In 2015, you can expect to see a growing focus on customer service and leveraging service as a competitive advantage to increase customer engagement, sales and profits. So, how can companies help customer service agents -- and consumers -- access the right answers to the right questions more quickly? Efficient self-service will play a key role, but it's just part of the story.
Let's take a closer look at some of the trends worth watching -- and embracing -- if you're the one charged with managing customer service or sales for your organization.
1. Self-Service Rules
Companies with the right tools at hand can provide better service by "tapping into the competent customer,” says Coveo, an advanced enterprise-search provider. In fact, Coveo predicts that self-service will outpace agent-assisted service in 2015, and that companies will be able to offload much of their support requirements to "digitally native customers." With the right tools made available, customers should be able to solve even complex challenges on their own.
"More sophisticated customers, many of whom are digital natives [meaning very comfortable with technology] prefer self-service but cannot find what they need on company portals. In 2015, companies [should be able to] solve this 'low hanging fruit' problem with advanced search for their customer communities and portals," said Louis Tetu, chairman and CEO of Coveo.
"Enabling advanced search [capabilities] to provide the personal experience customers prefer will be a double win for companies," Tetu explained. For businesses, "it will reduce costs and offload support capacity by tapping into the latent competence of customers." And for customers, it will help increase satisfaction by enabling them to solve complex challenges when and how they want.
2. Focus on Real-Time Analytics
Over the past year, several companies that provide CRM (customer relationship management) applications also greatly expanded their portfolios to offer more tools for real-time analytics and processing big data. Although a mere 22 percent of leading retailers are currently using real-time analytics, 61 percent plan to implement this functionality over the next two years, according to the Boston Retail Partners 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey. The goal is to understand customer patterns better and then be able to improve the customer experience and ultimately to increase sales.
“Enterprise apps such as CRM and ERP [enterprise resource planning] have helped companies streamline their operations, but they’re missing a key piece,” said Bruce Temkin, Managing Partner of the Temkin Group. “To compete in the future, companies need an infrastructure for understanding and taking action on customer needs. This requires a strong mix of technology, analytics, operations, and market research capabilities.”
3. Customer Experience Top of Mind
The customer experience management market is set to reach a whopping $8.9 billion by 2019. That growth indicates a lot more companies focusing on the experiences consumers have while interacting with their brands -- and how to improve those experiences. But some experts say CEOs still need to do more in terms of serving as customer experience evangelists.
Lisa Arthur, CMO of Marketing Applications at Teradata Corporation, an enterprise analytic technologies firm, spoke with us about the importance of customer experience being a central focus across the board. Everyone in the C-suite -- CEOs, CIOs, CMOs, etc. -- should reinforce that the customer experience is the central focus of the business and also ensure that the brand is considered and properly represented at every customer touchpoint.
"In a company of 1,000 people, there should be 1,000 customer experience evangelists. Why do you think the marketing automation category is expanding so rapidly? Because customers are demanding a better and better experience. They want brands to which they are loyal to know them, their preferences, etcetera," Arthur said.
"While data and applications can make the customer experience better and more personalized, it’s the brand they are buying -- not a CEO. Delivering what’s expected is a cultural and operational mandate that operates on genuine trust. Some companies are known for excellence in this area while others are not," she added.
4. Mobile Madness
Coveo is also predicting that a world-class mobile user experience will be ubiquitous in 2015. Mobile browsing will outpace classic computer use, creating significant accessibility gains, increasing data creation -- from sensors, the Internet of Things, and smart machines -- and creating challenges for traditional applications.
"2015 will be a year when mobile interfaces will be thought of first for many applications, and advanced search apps will provide proactive knowledge and information based on both the individual's past interaction with information and her or his current data and signals: interest, location, etc.," said Laurent Simoneau, president and CTO of Coveo.
5. In-Store Beacons
In-store beacons are also gaining traction. InMarket, the maker of an in-store beacon platform, reports that in-store beacon engagements achieve a 45 percent interaction rate, or five times higher than traditional push messages that occur without location context.
But beacon success is not as easy as simply installing beacons in a store. In a small controlled test to determine how often to communicate with shoppers, inMarket finds that over-saturation and irrelevant beacon pushes caused app usage to decline and apps to be deleted. Specifically, more than one beacon push per location has resulted in a 313 percent drop in usage among shopping app users.
“These stats clarify that beacons are a powerful tool that can alter the user experience depending on how they are deployed. Blanketing people with pop-ups on their phone is a sure-fire way to lose an audience, but reaching the right person with helpful info at the perfect time causes enormous lift," said Todd Dipaola, CEO of inMarket. "Simply deploying beacons is not enough, and misusing beacons can have the opposite of the intended effect."
6. Chief Customer Officers Reign
Another trend we'll see in 2015 involves the role of the Chief Customer Officer. CCOs are coming of age and should be more appreciated over the year ahead. Lacey Grey, a member of the Chief Customer Officer Council, says as competition heats up and customers become more demanding, companies need to strengthen their customer relationships to better understand future customer needs while also solidifying their current business.
More and more companies are recognizing the value of assigning accountability for customers to a C-suite executive, Grey explained in a blog post. The CCO needs to serve as company's ultimate customer authority, keeping a primary focus on customer strategy across the highest levels the company.
Posted: 2015-02-03 @ 5:08am PT
I'm intrigued that social media is missing from this list. Surely if mobile is going to be massive, then the role of relationships built, maintained, challenged and improved in social media spaces is going to be massive too?
Marika @ RadiumCRM.com:
Posted: 2015-01-20 @ 9:39am PT
Mobile, mobile, mobile! Self-serve customer service, customer service evangelists, beacons and mobile UI and UX are the center points of 2015 and onward. Consumers are getting more and more connected. Making everything user-friendly, engaging and mobile will be the thing that will have some enterprises shine and leave others in the dust.
Posted: 2015-01-15 @ 5:32pm PT
Great post Jennifer. Of the six customer service trends listed here, three of them, consumer experience, mobile madness and beacons are closely related. However, in order to enhance consumer experience by effectively employing proximity marketing technologies it is highly crucial that marketers target consumers with notifications that are most relevant to them at that particular location. However, many marketers still aren’t sure about where to begin or the kind of campaigns they can implement with beacons. We’ve discussed a few proximity marketing campaign success secrets that will help marketers ace their next proximity campaign here: http://blog.mobstac.com/2015/01/4-tips-to-kickstart-your-proximity-marketing-campaign/