2012 is still a vivid memory for most of us. But it’s time to look ahead to 2013 and focus on the key trends that customer service professionals need to pay attention to as they plan for success this year. Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report will be published later this month.
PERSONALIZE CUSTOMER SERVICE
Trend 1: Channel Preference Is Changing Rapidly
Across all demographics, voice is still the primary communication channel used, but is quickly followed by self-service channels like chat and email. Channel usage rates are also quickly changing: we’ve seen a 12 percent rise in web self-service usage, a 24 percent rise in chat usage, and a 25 percent increase in community usage for customer service in the past three years.
Expect customer service organisations to better align their channel strategy this year to support their company’s customers’ needs. Expect them to also work on guiding customers to the right channel based on the complexity and time sensitivity of interactions.
Trend 2: Mobile Solutions Are Becoming A Must-Have
More companies will move away from duplicating their web presence for their mobile offering and will focus on deploying the right usage scenarios that add value to customers in a mobile environment, with focused user experiences that allow tasks to be efficiently accomplished.
Trend 3: Agile Service Is Becoming More Important Than Multichannel Service
Expect companies to continue to work on breaking down communication silos within and outside of customer service and standardising the resolution process and customer service experience across communication channels and touchpoints.
Trend 4: Customers Expect Proactive Outbound Communication
More powerful smartphones and increased bandwidth will allow proactive outbound applications to use rich media with embedded links to improve the user experience. Outbound communications technology will also be more deeply integrated into the contact to support closed-loop scenarios where customers want connect to an agent after receiving a message.
Trend 5: Voice Of The Customer Programs Are Operationalising Insights
In 2012, Forrester saw more companies adopt voice of the customer (VoC) programs (68 percent versus just 55 percent last year
). However, companies struggled to distribute the analysed data and act on pertinent feedback to deliver quantifiable business value. Expect companies to leverage VoC data on two fronts this year: (1) better focus on end-to-end feedback processes to deliver the right insights to the right organisations and (2) use of customer feedback as a direct measure of operational success.
EMPOWER AGENTS FOR QUALITY SERVICE
Trend 6: Customer Service Is Moving From Cost Center To Differentiator
Customer service organisations are typically managed as a cost center. Key success metrics focus on productivity, efficiency, and regulatory compliance instead of customer satisfaction.
However, we are seeing that customer service organisations are gradually adopting a balanced scorecard of metrics
that include not only cost and compliance, but also customer satisfaction, and which are more suited to drive the right agent behaviour and deliver better outcomes.
Trend 7: The Universal Customer History Record Is Personalising Interactions
Customer service agents must have access to the full history of a customer’s prior interactions over all of the communication channels available in order to deliver personalised service and strengthen the relationship that customers have with companies. In 2013, vendors will continue to add the management of social channels to their customer service products.
Trend 8: Knowledge Management Is Becoming The Jewel In The Customer Service Crown
Knowledge management solutions are a critical necessity for agents who rely on standardised answers to efficiently answer customer inquiries. It is also important to customers, as 60 percent of consumers use web self-service knowledge to find answers to their questions.
Expect companies to adopt best practices in knowledge management: (1) make content capture from disparate sources (like email, social media interactions, and forum threads) easier; (2) make locating the right content easier; (3) allow agents and customers to rate and comment on content; (4) publish content without arduous review cycles; (5) tightly link case management and knowledge management solutions for greater service efficiencies; and (6) be more data-driven by using analytics to obtain insights on the value of content.
Trend 9: Next-Best-Action Solutions Are Powering Targeted Offers
Organisations will continue to investigate methods to recommend agent “next best actions”
during the service resolution process in an attempt to offer service tailored to the customer’s unique needs and past purchase history. These next best actions are not limited to cross-sells and upsells, but also help guide agents through the most successful resolution path by presenting them the next best process step to take which is aligned with business imperatives.
Trend 10: Business Process Management Meets The Front Office
In 2012, we continued to see organisations using BPM in the front office
in an attempt to formalise agent actions in an effort to standardise service delivery, minimise agent training times, ensure regulatory and company policy compliance, and control costs.
Expect to see continued focus on guiding agents through the service resolution process, in addition to focusing on the end-to-end process, which may involve back-office tasks.We will see better reporting and analytics in order to monitor overall key performance indicators (KPIs) to optimise the success of each process flow.
Trend 11: Collaboration Is Improving The Quality Of Service Delivered
We’ve seen increased adoption of collaboration in recent years. Trends include: (1) greater adoption of customer service and ideation communities that deflect contacts to increase agent productivity and customer satisfaction; (2) harvesting of community knowledge for inclusion into knowledge bases; and (3) agent-to-agent collaboration where organisations are breaking down the rigid agent tiering structures in favor for a more collaborative environment with subject-matter experts to increase first-contact resolution rates.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MATURING CUSTOMER SERVICE SOLUTIONS
Trend 12: Best-Of-Breed Solutions Are Struggling To Prove Their Value
We see more suite solutions from a single vendor being deployed for customer service. Buyers will be in a strong position to push best-of-breed vendors to demonstrate differentiation and measurable business value. In addition, best-of-breed solutions are prime acquisition targets.
This differentiation must then be weighed against the integration pain from coupling multiple customer service solutions together, the overhead of managing software upgrades from different vendors, the overhead of managing multiple contracts from different vendors, and the risk of these best-of-breed solutions being acquired.
Trend 13: SaaS Solutions For Customer Service Are Becoming More Popular
Trend 14: Outsourcing Is Slowly Gaining Market Share
Expect to see a rise in outsourcers using home agents to provide their clients with greater business agility Expect also to see more companies look to outsourcing their contact center technology while staffing customer operations with their agents.
Trend 15: Analytics Are Improving The End-To-End Experience
Expect customer service organisations to start moving forward with more holistic measurement programs for communication channels and touchpoints. This will allow customer service organisations to understand the cost and success of end-to-end customer journeys and pinpoint areas of addressable pain — such as an escalation from a mobile self-service session to an agent-assisted call.
Expect organisations to also derive insights from their customer behaviour to better contextualise and personalise end-to-end experiences increasing satisfaction and long-term loyalty.