Business is moving faster than ever. We’re in a boom time for innovation in every area of business. The results of numerous surveys over the past two or three years have revealed that customer experience will be a priority for most companies. And, they are right. Companies are figuring it out. A Gartner study from four years ago predicted that by 2019 more than 50% of organizations will invest more money into the customer experience. They were right about the trend, but today’s numbers indicate that even more organizations are making CX a priority. So, what else do we need to know? Here are my thoughts on customer service and customer experience as we head into 2019:
- Customers continue to get smarter. They know what they want and expect when it comes to the customer experience. I’ve been writing about this one for several years now. It continues to get more important. Customers aren’t just comparing you to your competitors anymore. They are comparing you to the best service they have ever received – from any company they do business with. So, what are some companies that you enjoy doing business with? Why? Can the answer to that question be used to bring your organization up to the same level of service?
- Customers want convenience. How easy are you to do business with? Do your policies and processes create friction for the customer? I’ve written about this at least a half-dozen times in the past few months. I even wrote an entire book dedicated to convenience, The Convenience Revolution. Customers will do more business with the companies that are easiest to work with. And, they may even pay more – a lot more.
- Customer experience will rise to the top of the marketing agenda. This plays on the statistics mentioned at the beginning of this article. While companies are spending more on CX and making it a priority, the real impact is on the marketing department. Customer service and customer experience has been and will continue to be, one of the best marketing investments a company can make.
- Personalization continues to become more personal. I’m hearing it more and more. People are impressed with how the companies they do business with seem to know them. The ability to use data to analyze buying patterns, and then use that to properly promote or provide a customized experience, is getting easier. More organizations will do a better job of segmenting their customers into groups (also known as personas) to provide a more personized experience.
- Self-service customer service is not only acceptable, it’s expected. A large portion of your customers want – and expect – a quick answer or resolution to a question or problem, and unlike an older generation (as in Baby Boomers), they don’t want to make a phone call to get it. If you haven’t already done so, look into providing those self-service solutions that your customers want and will appreciate.
- “Omnichannel” means nothing to the customer. There will be more ways for customers to connect to the company, but so what? Customers don’t care about terminology; all they care about is being able to connect with the brand however they want to. It doesn’t matter if it’s online chat (or a chatbot), a social channel like Twitter, a messaging app or even the traditional telephone. To the customer it’s all the same. They just want the most convenient (to them) way to connect to the company and get what they want – quickly and easily.
- Employee experience will be as important, if not more so, than customer experience. I’ve been talking about this for years. What’s happening on the inside of an organization is going to be felt on the outside by the customer. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is our economy. With unemployment being so low, the pool of available talent is small – very small. That means good employees are being recruited away. And, it’s not necessarily the salary that makes a move enticing – the employee experience may be more important. So, while a good employee experience can create a better customer experience, it can also create a culture that makes your organization “bulletproof” against other companies stealing your best people.
- It’s still mobile to the max. The mobile phone is not really about the phone. Some people barely use the phone part of their mobile phone. They use the apps to connect with their friends, family, companies and other organizations. They read, shop, learn and communicate using apps – not voice-to-voice communication. If you haven’t already done so, find a way into your customers’ mobile devices.
- The phone is not dead and will not die. In 1897 Mark Twain said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Rumors today would have you believe that the phone is dead for customer service. Quite the contrary, the phone is not dead … yet. No doubt the growing trends of self-service options and digital solutions, such as AI-fueled chatbots, are reducing some of the direct communication, but customers will always want the option of being able to reach out for a human connection when they need it.
- AI will not take over the world, at least not in 2019. Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities are progressing at a rapid rate. What AI can do to enhance customer service and CX is amazing compared to just a few years ago. But, we’re not yet ready for a world in which robots make decisions and make employees obsolete. Currently, AI is used to offer customer support for lower-level requests and questions, such as a change of address, checking the status of an order, etc. AI is also gaining popularity as a means to support the agent who is supporting the customer. The agent knows how to ask the right questions of the machine to get the best answers for the customer. Furthermore, AI can help the agent by sharing information about the customer based on past issues, purchases and more. And, by comparing the customer to similar customers, AI can provide insights to proactively address problems that haven’t even occurred yet. It can also help the agent cross-sell the customer (and yes, that is an aspect of good customer service).
While there are plenty more concepts I could mention, these are the big ones that I am asked about time after time. Look over the list and pick one or two that stand out. Let that be the beginning of a bigger conversation in your organization, one that will lead to an even better customer experience for your customers in 2019. Happy New Year!