This year put the spotlight on customer service as businesses grappled with an influx of calls from distressed customers as well as wide-ranging disruptions to their operations. Service teams were tested like never before, forced to adapt quickly to new, uncertain situations.
As we look ahead to 2021 customer service trends, we can expect organizations to continue ramping up their customer service for a vastly different world.
2021 customer service trends: Building on lessons learned
Everything changed for customer service in 2020. Many organizations were hit by sudden peak in demand; situations didn’t always have answers, and what was true yesterday could change by morning.
Following are the top 5 2021 customer service trends:
- The only new normal is change – and leaders must adapt to understand how crucial customer service is to the overall health of a business
- Customer service and e-commerce as companions
- Service will become a sales tool
- Omnichannel customer service will be a requirement
- Technology like IoT and chatbots will become essential customer service elements
1. Change is the only constant
A number of companies quickly changed their business models in the wake of the pandemic, creating new expectations and challenges for customer service.
We all hope that 2021 will be more stable, but one thing is certain: Change is the new normal.
For service leaders looking to 2021 customer service trends, this raises several questions:
- How can we have agility to adapt to new situations as they arise?
- How can we better align with other parts of the organization so that service teams have the visibility they need to help customers?
- How can we leverage knowledge management to provide service agents the support they need in their work, every day?
- Do we have the capabilities to ensure targeted, ad hoc trainings exactly when and where needed?
2. E-commerce & customer service go hand-in-hand
COVID-19 accelerated e-commerce more than even the most ambitious business plans would have anticipated. Companies jumped from the “planning” phase into the “doing” phase in record time, taking their businesses online, keeping parcel delivery services busy.
After setting up easy-to-use web shops, companies now need to double down on customer service.
When you sell online, you don’t compete just with other stores in the city, but with all providers worldwide.
Moreover, the e-commerce boom has changed customers’ expectations for service. Customers who buy online have different needs than customers who buy at the store. They can’t see the goods as they can in the store, so they need an easy way to ask questions. They also have inquiries about ordering, deliveries, returns, and payments.
Service agents need visibility into orders and customer information to provide personalized service experiences, and to quickly help customers with their inquiries. The best way to ensure that is to integrate customer service directly into the e-commerce solution.
Breaking down the silos between service and commerce will help you boost your online sales and increase service productivity. Satisfied customers will return for more, and your service agents will have an easier time doing their jobs.
3. Customer service trends in 2021: Service as a sales tool
Commerce is not the only function where integration with customer service is important; sales also can benefit a lot from a closer alignment with service.
After a challenging year, organizations are looking to the potential of this alignment to improve customer experience, increase revenue, and reduce cost. Too often, customer service is seen as a separate unit, triggered when something goes wrong and customers complain. This mindset causes businesses to miss out on growth opportunities.
Aligning sales and service helps customer service agents deliver more personalized customer experiences, which naturally leads to better business outcomes. Also, agents with insight into how customers have interacted with sales teams have increased upsell and cross-selling opportunities.
Rolls Royce is a great example of an international organization that transformed their business and aligned with their sales and service solutions.
Now, their employees have a consistent, comprehensive view of customers, which helps the company create better experiences and benefit from new business opportunities.
4. Omnichannel customer service 3.0
Today, it takes just a couple of clicks to order basically anything. However, to keep customers coming back, you need to make sure they can easily reach you whenever they need help – through the channels they prefer.
This is where self-service options, including chatbots, come into play so customers can get quick answers to easy questions. It’s no wonder that the use of chatbots has taken off; this trend will definitely continue in 2021.
There’s still a lot of untapped potential in chatbots and we’ll see them integrated better in the overall omnichannel strategy of companies.
But don’t neglect the good old telephone. When customers are uncertain, anxious, and puzzled, they often prefer talking to a real human being and this is where customer service can make a real difference.
As Ian Jacobs, principal analyst at Forrester noted, millions of consumers are and will be devastated during these difficult times; organizations need to provide flexible, empathetic customer service.
5. Intelligent technologies breakthrough
Customer service has a constant balancing act: reduce customer service costs without sacrificing service quality or CX.
With intelligent technologies like machine learning and the Internet of Things, companies can automate routine tasks like ticket categorizations, giving service agents more time to focus on value-added interactions.
Automated recommendations help service reps find the right answers and solutions, shortening resolution times and improving service experience. IoT enables predictive maintenance and even remote service, saving a lot of time and money.
We’ve only seen a glimpse of possibilities that intelligent technologies bring to customer service. In 2020, interest in machine learning, IoT, and augmented reality skyrocketed; next year, we will see more ways they can advance customer service
The power of customer relationships and customer service are more clear than ever. Businesses that get customer service right build resilience, not only to weather the pandemic crisis, but to also position themselves for growth.