4 customer support trends in the fourth industrial revolution

Željko Čačinović, Senior Salesforce Consultant | 10.04.2019.

4 customer support trends in the fourth industrial revolution

Great products are powerful building blocks for any successful business. But these days, even the best products can’t satisfy customers on their own. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has redefined customers’ expectations to the point that 80% of them now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products. The implications on the world of customer service is unprecedented.

What are the 4 trends changing the world of customer support in the fourth industrial revolution?

TREND #1: Organizations are investing in transformation.

The marquee customer service trend is a sense of urgency among service leaders to overhaul their operations. Four out of five service decision makers believe that emerging technology is transforming customers’ expectations of them. Even more (82%) think their company’s customer service must transform to stay competitive.

This message is reaching the c-suite, which is increasingly eager to invest in modernized service. For decades, customer service budgets have been victims of an old view of the function that minimized its business value. Fast forward to today, and over half (54%) of service organizations have year-over-year budget increases, and nearly two-thirds (63%) expect more money next year.

While the recognized need for service transformation is relatively consistent across organizations, high-performing teams – those with excellent customer satisfaction rates – are far and away more likely than their underperforming competition to be getting more resources.

TREND #2: Agents have more strategic duties in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The second customer service trend is the changing roles of agents. Customer expectations for tailored engagement based on their unique needs means that no customer-facing role – including agents – can operate under business as usual. Today, it’s not sufficient for agents to focus on closing as many cases in as little time as possible. Instead, they tackle each customer interaction on a personalized basis and treat it in the unique manner the customer demands.

Agents are keenly aware of this new dynamic, with 71% viewing their jobs as more strategic than just two years ago. Service management is laser focused on helping agents gain the skills needed to provide this elevated service, with improved workforce skills topping out as their No.1 priority.

Yet just like when it comes to service investment and budgets, not all organizations are as advanced as others. Among high-performing teams, 63% of agents spend most of their time solving complex problems. On underperforming teams, however, a similar share of agents (57%) spend most of their time on mundane tasks. It’s no wonder that agents on high-performing teams are twice as likely to see a clear path for their career growth.

TREND #3: AI is empowering agents to take on elevated roles.

Use of artificial intelligence (AI) in customer service may be nascent, with just under one-quarter (24%) of teams using it today. But 56% of service decision makers say their organizations are actively looking for ways to use AI, which signals a third customer service trend: a growing role for use cases such as chatbots, text and voice analytics, and more. In fact, AI adoption is forecasted to surge by 143% over the next 18 months.

The role of AI in customer service is still coming into focus, with just 39% of organizations having a completely defined strategy for the technology. Early impacts, however, signal alignment with the elevated role of agents; improved prioritization of agents’ work is cited as the No.1 benefit by service organizations with AI. In fact, 71% of agents view AI as helpful to their jobs.

TREND #4: Service teams are playing catch-up with digital-first customers.

Planned implementation of digital service channels like online communities, mobile apps, and mobile messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger is high, but service teams are still largely behind the curve. Today’s customers are, on average, 16 percentage points more likely to use a given channel to communicate with companies than a company is to offer service on that channel. That means there’s a huge gap between what the customer wants and what organizations are delivering.

The gap is particularly wide when it comes to emerging service channels. Take voice-activated personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, for example, which has a 34 percentage point gap between customer and service team adoption, or mobile apps with a 31 percentage point gap. These insights helped me understand why only 48% of agents feel equipped to engage with customers on any channel they choose.

In the end…

Faced with ever-growing standards for fast, personalized and connected experiences – anytime and anywhere – customer support departments have much more different tasks than it used to be. The company’s management has become aware of the way in which support can improve user experience, highlight the brand, and launch a new source of revenue. As a result, companies are investing in people, processes and technologies in the direction of full digital transformation. What can help in such a transformation is a CRM platform specifically adapted to provide customer support.

Source: Salesforce State of Service – Third Edition, 09.03.2019.