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Dec 4, 2019 9:18:00 AM

Rock these 6 customer service trends in 2020


No better time than now to set your priorities straight! Is your company ready to rock customer service in 2020? 

We’ve collected some of the top trends for the coming year to help you work your competitive advantage. There are some new trends and some timeless classics, but the overarching message is clear: it’s not about applying fancy, new technologies anymore - or even about the use of AI or chatbots. The market has shifted, and what matters most is bringing value and memorable experiences to your customers, so they’ll keep returning to your brand.


So, what’s in store for strategic service leaders in 2020?



1. Forever-growing expectations. 


Other trends might come and go, but this one rings true every single year. Your customers expect more and more from you. Disruption lowers switching costs across industries, your customers have endless choices, and, as if that was not enough - they increasingly compare you to all other services they are using, not just to your competitors. 


“The last best experience anyone has anywhere,” writes IBM’s user experience expert Paul Papas, “becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.”


Providing great customer service sharpens your competitive advantage. It’s crucial for service leaders to understand that whatever they did to improve their service level in 2018 and 2019 is probably not enough anymore. It might seem daunting, but it’s a losing battle to fight against these growing expectations. Instead, companies looking to win over the loyalty of their customers will embrace this change, adapt, and find solutions to up their game. Year after year.



2. Personalising the service experience.


Personalisation itself is not new, but businesses are finding new ways to apply it to their services and products. Customers are willing to increase their spending when targeted recommendations are on-point, and the expectation of highly personalised experiences is almost becoming a norm. At the same time, we’re seeing that 71% of consumers find impersonal experiences frustrating. 


There is no doubt that personalising customer service will increase customer satisfaction - and your profits. 


For many companies, automation - especially conversational AI - is the easiest way to provide personalised experiences. Smart chatbots can recognise your customers and alter the conversation flow accordingly. Bots can also perform repetitive tasks, be it checking the shipping status of the latest order or blocking a lost credit card. 


But personalisation is not just for digital environments. It can - and should - be brought into your physical stores and to in-person encounters. By syncing your databases or using a modern CRM system, your sales clerks in the store are be able to see what the returning customer has bought online. This is an important consideration, as your customer does not see your online and your off-line stores as two separate entities - they only see one brand. 


Make sure that in 2020, personalisation covers your entire customer journey.



3. Convenient, 24/7 service.


We know that for customers, waiting 12 hours for a first reply to an email is a disaster, and that for 60% of consumers even a minute waiting on hold is too much.


Time is the new gold and when it comes to customer service; companies need to be available to their customers 24/7.



This should be a no-brainer, but is often forgotten. To really get ahead your competition, simply be easy to do business with!


For companies that are ready, willing, and able - there are lots of different strategies to choose from. You can add more customer service staff, extend business hours, add in-person locations... or, just automate your easy, repetitive customer service functions to a chatbot. 



4. Omnichannel becomes an omnifunnel 


Omnichannel service is important, and channel hopping isn’t going anywhere - but they’re both developing in a new direction. 


In a world of plugins, add-ons, and integrations, people (a.k.a. customers) have grown to expect interactions that evolve and escalate, instead of going back to the beginning.


This means that our definition of  an “omnichannel service strategy” has shifted. Back in 2016, ContactBabel and Jacada’s US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide found that social media service was often handled by marketing or communications, self-service channels by IT, and inbound calls and emails by the contact center. This service approach is moving to the past; “omnichannel” no longer refers to a series of stand-alone channels managed by unrelated business departments, but rather a controlled funnel where the customer can seamlessly proceed from a channel to the next. 


Screenshot 2019-11-28 at 11.13.01


It’s not uncommon for customers to interact with a variety of channels and departments before getting their problem solved. Whenever transferred between  channels, departments, or service agents, some account information should be transferred along with it. What has the customer already tried, have they troubleshooted with a bot? Who has handled the issue before, what has been promised, what should be followed up on? 


Internally, teams need to be aligned on the SLAs and responsibilities through the different stages of the funnel. For self-service solutions, conversational AI, and chatbots, the key is to make it clear how the user can get human support. It’s also essential that after the handover, the chat transcripts are stored in your CRM. When a contact is handed over, what the steps are from there: live chat to email, or live chat to phone? How does the case escalate? 


If a problem is complex enough to reach your team, it’s the sole responsibility of the company to ensure that the person taking over this request has all the information they need to resolve it in an efficient manner. 



5. Empowered Customer Service Agents


Trust your employees and their judgement. The effect will immediately show in your customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and bottom line. 


Your support agents genuinely want to help your customers and solve their problems. 


Unfortunately, customer service organisations have a long tradition of acting as human shields for companies, with two powerless parties negotiating “company policies” for the least disappointing solution. In most cases, whatever the customer needs to be satisfied is chump change compared to the cost of the customer churning. 


A couple statistics to remind us:

  • 8/10 consumers are likely to go to another company as a result of poor customer service (Northridge Group, 2017)
  • A 5% increase in customer retention increases profits between 25%-95% (Bain & Company, 2001)


Give your team the permission, power, and confidence to solve the problem quickly in one go and build lasting relationships. Your customers will thank you with their loyalty and their business.   

6. Digital transformation.


Digital transformation and the digitalisation of business is almost an evergreen trend. 


The reason it has made this list is because of the new approaches that emerge as previously expensive technologies become accessible to businesses of all sizes. Innovative, disruptive businesses come almost exclusively from the digital realm. 


In Germany alone, 89% of companies say they have adopted a digital-first business strategy, or have plans in place to do so. Especially in the customer service industry, the boom of digital channels has been a real game-changer - and the customers love it. They can increasingly use their native channels; they are less dependent on business hours (customers have jobs too, you know); and an email is still faster than a letter!


But here’s the real catch: only one company in four has invested any money in their digital transformation. 


To recap: virtually every company in Germany claims to have a digital strategy, but only 25% are putting any money into it.


There is an increasing competitive gap between the companies that leverage new technologies to their advantage, and those that do not. Ironically - investing in the digitalisation significantly cuts costs & improves productivity.


If your company is not yet investing in digitalisation, it’s time to make a change. You need to figure out how to introduce automation to your customer service processes. Artificial intelligence has recently become an affordable choice even for small businesses, and serves as a great example of the power of digital transformation. AI-powered chatbots can answer repetitive customer requests, make recommendations, and serve as a welcoming presence on your website or app. 


So, there you have it - the recipe for maintaining your competitive advantage in 2020. 


As the global competition tightens and customer experience and customer satisfaction become key drivers for many businesses, every company should put these topics on their strategic to-do lists. If you fail to deliver on these - don't say you weren't warned. 





Sara is a former Solvemate. She’s really into chatbots, and improving customer experience. When she’s not writing about customer service automation, she’s an Italo-disco singer and a devoted housekeeping nerd. Hailing originally from snowy Finland, the Berlin winters leave her cold (pardon the pun).