The Top 3 Priorities for Service & Support Leaders in 2020

Gartner surveys customer service and support leaders annually to better understand key trends they're watching and challenges they face in the coming year. Heading into 2020, leaders expressed continued pressure from their customers, leadership teams, and vendors to invest and grow digital service offerings. This pressure is coupled with the ongoing expectation to consistently deliver high-quality service experiences to their customers in an ever-changing, personalized service world.

In our annual survey, we asked leaders to rank their top three priorities in an open-ended response format, and the following three major themes stood out in terms of frequency:

  1. Digital channels and infrastructure — Increasing digital service and technology investments continue to be top priorities for service leaders. In the survey, service leaders shared their critical priorities for 2020 are implementing new technology projects and moving more customers to digital and self-service, when applicable.
  2. Customer service representatives — In what continues to be a tight labor market, prioritizing reps' wants and needs is a major initiative for most service leaders. In the survey, service leaders responded that attracting and retaining quality staff and investing in reps through training, systems, and coaching/development are key priorities moving into 2020. Additionally, service leaders shared a desire to provide reps with a balanced workload and more career growth opportunities.
  3. Data, VoC and, customer service metrics — Leaders also reported a desire to become more data-driven, which includes rethinking operational metrics and using these metrics to improve decision making and prove the value of service in 2020. Additionally, service leaders shared that they would like to produce more meaningful action from VoC data.

However, the best intentions are never without their challenges, and our research uncovered three specific corresponding challenges services leaders will face as they look to make progress on their objectives for the year.

Challenges for Digital Channels and Infrastructure

In the survey, 77 percent of senior leaders reported an increase in investments in digital capabilities, and 74 percent reported an increase in investments in information technology—a continuing a trend from the past few years. Service leaders reported that they felt pressure to provide customers with improved digital and self-service offerings. This insight aligns with our 2019 signature research, "Delivering on the Digital Promise," which detailed how service organizations should shift from an add-and-integrate strategy to a self-service-dominant strategy. The study shows how uncoordinated self-service integration can cause negative consequences from both cost and experience perspectives; it also explains how service organizations need to prioritize a clear and coordinated digital strategy alongside the live-channel strategy.

Challenges for Customer Service Representatives

Due to low unemployment, a major challenge for service leaders is competition for talent. In fact, nearly three-in-five service leaders reported that they have increased their labor budgets heading into 2020 to try to overcome this challenge.

This challenge is partially due to the evolution of the role of the customer service representative from a heavily scripted role with metric-centered performance evaluation to a more consultative and empowered role with emphasis on the quality of interactions. This movement in responsibilities, capabilities, and performance criteria is due in large part to the significant shift of simple and transactional issues migrating into self-service. What remains for service representatives to address in live channels are the most complex customer issues. To keep pace with this evolution, service leaders attempt to adapt their front-line strategy to help their reps manage complex issues, while also attracting and retaining new reps who naturally display the traits needed for this new, complex environment.

Challenges for Data, VoC and, Customer Service Metrics

Gartner research shows that 67 percent of service leaders believe it is important to address the difficulty of capturing, sharing, and generating value from voice of the customer data in 2020. Leaders indicated that in addition to rising customer expectations, providing personalized customer service, and delivering on anticipated needs of customers were top priorities for their service organizations. To better understand what customers value within the service journey, leaders need to be able to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of gathering and understanding VoC data. Leaders are focused on determining how they can consistently deliver on high-quality customer service experiences through meaningful VoC data.

Although the specifics of service and support leaders' priorities evolve from year-to-year, the constant remains a focus on improving both live and automated service experience with finite resources available to execute the strategy.

Lauren Villeneuve is a senior principal in Gartner's Customer Service & Support Practice.