2019 Customer Service Trends: What to Expect in the Year Ahead
Each year, achieving superior customer care becomes a bit more challenging for businesses. Here’s a look at what to expect in 2019 customer service trends.
The 7 Top Customer Service Trends for 2019
1. Speed will be king. Every year, customers become more and more comfortable not only with shopping online, but also doing pretty much everything else there, too. The result is an increasing expectation that the businesses they interact with to have an online presence—and to get answers and information from them as fast as possible.
Though many businesses have stepped up to meet this need with features like instant chat and a daily-updated Twitter feed, others have lagged behind. But make no mistake: There’s no margin for error here. If you’re not offering customers instant interaction of a high quality, then they’re not likely to waste any time jumping ship to your competition.
“We live in an age of near-instant gratification, where consumers are not-so-patiently awaiting the next big thing,” Mabbly founder Adam Fridman writes for Inc. “People simply aren’t satisfied with the status quo; they want something more and they want it now. Companies must work quickly to satiate their appetites because audiences will have no qualms about moving to another product or service.”
People simply aren’t satisfied with the status quo; they want something more and they want it now. Companies must work quickly to satiate their appetites because audiences will have no qualms about moving to another product or service.
In other words, speed will be king in 2019 like never before, and maintaining customer loyalty means ensuring that you field all questions and inquiries in real time.
2. Automation will play a bigger role. Part of the solution to meet this need for speed is enabling customers to fulfill their expectations themselves via automated responses. Technological innovations, such as chatbots and voice-user interfaces, have become standard in today’s modern contact center, and for good reason: They can give customers instant responses to basic questions without the need for 24/7 live agents.
Yet as useful as these automated systems are, they certainly can’t handle all incoming customer inquiries. For more advanced interactions, you’ll need to use expert customer care agents. (Read more about balancing real-life agents with automated services here.) But for basic requests like an address request or to set up simple appointments, automation can very effectively fill the gap.
For businesses that haven’t yet set up automated services to field these kinds of requests, 2019 is the year to finally make it happen.
3. Technology will continue to dominate. All of this leads to the fact that 2019 will continue to see customer inquiries diverge across an ever-wider variety of technological platforms. We already live in an era where instant messaging, social media and other tech applications dominate business-to-customer interaction—and this is a customer service trend that’s just getting started.
Consider this: From 2011 to 2017, smartphone ownership more than doubled in the United States, growing from 35% to 77%, according to the Pew Research Center. And yes, smartphones are still phones, so the need for good, old-fashioned call center service hasn’t gone away. But there’s also no doubt that today’s consumers use their phones not primarily to make calls, but to interact via apps and social media with their favorite businesses, just as much as with their friends and family.
4. Expect a greater emphasis on agent versatility. Hand-in-hand with this increase in communications channels comes the need for agents with the ability to use them—and we’re not just talking proficiency, but real expertise. Customers are savvier than ever, and they expect the agents they interact with to match that savviness, while also being engaging, friendly and as helpful as possible.
On top of that, there’s still the usual need for contact center agents to be well versed in the art of upselling, as well as a number of other common customer service skills. To this end, it’s important to ensure that your call center agents have access to continuous improvement opportunities and ongoing training that helps ensure they’re capable of not only meeting this ever-evolving challenge but also making the most of every customer interaction that comes their way.
5. Social Media will continue to be the place to connect. Love it or hate it, social media has never been more dominant in our culture than it was in 2018, with a nonstop parade of political stories playing out over Twitter, Facebook and other major social channels. And as the year ends, those trends are only scaling upward. So, we can all expect more of the same in 2019.
In other words, having a basic Twitter account or Facebook page is no longer enough. Most businesses are finding that they have to invest significant time and expertise in building their social presence out in meaningful ways, not only fielding customer inquiries but also creating a unique voice for their brands in the process. Companies with witty, engaging Twitter feeds or that understand how to leverage Facebook to offer special promotions to their followers will be preferred by customers more than in previous years.
Don’t just take our word for it: According to a social media report from ValueWalk, social media adoption grew from 5% in 2005 to 69% in 2016. Furthermore, a whopping 90% of users have used social media to communicate with a brand, and 63% expect businesses to offer some form of customer care via social media.
6. The use of on-demand customer service agents will accelerate. We live in the age of the gig economy and the remote workforce, and in perhaps no other industry is that trend more prominent than in customer service. The virtual workforce is truly a win-win situation here: Businesses get to use a more versatile workforce that can scale up and down quickly, while agents get the benefit of a flexible schedule and the chance to save costs by cutting out a daily commute, as well as expenses related to lunch and daycare.
This home-based customer service trend is particularly beneficial for businesses located in high-rent areas, such as New York City or Silicon Valley, where the cost of real estate to house those agents is sky high and can wreak havoc on profit margins. It’s also of great use to businesses located in storm zones or regions regularly subject to natural disasters, where relying on a remote workforce helps ensure that customer lines stay open in the face of adverse events.
7. Disaster planning will be even more important in 2019. Last year was, unfortunately, a watershed one for natural disasters, from a record-breaking hurricane season to a series of catastrophic fires in the nation’s mountain states. The toll in human lives was tragic; the toll in lost business and infrastructure costs was also severe.
The upshot is that, particularly for businesses located in a region prone to natural disasters (and the last decade has shown that this includes most of the Atlantic seaboard), the importance of enlisting the help of an outsourced customer care provider has never been clearer. As important as it is for any business to implement a disaster plan to keep unforeseen damage to infrastructure and communications to a minimum, it’s also clear that the most effective way to truly avoid catastrophe is to enlist the services of an off-site, on-demand contact center.
To this end, companies like Working Solutions offer access to a network of thousands of agents across the U.S. who are unaffected by the weather in any given place, and can also scale up or down in the face of unforeseen need.
Time to Call in the Professionals?
If this rundown of 2019 customer service trends has you thinking you might be a bit less than prepared for the year ahead than you’d like to be, worry not—it’s never too late to enlist expert help.
Contact us today to learn how our industry-leading outsourced customer care solutions can help you face all the service challenges of 2019 with confidence and success.Contact now.