Whether you’re looking to buy help desk software, upgrade your customer service software, or just like to keep up to date, here are the three trends which will have a huge impact in the customer service software space this year.
1. Cloud Hegemony
Quite simply, the cloud is taking over.
While there are still desktop and self-hosted options for help desk software, the vast majority of major players and new entrants are either cloud-based or at least offer a SaaS version.
Capterra ranked the most popular help desk software products, based on number of users, awards, social media presence, and reviews. Of the top five, Zendesk, Kayako, UserVoice, Freshdesk, and Bomgar, only one, Bomgar, is self-hosted. According to a recent post by Fonolo, 62% of organizations were already using cloud-based contact center solutions in 2013. DMG Consulting predicts this number to grow by 25% in 2015.
The benefits to customer service and IT help desks are immense. Servers, mirrors, databases, patching, and compliance aren’t cheap. Shifting the costs of installing, backing up, maintaining, and upgrading software onto vendors is pretty attractive.
Since connection speeds have increased, the main remaining impediment to total cloud domination is security. The concerns about hosting sensitive information elsewhere are overblown for two reasons. First, many help desk software products now offer encryption and SSL security.
Zendesk encrypts communications with servers with industry-standard SSL. Kayako does the same. What’s interesting about cloud-based software and security is that it’s actually more secure in some ways than hosting it yourself. Or, at least, it takes some of the responsibility for security off of your shoulders. For example, Kayako responded quickly after the Heartbleed SSL bug to ensure its customers didn’t experience any data breaches. It isn’t out of the kindness of their hearts. A data breach means lost reputation, and business, for cloud-based software providers. And the consequences are swift. Most customers pay on a month-to-month basis, and can cancel anytime.
That doesn’t mean customers don’t also bear responsibility for security.
Which brings us to the other reason security concerns about cloud-based software are overblown. Most cyber-security problems result from internal user error.
Zendesk has a great guide on cyber-security best practices. One thing to glean is that hosting data yourself doesn’t necessarily make it any more secure, since you or your employees or contractors are your biggest threat. And hosting data yourself makes you solely responsible for keeping your data safe.
Some people are still going to prefer to self-host. But their options are going to continue shrinking as the market moves towards SaaS as the default.
2. Further Social Integration
Right now, three out of the top five most popular help desk software products, Zendesk, UserVoice, and Freshdesk, offer social media integration out of the box.
Vendors are responding to a trend in the industry. In Parature’s Customer Service Success Blog Tricia Morris reports an 85% increase over the last year in questions asked on brand pages on Facebook, even more on Twitter.
Not only are more requests and issues coming in through social media, but the public nature of the media raises the stakes for those requests. For instance, someone probably should have read through scheduled tweets before this one went out right after news broke that Tesco had been selling mislabeled horse meat:
Companies which engage with and respond to customer service requests over social media are rewarded with 20% to 40% more customer spend, according to a Bain & Company report. That’s why companies like Zendesk allow help desks to accept customers’ help requests, complaints, and feedback through most social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
On the flip side, not responding quickly, and well, to social media interactions is a major liability for brands, and will only become more important. “You can’t shut down the oncoming lanes of a superhighway that millions now use every day,” Morris writes.
3. Better Teaming Up with Sales
Annette Fran predicts 2015 will be the year of customer experience. As evidence, Fran cites research from Deloitte indicating that fully 82% of brands, with more to come, perceive customer experience as a competitive differentiator. The advice Fran gives is to make customer experience a holistic endeavor, an integral part of every business function, not just marketing.
It’s always been true that it’s more profitable to sell to your existing customers than to acquire new ones. It’s hard to move beyond the growth-oriented beginning stages of a business and start to focus on keeping the customers you have, but it’s essential for long-term profitability. In the past, the costs of over-reliance on growth were more obscured by inexact cost-per-acquisition tracking. Now, there’s no excuse. And as a result, more companies are getting on board with keeping existing customers happy.
According to Gartner, by 2016 89% of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, Fran reports. She writes, “And by 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product when it comes to differentiating a brand.”
Listening is essential for selling. And customer service is one of the major ways your customers speak to you. Making sure what they’re saying gets from customer service to sales and the C-Suite is an important mechanism to build into your customer support process.
Zendesk advises companies to use tools which provide easy access to key customer data. Specifically, it’s useful for your customer service software to either integrate with your CRM or offer CRM capabilities. This helps combine customer support data with sales data so you can track customers throughout the entire lifecycle. Freshdesk offers many CRM integrations for that purpose as well.
Other software vendors, such as LiveHelpNow, offer sales-oriented functionality, such as having a customer’s social media profiles auto-populate in chat so customer service pros can use that information for selling.
Is your software cloud-based, socially integrated, and does it assist sales well? If not, are these features you see yourself needing in the coming year??