Consumers in the digital era are evolving in their expectations and preferences around how a company interacts with them. With today’s rapid rate of technological innovation, customer support teams are adopting new solutions to streamline operations and better serve constituents. Staying abreast of such changes is critically important to your ability to remain competitive in a constantly shifting business landscape. To help you stay ahead of the curve, read these six trends that will shape customer support in 2018:
1. Chatbots Will Become More Prevalent
The use of live chat functionality on company websites has been growing. In part, this is because 42% of consumers say they prefer live chat functions because they don’t have to wait on hold, according to Inc.com. As usage rises, artificial intelligence (AI) is creeping into the equation. Most live chat is still manned by a warm body who directly interacts with the customer. However, as the popularity of live chat grows, it’s becoming unfeasible to for staffers to field every incoming question.
Chatbots can be used to provide basic information, such as hours of operation, company contact information, etc. This frees up live agents’ time to focus on solving more complex customer issues. As chatbots “learn” more about their customers and common issues they face, you are likely to see them resolving more complex problems. This is just the beginning…
2. CRM Integration Will Become Necessary
Many call centres already integrate their support ticketing system with a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. With so much customer information at their fingertips, reps can deliver significantly improved support. Plus, customers increasingly expect call centre agents to have a comprehensive view of their history with the company, which is only possible with a CRM. Research shows that 84 percent of customers get frustrated when a support agent doesn’t have the right information on the customer-buying journey. As consumer preferences and expectations continue to evolve, it will become increasingly challenging to satisfy them without a CRM solution in place.
3. Intelligent Call Routing Will Continue to Grow
If you support various products, you can’t expect every rep to be an expert in them all. You need specialized reps and a mechanism for routing tickets around specific products to the reps who specialize in them. This is where intelligent call routing comes in. With the use of system tags, it is possible to segment customers into groups with common attributes, such as the product they use or the language they speak. When a new ticket comes in, your help desk system can recognize the segment they belong to, and automatically route the ticket to a rep who specialized in supporting that segment.
This accomplishes the following: 1) it saves time previously used to route tickets manually, 2) ensures faster ticket closure due to specialized expert support, and 3) increases customer satisfaction. This is important; according to Forrester Research, 73% of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good customer service.
4. Big Data Analytic Will Increase Personalization
The massive amounts of customer data in CRM solutions have opened the door for increased levels of personalization in customer support. It is now possible for a support rep to glance at a customer profile and quickly understand their behaviours, past support issues, geographical location, the preferred method of communication, and more.
Armed with this kind of insight, reps can deliver a better customer experience by more easily developing a rapport with the customer. This also aids in faster ticket resolution times; when the rep better understands the customer in those ways, she can more easily predict the kind of information the customer needs.
5. Human Interaction Will Remain a Key Factor
Despite the fact that automation and AI are quickly changing the face of the customer support industry, they will not completely replace humans. AI helps call centres close tickets faster, but customers almost always prefer an interaction with a live human. We need to find a balance between leveraging AI to increase efficiency and maintaining human interactions to keep customers satisfied.
AI is not able to understand certain questions, and it’s often obvious to the customer they are not chatting with a real person. This can make the customer feel undervalued and does not generate a positive customer experience. According to Walker Info, by 2020, customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator. Given that, it’s fair to say that human interaction will continue to be an integral part of delivering best-in-class customer service.
6. Data Protection Regulations Will Force Change
In May 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) go into effect. The purpose of GDPR is to protect the personal information of all EU residents. This will impact marketing teams more than anyone else. However, it will also impact customer support teams in unexpected ways. It expands the definition of personal information to refer to any data that can be used to identify a person. If you serve any customers in the EU, this applies to you.
You will need to obtain explicit permission to record support calls. If an EU resident opens a live chat and you collect new data from them (data that you did not already have on file for that individual), you will need to gain explicit consent. The list goes on, and non-compliance could result in very steep fines. It’s advisable to do your homework, and this blog by Agile CRM is a good place to start.
It may feel challenging to keep up with forces that are shaping customer support practices today. The rate of change is certainly increasing and shows no signs of subsiding. However, taking the time to read about trends and how to adapt to them is the best thing you can do to remain competitive in your respective space. Do your homework, and you’ll be fully prepared to evolve with the times.