Customer support has come a long way over the last few years and will continue to evolve. Innovation will drive new technologies that allow companies to deliver better support and continually improve the customer experience.
Since the inception of customer support call centers in the 1960s to the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and bots to assist support teams, the face of customer support has changed dramatically. As technology continues to advance, you can expect to see even more dramatic changes to how companies manage and deliver customer support.
Consumers’ needs and expectations are also evolving. The most successful businesses of the future will be those that embraced new technologies and understand shifting customer needs. Those that don’t anticipate and prepare for emerging trends will be left behind.
By understanding the predictions and trends discussed below, you can prepare yourself to be competitive in the future. Here are seven trends that will define the future of customer support:
1. Self-service support will grow
Most customers like to solve their own issues. Harvard Business Review reports that 81% of customers across all industries attempt to resolve their issue themselves before contacting a live customer support rep. Customers save time when they can easily find a resolution to their problem without having to open a help desk ticket.
Since customers prefer self-service, we will see more companies adopt and implement technology to provide it. Having a robust knowledge base on your website is an effective way to provide self-service support. You should also consider developing how-to guides and videos and make them accessible to customers through your website.
Providing a way for customers to solve their own problems not only saves time for the customer, it also means one less support case for your team to handle.
2. Complaints on social media will increase
Social media usage will certainly continue to increase as millennials overtake baby boomers as the largest consumer demographic. Nearly every consumer these days carries a mobile device everywhere they go. If they have a bad experience with your company, they don’t have to wait until they get home to complain about it. They can go straight to social media and share their experience publicly.
How does this affect customer support? When a negative comment gets posted on social media, it can spread like wildfire if you don’t pull out the firehose as soon as possible. With the help of social listening and monitoring tools, your team can receive alerts anytime someone mentions your brand on social media. This allows support teams to keep an eye on all social behavior and react to negative comments before they get shared and start to impact your brand’s reputation.
Customers are also increasingly asking customer support questions via direct messaging on social platforms. Customer support reps will need to closely monitor your company’s social inboxes and respond to questions asked there. Customer expectations around customer support and service are growing, and they expect fast responses to questions asked through social channels. This will continue to be the case as we move forward.
3. Community-based support will expand
By community-based support, I am referring to your customers forming a community amongst themselves and helping one another solve issues. Customers enjoy interacting with each other in this way, which increases their engagement with your brand.
You can easily provide a venue where your customers can form their own community. Create a forum, accessible through your website, that only customers can access with their login credentials. Invite customers to join and ask questions. Other customers will answer these questions and as the community grows more of them will get involved.
You can also monitor the forum and chime in if a question goes unanswered for a day or two. But letting customers form a community and support one another will increase customer engagement. Plus, it will let them form new contacts and working relationships with their peers along the way.
4. Customer expectations will continue to rise
The quality of customer support is rising rapidly. Companies who excel at delivering world-class support have set the bar high, and customers now expect the same quality of support from every company, regardless of industry.
To remain competitive in the future, you’ll need to continually improve the quality of your support presence. Staying up to date on emerging trends helps companies improve and adapt to shifting customer needs and expectations. You can also use online surveys to evaluate the outcome of each support case. This allows you to constantly monitor your performance and identify areas for improvement.
With competition rising in nearly every industry, it’s easier than ever for a customer to leave you for a competitor. If you don’t provide great support and meet customers’ growing expectations, your customers are likely to leave you for a competitor that will.
It’s all about the customer experience, which is becoming increasingly important in consumers’ buying decisions. Delivering world-class customer support is key to a great customer experience, which increases customer satisfaction and, through that, revenue growth.
5. Bots will free up time for support reps
Customer support chatbots have already arrived. You’ve seen them on a variety of websites, and they continue to pop up everywhere. They connect to your knowledge base and can answer basic questions customers ask about your product or service.
As AI advances, bots will become more adept at solving customer issues. You can expect to see them develop the ability to learn about each of your customers by tapping into the endless amount of information stored about their past support issues, behaviors, and demographic information.
That data is stored in your customer relationship management (CRM) solution, and bots typically are integrated with your CRM. If you use an all-in-one CRM that provides full sales, marketing, and help desk capabilities, all of the data captured by each of those functions is stored in a central database for bots to access. Bots’ ability to intelligently solve customer support issues will continue to evolve.
This doesn’t mean they will replace your support reps. Rather, they will enhance your reps’ ability to deliver better support because they free up time by handling common support questions. This leaves your reps with more time to focus on advanced support tickets and devote more attention to resolving those cases in the most thorough and helpful way possible.
6. Personalized support will become the norm
Customers leave a trail of data as they interact with your company. Your CRM tracks all customer support cases, as well as the behaviors customers display such as opening emails, visiting web pages, downloading content, etc.
If you integrate third-party app plugins—such as accounting, social media, or eCommerce apps—with your CRM, that trail of data expands further. All that data forms an elaborate picture of their customer journey, including who they have spoken to, products they have purchased, issues they have faced in the past, etc.
Customer support reps will increasingly be expected to leverage that data to personalize the support they provide to your customers. The more context a rep has about a customer and their unique use case and common challenges, the more they can personalize each customer support interaction.
As customer expectations continue to grow, personalized support will become the norm. Customers will expect it rather than be delightfully surprised by it. Personalizing your support efforts empowers reps to deliver more relevant answers that resonate with and address the unique needs of each customer.
7. Support quality will have a greater impact on revenue growth
Since customers will increasingly expect higher-quality support, not providing it will result in higher levels of customer churn. Walker info reports that by 2020 the customer experience will overtake price and product as the main driver behind consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Your brand must maintain a reputation as a company that delivers world-class customer support. Otherwise, you’ll lose existing customers and acquiring new ones will become more difficult. If your customer support efforts are sub-par, customer loyalty and satisfaction will decline, and your brand reputation will suffer.
And guess what? Without a positive brand reputation and loyal, satisfied customers, your revenue growth will slow down considerably. Satisfied customers lead to business and revenue growth. By maintaining a powerful, effective, and efficient support presence and making support quality a priority, you’ll maintain happy customers and grow sustainably.
If you take anything away from this article, it should be this: the future of customer support will increasingly revolve around customers’ needs and expectations. They will gain more control of their relationship with your brand, and you will need to adapt your support efforts to cater to their needs.
Delivering a great customer experience is at the heart of it all. Indeed, 72% of companies recognize the importance of delivering an excellent customer experience and say that improving the one they provide is their top business priority.
By delivering best-in-class customer support, you’re improving the customer experience. And delivering a great customer experience is at the core of increasing customer satisfaction levels. Satisfied customers stick around longer, can become brand advocates, spend more, and ultimately lead to faster revenue growth.
Embracing the trends that are driving the shifting landscape of customer support will ensure you can deliver a great customer experience, grow your business, and remain competitive in your industry.
Remember that it’s all about the customer and meeting their needs and expectations. Sam Walton, founder or supermarket giant Walmart, said it perfectly: “There is only one boss – the customer.”