Once upon a time, excellent customer service was optional, but in 2018 and beyond, businesses must create consistently positive experiences for customers. This is the age of endless choices after all, and a dissatisfied customer can simply go elsewhere if they aren't happy.
"They [customers] are smarter and better informed, they recognize that they have more options, and they are critical about the customer experience they receive and expect it to be right the first time … and every time." -Shep Hyken (Forbes)
The road to true success is customer-centric. For some businesses, this is a great inconvenience, but forward-looking leaders will see the opportunities in both the new forms of customer engagement and the trends in the service provided.
New Forms of Customer Service
- AI: Traditional advertisements are one-way messages - potential customers just watch or read such ads and then move on. However, the science fiction of yesterday is becoming reality today. Virtual and augmented reality technologies are growing in popularity. Forward-thinking companies will hook customers with interactive experiences.
- SMS and Mobile Apps: The vast majority of people carry and use a mobile phone. Savvy companies attract customers through texting advertising and through specially-created store apps. This way, your brand is always in sight and in mind.
- Online > Brick and Mortar: The war for business between physical stores and online stores is no secret. Today many businesses are merging the two models. Each model has its advantages and disadvantages, so a combination is the best of both worlds. This, of course, leads to greater convenience for shoppers.
Five Trends in Customer Service
- Fast and Easy: Excellent customer service is characterized by friendliness, knowledge, and convenience. Modern life moves at a lightning pace - customers expect your business to keep up. They do not have time to wait in line or to languish while an employee searches (and fumbles) for the right answer. The time to impress customers is now - before they turn to the competition.
- Customized: Although customers want speed and convenience, they also desire personalization. No customer wants to feel like merely the next person in line. They want service that recognizes their individuality - they want to be known and understood. This means recognizing each customer as an individual and giving customers offerings and services tailored to them.
- Instant Support: Continuing with the trend of convenience is the rise of chat support. Old fashioned methods of contact - phone and email - take too long, a fact which frustrates customers. Chat (when manned by qualified humans) offers customers instant solutions. Customers notice when companies reach out real-time via chat support. In fact, when a support chat goes well, a website visitor is much more likely to make a purchase.
- AI at Your Service: Artificial Intelligence continues to develop while becoming more affordable. AI is now capable of answering basic customer questions. Employees now have more time to handle complex customer inquiries and issues, which AI cannot yet effectively handle.
- Self-Help: Customers take charge. They prefer to solve their problems if possible. Customers will go to your business' website and watch how-to videos or they will cruise through your detailed FAQ section. Customers value their time - they have better things to do than dial a support hotline and hold, or send an email and wait.
Today's customer service environment is trending towards greater convenience, higher-quality service, and new technology. A business which upgrades its customer service accordingly is well on the way to success. But how does a leader prepare his or her team for the future now?
Merlin Guides Can Help!
Fast, convenient customer service relies on employees who have a thorough understanding of your business' systems and practices--employees also need to know how to best serve customers--thus arises the need for continual, high-quality training.
Streamline the training process with Merlin Guides. Merlin is easy and convenient to use (like your customer service should be!). Create step-by-step training guides which overlay your business' software or website directly. You save time, and your employees learn the skills they need. In an era of convenience and instant help, Merlin Guides fits right in.