The top 5 customer service trends that should be part of your growth strategy
The pandemic era showed us that consumers were going online in their search for better and safer ways to transact with businesses. This shift in behaviour means that customer service has become more important now than ever, and organisations must change the way they view the function going forward. Customer service needs to be a crucial part of every company’s growth strategy. Here are some key customer service trends we believe companies need to take into account when building out their post-pandemic growth strategy:
Customer service goes beyond the customer service team
What many companies may not yet recognize as a fact is that every single person within the organisation has an impact on customer service. It is not just those who speak to the customers (the customer service agents) who are responsible for how customers see the company and how satisfied they are with the service provided.
Legal, for example, is responsible for ensuring there are legitimate and reasonable terms and conditions, whereas HR needs to make sure to hire and empower the people with the right skills and expertise to embody the companies’ values, and so on.
If you want to win outside, start inside. Achieving great customer service and customer experience is impossible without a customer-centric organisation – and it is up to leadership to actively and continuously build on this culture.
The blurring lines between sales and customers service
Customer service agents have an increasingly important role to play within the sales process. They are often the first point of contact for customers, and so putting these customers on hold or passing them on from department to department is avoidable. Equip agents with the right knowledge to deal with customers from a sales point of view, so they can answer questions immediately and help customers without delay – within 1 contact.
However, it is important to remember that sales and customer service are still two different disciplines, and finding a balance between the two is crucial for the overall customer experience. You don’t want to be too pushy during a service contact, as it might lead to a negative experience. If customer service is great, it will lead to more happy customers, more sales, and more profit. That is great – but it should not have to be the main goal of the customer service department.
Empower your agents – and let them empower you
We mentioned empowering agents before, but let’s just dive a little deeper into this.
Empowering agents with the appropriate knowledge helps them deliver great customer service and experience. Talk to your agents, come together and discuss what you, as an organisation, and they, as customer service agents, actually need in order to be able to deliver excellent customer service. Hear them, involve them and make sure they feel like an essential part of the company.
Here are some tips to start the conversation:
- Let everyone write down their own out-of-the-box ideas to improve the customer experience (you could even expand this beyond the customer service team) and discuss as a group.
- Brainstorm about the best possible reviews you as a company can get. Write them down, as specifically as possible. What would you want your customers to say? As soon as you get that straight, it is time to brainstorm about how to create a framework to achieve it.
- Play the well-known game ‘Kill a stupid rule’. Ask your teams: within this company, what are stupid rules, procedures, or systems that stand in the way of good customer experience? Every customer-centric leader should ask this at least once a week. It is a fun and light way to involve your team and remove roadblocks.
And, very important for each of the above: make sure you have the time, budget and capacity to actually make those new initiatives come to life and to implement them within your organisation’s workflow. One way to do this is to consistently reserve a certain percentage of your budget and IT capacity for ongoing customer service improvements.
The balance between speed and quality
Freshworks analyzed 107 million support interactions and it emerged that speed is the most important factor to improve customer satisfaction. Not being fast enough will lead to frustrated customers.
With the advent of digital transformation, customers expect all companies to provide speedy customer service – this expectation has become a new standard and companies have no choice but to accommodate this.
If you were to bring quality into the equation, how does it all add up? Speed is very important for customer satisfaction, but if you want to turn customers into fans and ambassadors, speed alone is not enough. It is also key to be able to form an emotional connection with the customer by giving them an experience they will remember.
The synergy that comes from both speed and personal attention, will lead to exceptional, qualitative customer service.
The role of technology
Digital transformation led to many technological innovations that can significantly improve the way customer service is provided. For example, companies with a global customer base might not be able to be available 24/7 for all of their customers. In order to be able to provide service during non-business hours, a business might integrate AI, chatbots, and automation to its customer service strategy. This does not only help customers solve their problems, it also provides service agents with the right context in case the customer still needs to talk to a live agent. In that way, AI and automation can facilitate more proactivity from human agents, leading to higher customer satisfaction.
Now that more companies embrace these new technologies and more customers find their way to digital customer service, the amount of actual human contact between companies and their customers has decreased tremendously. That means every contact becomes extremely valuable! So when your agents actually speak to a customer, make sure they know that that is the moment to make a difference. So empower your agents and give them the room to make that difference.
The trends and recommendations in this article are a direct extract of Freshworks’ panel discussion ‘The Need for Speed’, which was hosted by Freshworks’ Angelica Reyes and joined by top leading industry experts Igor Minarik (Sales & Customer Success at Nicereply, Slovakia), Sydney Brouwer (keynote speaker, author, podcaster, Netherlands) and Jeanette Lundström (head of customer service at Hermods AB, Sweden).