According to Salesforce.com’s annual State of Service survey, customer service is no longer an afterthought for companies, meant only to support the business after the important part—the sale—was already complete. Increasingly, customer service is becoming a central component of a company’s strategy and initiative. More than 68 percent of the service teams surveyed say they’re the ones leading customer experience efforts across the business.
"Delivering an exceptional customer experience requires a unified front across the entire company. In this new dynamic, service teams not only respond to customers’ requests but increasingly function as additional sales channels and brand ambassadors," the report states.
Increasingly, organizations are seeing the growth opportunities associated with customer service and are finally starting to break down the silo walls between service and other areas of the business. The result has been a deeper focus on customer experiences and relationships between brands and customers, rather than individual interactions. According to the research, service KPIs have been pivoting toward overall customer success—70 percent of service teams say "their strategic vision over the last 12–18 months has become more focused on creating deeper customer relationships."
Technology is playing a key role in empowering agents and enabling them to be more central to achieving the organization's goals. Tools that provide a single, more unified view of the customer have made a significant difference for service agents, along with the right training.
Seventy-nine percent of service teams agree that a "shared, single view of the customer empowers agents to provide consistency and continuity in every customer interaction," and 90 percent of high-performing teams say they have the right amount of training to do their job better, compared to only 48 percent of underperformers.
As technology gets smarter, it'll likely further improve the effectiveness of customer service teams. In spite of concerns about new technologies including artificial intelligence and predictive tools potentially replacing support agents, emerging technology will have a positive impact on the customer service space. On the contrary, agents will be able to do their jobs better, according to the findings. "High performers are 3.9x more likely than underperformers to say predictive intelligence will have a transformational impact on their customer service by 2020," the report says.
The Internet of Things could have a particularly big effect on service agents, given how much data will flow from connected devices. Product usage trends, diagnostic data, and location data will be of special interest to service teams over the next few years.