As organizations plan for success in 2019, emerging trends will influence how customer service is delivered. The evolving landscape will drive changes in how customer service representatives are utilized, trained and even compensated. Technology will continue to innovate processes and shift the way inquiries are handled. With new demands, customer service leaders must prepare their workforce. Below are five trends that will influence the industry and recommendations for how organizations should respond.
1. Growth in Customer Service Inquiries Will Demand More from Representatives
Now more than ever, customers are using connected devices like smart lightbulbs, doorbells, voice assistants, etc., which means there are more instances where consumers will be looking for help with products. In fact, the total number of customer service interactions handled by humans is anticipated to hit 300 billion by 2027, with the total annual volume globally increasing from 400 billion to three trillion.
In today’s economy, people are spending more during the entire calendar year. With the unemployment rate so low and Big Box stores regularly trying to compete with Amazon, retailers are offering big sales outside of just Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The second Monday of December marks a relatively new shopping day, Green Monday. Green Monday offers last-minute shoppers a chance at similar savings to the post-Thanksgiving Day sales, making it one of the biggest shopping days in December.
With this growth and shift in sales periods, companies will need to have a renewed focus on customer service in 2019 to ensure their brands offer positive customer experiences for buyers. With customer service representatives needing to be on their A game year-round, companies cannot just staff up for the holiday and should train representatives to upsell and cross-sell throughout the year.
2. Technological Advances Will Streamline Customer Service Functions
Before making an appearance in truly customer-facing interactions, technological innovation will remain in the back office in 2019, optimizing more mundane tasks like automation and data entry. Savvy and self-sufficient customers prefer to find information, clarify questions and solve problems on their own. Consequently, organizations should look to use chatbots for tasks like automating forms or verifying basic customer information before passing a query on to a customer service representative. Further down the road, businesses should look to process high-volume, repetitive rules-based tasks with technology based on robotic process automation (RPA).
Video capabilities will also advance in the coming year, innovating areas like insurance claims. New digital platforms can organize the handling of a damage claim, making it possible to settle a claim via video call. With success in the insurance sector, other industries should look for areas where innovative video capabilities can improve their customer service this year.
3. The Importance of the Human Touch Will Not Go Away
Questions that are too complex for tech-driven, self-service solutions will still require the expertise of a customer service representative, despite the growth of artificial intelligence (AI), RPA and Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices. The questions customer service representatives will receive in 2019 will increase in technicality and difficulty, demanding more from employees since they will be dealing with more specialized topics.
The complexity of inquiries will require customer service representatives to have a higher skill set. Representatives will need to be trained to use more of their human skills, like empathy and problem solving. Organizations will need to look for customer service representatives that have the whole package and a willingness to continue to develop and learn in the position.
4. Employers Will Need to Offer Representatives More Competitive Benefits
A low unemployment rate, coupled with the rise in minimum wage from companies like Amazon now paying $15 an hour, will require organizations to offer more competitive benefits to retain employees. In response, companies cannot reactively cut benefits in a cost-saving effort, as it leads to unhappy employees, lower retention rates and fewer prospects for new positions.
With the wage game heating up in 2019, organizations must offer a competitive wage and enticing benefits, leverage technology for mundane tasks and look for outsourcing opportunities to find a solution to make up the cost difference.
5. Securing Customer Data Will Be a Priority
With sensitive data generated daily and digital services in industries like banking growing, security remains critical in customer service interactions. Convenience-oriented consumers often deprioritize security, and customers are not proactive about changing their passwords or creating unique ones across multiple online accounts, making it harder to secure their data. This year, organizations should train customer service representatives to offer advice with security in mind, proactively reminding customers to set new passwords to protect their personal data.
In the new year, customer service inquiry growth, technology improvements, the changing demands for customer service representatives, wages and security will impact the industry. Organizations will need to properly plan, train and respond to these trends in order to meet the expectations of consumers and provide quality customer service. Companies that can proactively respond to innovation and change will be better positioned to deliver exceptional customer experiences.