Make it easy Red buttonIt isn’t news that to sustain competitiveness, we need to stay on top of what customers want and need. By doing so, we create loyal customers who are, on average, worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. In order to maintain valuable customer loyalty, your business needs to keep up with the latest customer service trends and invest in the contact center platform upgrades that can support them. But, which trends are the most important to your customers? Which are the most cost-efficient to your business?

This post is the first in a three-part series that highlights important trends and what to consider as you continue to improve the quality of the service you deliver.

Time Is of the Essence

We’re all keenly aware of the most common contact center complaints. Whether it’s waiting on eternal hold, being misrouted by an IVR system, or having to make repeated attempts to resolve an issue, there is a common thread amongst all of these problems. They waste customers’ time.

Just how important is time when it comes to customers? According to the Forrester Research report, Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service, 73% of customers said that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. Time is certainly a factor when it comes to effectively managing voice channel service levels, but it has become equally as important with digital channels. The report also estimates that half of US online adults will abandon an online purchase if they can’t get a quick answer to their questions.

While customers have long been frustrated by time-related service issues, how they complain about them has changed dramatically. Now, they have the ability to broadcast complaints to their thousand closest friends on social media. When you consider the impact of just one publically-launched gripe about service, it’s clear that it’s important to handle every customer with speed and efficiency.

Seamlessly Supporting Journeys

More than ever, customers appreciate having a variety of channels and touchpoints to use when they want service. They also like the efficiency of getting quick answers to their questions via self-service channels. Yet, a substantial challenge occurs when a customer isn’t able to obtain the answers they’re looking for on a self-service channel. When they make the shift to assisted-service, they don’t want to start all over again.

With heightened expectations, customers now expect agents to have knowledge of who they are and their relationship with the organization This includes having a full view of past interactions, as well as their account history. This requires channel integration, as well as interaction analytics and an omnichannel desktop for agents to quickly access  contextual information to provide a personalized, low-effort experience. In other words, agents should be armed with the relevant tools to provide the service that is now expected.

Customers also want to be able to easily make the shift from self- to assisted-service. Time-saving options include providing a call-back feature to allow customers to schedule a call from an agent at a time that is convenient for them, instead of having to wait in a queue for service. Visual interactive voice response (IVR) can also be leveraged to improve the process of connecting the customer to the most appropriate agent, and new channels, such as Facebook Messenger and video chat, can serve as alternatives to a traditional voice channel for assisted-service.

Giving Customers More Control

Along with reducing the friction between channels, companies are also wise to look for new opportunities to give customers greater control of their interactions. More than 80% of US online adults have used a self-service mobile phone application or have accessed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on a company website, and nearly two-thirds have used voice self-service (source: Forrester’s North American Consumer Technographics® Customer Life Cycle Survey). Although customers appreciate the efficiency of self-service, it requires having a strong knowledge management strategy, as well as looking at ways to make information more readily available.

In the case of An Post, the Irish postal service, they needed a solution for providing customers with “track and trace” information on posted mail. An Post’s local offices did not have the resources to handle these calls. They knew they needed a centralized self-help channel that would offer a quick and easy source of information for their customers. The answer was an IVR solution from Genesys that enables customers to track their mail 24/7, along with also providing other useful information, such as product and pricing details. Not only has this improved the overall customer experience, it has also freed up their contact center staff for handling more complex issues.

Read the An Post success story here.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll discuss another important customer service trend: effectiveness. We’ll share strategies for delivering effective customer service while also maximizing the effectiveness of your service organization.

Meanwhile, check out the complete Forrester Research report, Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service to learn more about how companies are building ease into their customer experience.