer a web-based option. As TeamSupport Co-founder and CEO Robert C. Johnson put it in our interview earlier this year, “The software industry continues to move from perpetual licenses to the subscription model.” This makes changing software much easier, and is a main reason that software companies in particular can’t afford to ignore customer service.
Social media integration is growing more slowly. Only 44 vendors offer it right now.
Customer service teaming up with sales is harder to measure, but 2015 definitely saw examples of happy customers leading to additional sales.
To find out what 2016 has in store for customer service tech, I reached out to four experts in the field. They are former and current founders, presidents, CEOs, and VPs of billion dollar companies. And between them they have several books.
Their big predictions:
- Live chat will take off and video chat will grow
- Customers will expect their history to move with them across channels
- Anticipatory customer service will grow
- Spoken-word customer service queries will begin replacing typing
- Non-support tools will integrate with many help desks to empower teams
Meet our experts
Richard R. Shapiro founded The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) in 1988 to help Fortune 500 companies create exceptional customer experiences and generate repeat business.
Before founding TCFCR, Richard spent 14 years with ADP as Vice President of Customer Satisfaction and Client Retention. Over his tenure sales rose from 40 million dollars to more than 4 billion, making the company one of the most profitable global service enterprises.
He is the author of The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business, published in 2013. His new book, The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business, will be released in early 2016.
Richard is also one of my 21 Can’t-Miss Customer Service Blogs, Twitter Accounts, and Associations and Conferences.
Varun Shoor is CEO of Kayako, one of the 10 most popular help desk software options according to our research. Varun built the first Kayako in 2001 to better serve his own customers over the web. Today, as founder and CEO, Varun leads Kayako in pursuit of the perfect customer experience. Follow Varun on Twitter @varunshoor.
His marketing essays have been published in places like FastCompany, Entrepreneur, Inc., and Forbes.
Jeanne Bliss is the Founder and President of CustomerBliss, and Co-Founder of The Customer Experience Professionals Association. Jeanne guides C-Suite and Chief Customer Officer clients around the world toward earning the right to business growth and prosperity by improving customers’ lives.
Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first CCO roles at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. Reporting to each company’s CEO, she moved the customer to the strategic agenda, redirecting priorities to create transformational changes to each brand’s customer experience. She has achieved 95 percent loyalty rates, improving customer experiences across 50,000-person organizations.
Here are my questions and their answers on what 2016 will bring customer service technology.
What type/s of customer service tech will see the most growth in terms of adoption in 2016? Why?
1. Multi-Channel Servicing Will Continue To Increase
The 80’s were a simpler time, with two primary channels of communication: face-to-face and phone. Now, companies must respond to and keep track of email, chat, text, apps, etc. Company budgets remain tight and the cost for technology increases exponentially. However, technology now exists to get a snapshot of a customer’s channel history, and companies must invest in order to avoid customer frustration. Customers do not like to repeatedly explain their issue and recount a chain of events.
2. Predictive and Personalized Technology Is Required For A Good Customer Experience
Technology to enhance the customer experience is not sufficient unless it is predictive and personalized. Consumers are pleased when they call a company for an order status and the company’s systems recognize who is calling and can anticipate their inquiry. However, erase the mindset that using technology to force self-serve is a positive outcome. Employing technology to make the customer experience easier and faster will become the new norm. Smart technology saves time and enhances the journey.
3. Voice Recognition Is On The Rise
Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and Apple’s Siri rely on voice commands. Speech technology has come far and is continually being perfected. Typing your search query into a browser will become passé; asking for information and seeking advice through the spoken word will become the norm. This trend, coupled with the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence, will make companies want to invest more in these technologies.
4. Wearable Technology is Not Just Costume Jewelry
Wearable technology will allow retailers to provide a level of service specific to individual consumers. While there are tremendous privacy concerns, consumers will eventually regard this technology as must-have and not an invasion. Wearables will also allow a company to recognize loyal customers and reward them with incentives based on their buying preferences, gender, or age. Emotions can be detected through biochemical feedback. How a company responds using the data will determine if there is a positive impact on the relationship between the customer and the brand.
5. Video Chat For Pre-Sales Support Will Increase
While the use of chat was one of the major trends for 2015, video chat, especially for pre-sales support, will increase. A picture is worth a 1,000 words. When video was first introduced to help desks, its primary purpose was to help create a more personalized experience. Now, videos of common fixes or cool features will not only provide a better customer experience, but increase sales by generating higher close ratios.
6. Apps for All
More companies will invest in customized apps for their business. The app will make it easier to track consumer purchases and channel activity. The app will also be used to promote new product offerings or incentives to loyal consumers. Brett Relander, in his Marketing Trends for 2016, highlights Krispy Kreme and their Red Light App, which notifies customers where hot donuts right out of the oven are located. Companies will have to keep the information up-to-date and fresh, incorporating innovative and engaging features to keep savvy customers interested.
Varun: Consumers are starting to demand social customer service, so I expect to see customer service will move into instant messaging in 2016. This will be helped along by the introduction of Facebook M and strong adoption of platforms like WeChat in Asia.
However, with so much competition and variation, many tools getting investment in 2016 run the risk of become siloed, leading to a disjointed customer experience.
Gregory: If companies have learned anything since the great research published by the CEB back in 2010, it’s that true customer delight comes from reducing customer effort. Part of reducing effort means creating useful self-service documentation that people can A.) actually find, and B.) use and understand with ease. Big advancements in this area include smart embed tools, which can let customers ask questions or search for help docs on any page. Beacon serves as a good example of where things are headed.
Jeanne: Software that enables customers to make choices and self-serve. This means technology that enables a company to know who is interacting with them and to be agile in terms of how and when they are served. Customers want self-service but they want immediate help by a human when they ask for it — this is going to be a key differentiator. Think of it as aided self-service.
What type/s of customer service tech will most radically change the way teams work in 2016? Why? And how?
Richard: Multi-channel service options will require companies to eliminate channel silos. Separate teams that develop their own strategic and operating plans will need to be consolidated into one cohesive group. Companies need to have a holistic, 360 degree view of their customers as they jump from one channel to the next.
Varun: Tools that enable unified communication across different channels and a single view of the customer will massively change the way teams work in 2016. This is going to let the best customer service reps shine, because they will have enormous amounts of information at their fingertips.
Most companies already have all of this data, but they need the right tool to bind it together and make it accessible. This will enable customer service teams to work more collaboratively, be more informed and better equipped to handle customer enquiries.
Gregory: A contrarian answer: Some of the biggest changes are coming from non-support tools. These days, customer service teams have made great use of tools like Slack, which integrates with many help desks. Support teams often set up a separate Slack channel that will alert them whenever there is a new ticket, a “negative” rating, etc. It’s also exciting seeing how support teams are using deeper integrations with Trello to better organize customer feedback.
Jeanne: Customer experience requires that teams cross silo-boundaries. Because customers are demanding complete solutions and support, the channels and organizations inside of organizations are going to need to be more determined and focused on uniting data and processes.
What’s the one thing a smart IT manager or customer service pro should do to prepare for tech changes in 2016?
Richard: Gaining feedback from customers has always been important. However, with technology changing faster than lightning speed, it’s critical to conduct research to find out what channels, technology and features customers want your company to have. Otherwise, they will find another company that can meet their needs and allow them to do business they way they want it done.
Varun: Map your customer’s journey to their touch-points. Find out what information you have about your customer and what else you could be collecting to make their journey easier. This helps you make improvements to your entire support operation, including contextual help, inline guides and live chat. And one more thing – invest in your team! In order for customer service to evolve and get better, your team need to be happy, productive and motivated.
Gregory: It’s a soft answer, but one I have to give since I don’t know how every company operates: They should investigate what kind of results they could be getting by using the right suite of tools. A new tool is really just a means to an outcome, so instead of “we’ll just go with this one,” it’s worth the time to actually search for what’s currently available and why it might be better for the goals you want to achieve with your customer support.
Jeanne: Think through the tech needs starting by understanding the customer journey and priority touch points – then work to enable those. FOCUS!
While our experts were diverse, many of their predictions were very much in agreement. Their take on live chat and video chat aligns with our research. Our soon-to-be published live chat survey revealed that one of the most-desired features of live chat software is video chat functionality. And this year’s help desk software survey showed that live chat use is lagging behind availability. While 68% of help desk software buyers have customer service software with live chat functionality, only 40% use it. I expect we’ll see that percentage grow in 2016.
The live chat survey findings also jived with the prediction that customers will expect their history to move with them across channels. The live chat users we surveyed definitely expect their representatives to be familiar with their buying history and previous customer service interactions with a company.
I’ve also noticed that customers are expecting anticipatory customer service more and more.
So those are our predictions. What are yours? Let me know in the comments!