Customer Service Expectations in 2020

Customers are interacting with companies today across multiple channels and in more sophisticated ways through social media and digital. For this reason, building out the right approach to customer service is increasingly important for companies looking to have a voice in the consumer market and to grow their customer bases.

In 2020, expanding channel presence, personalization, and efficiency through automation without sacrificing quality will shape how companies can succeed over the year. While customer service will face several challenges due to the evolution of customer behavior, there are several strategies companies can employ to set themselves up for a successful year.

Expand Channel Presence to Grow Your Customer Base

Customers are using more connected devices than ever before and accessing multiple channels on social media and digital, creating more touchpoints for customer service. In the past, companies and customers had to keep up with new channels coming online, but now, people have caught up and expect companies to do the same. At the same time, everyone thought that phone call interactions would decrease, but in general, people are contacting customer service more often, across all channels available to them.

Customers can find a lot of companies on Twitter and Facebook as a means for communicating, but many companies (retailers in particular) are now on Instagram because that's where their customers are scrolling and liking. Staying in step with customer communication preferences will allow companies to reach and target customers in 2020. For this reason, having an omnichannel presence is crucial for companies. No matter which channel a customer chooses, the experience needs to be seamless and on-brand. If someone reaches out through email and receives a response from customer service on the phone, the customer expects the representative to understand why he reached out about originally via email and has background about the issue at hand. Customer service in 2020 is about visibility across channels to create a seamless omnichannel experience.

Why Skilled Customer Service and Technology are a Winning Combination

Personalized customer service is a key differentiator for companies in a world that's now competitive among companies and commoditized. How a company responds to an issue or questions about a product is considered an important factor. With so many digital apps and fast-growing e-commerce start-ups out there, customer service representatives are the face of your company now. There's no salesclerk anymore, so it's important for representatives to be experts on topics with which they'll be dealing the most. And, customers expect to speak with upbeat representatives who truly care about their needs. To properly provide the environment for this kind of demeanor, retailers can immerse representatives in the company by having them use the product or service in their everyday life to fuel their passion.

This leads to the topic of technology—specifically automation—which is going to have a huge presence in 2020. It helps representatives do their work more efficiently while dealing with customers. Processes can also be handled quicker and with 100 percent accuracy, which reduces the need for unnecessary repeat contact and frees up representatives to focus on more value-add and complex work, making automation a win-win for both businesses and customers. Companies will need to have a more balanced view of automation where it's leveraged as a tool for the customer service representatives, rather than as the mechanism for the customer service experience. Human interaction will continue to be key to delivering world-class service to customers (it's what they expect), so in using technology as a support system, companies will find better success.

Setting You Up for Success

While 2020 customer service means companies will have to find their voice in a crowded market, they can set themselves up for success by being clear and consistent in how they communicate. At the same time, a foreseeable challenge is that customer behavior will change because of the ease of communication; consistency can help retailers get ahead and manage negative situations. Additionally, with more channels of communication available to customers, retailers must get ahead of any issues so they don't damage your brand.

Suppose a customer orders a wedding dress online for a wedding in three months because she's in a time crunch. So, what happens if the shipment is delayed even though she paid for two-to-three-day shipping? It makes for an extremely distressed customer. Perhaps she then uses chat to talk with a representative in real time. To help this customer in the best way possible and ease her panic (during an already stressful time) the representative should be able to respond instantly using the most advanced chat technology and be prepared to solve a delayed shipment. To ensure this customer’s needs are met, the representative will need to rely on the winning combination of savvy know-how and automation.

There will be so much competition for maintaining customer loyalty in 2020 that advancing customer service to meet the needs of the modern customer will be essential to success. Not only will this lead to growth in sales, but it will differentiate your company in a sea of competitors. While this year will have many challenges, being well-prepared and using automation can help any company provide an elevated customer service experience.

Fara Haron is CEO of North America, Ireland, and Southeast Asia and executive vice president of global clients atMajorel.