GUEST POST from Shep Hyken
Last week I shared the first five of ten business predictions and trends for 2023. Here the remaining five (plus a bonus). As you look at these predictions, think about how they might impact your company. For example, if self-service customer service options are more popular than ever (No. 7), is your company or brand offering them to your customers?
6. Customer Support on the Phone Is Not Dead
Even with all the self-service solutions becoming more popular, the phone will continue to reign as the most popular way for customers to connect with customer support. Our customer service research (sponsored by Amazon AWS) confirms this as 87% of Baby Boomers (who make up just over 21% of the population of the U.S.) prefer the phone to any other channel, keeping traditional phone support as the No. 1 way customers choose to get their questions answered and their complaints resolved.
7. Self-Service Is More Popular than Ever
Even though the phone continues to be the most popular channel for customers to have their questions and complaints addressed, self-service options are becoming more and more appealing. Just as Boomers drive the phone, the younger generations—Gen-Z and Millennials—are proving that an investment in self-service channels, such as a robust knowledgebase on a website, video tutorials, chatbots and more, is an up-and-coming trend.
8. More Companies and Brands Will Stand for Something Important
Here’s more vital research to consider. Forty-five percent of your customers value a company that supports a social cause that’s important to them, and only 20% feel that a cause is not important enough to sway their buying decision. It’s especially true for Gen-Z and Millennials. Causes can range from climate change to sustainability, local community and charity events, and good old-fashioned values. You’ll start seeing more companies and brands participating in causes that are important to them and their customers. Our customer experience research found that customers are drawn to companies that “give back.”
9. Customers Want to Do Business with Companies and Brands They Can Trust
The old expression says it all. Customers want to do business with people and companies they know, like and trust. The knowing and liking are easy. Trust is harder. It’s an emotional connection between the customer and the company. Customers must know something will absolutely happen, that their experience will always be great and that the company has their best interests in mind. Eighty-one percent of more than 1,000 consumers we surveyed said a great customer experience increases trust. Start with the experience. Work to create an experience that instills confidence and will positively impact your bottom line.
10. The Customer Support Department Becomes the Revenue Generation Department
There have been numerous discussions and debates over the years about the investment into a customer support system. For many years, the department and processes that handle customers’ questions and complaints were seen as a cost. As the importance of customer service continues to grow, leaders are recognizing the revenue generated from the front line that handles customers’ problems and issues. I’ve gone as far as suggesting to clients that they stop referring to this group as the customer support department, but instead call it the revenue generation department. If it is the job of sales and marketing to bring in customers, it is the job of the people who have direct contact with the customer, especially after the sale, to maintain and nurture them for future business. A problem handled well gives the customer confidence to want to come back. When they do, they spend more. Eventually, they may even become loyal. As companies realize this, they will start investing more into the department and process traditionally known as customer support.
BONUS: Robots Will Not Replace People
In our research, we asked more than 1,000 consumers if they thought in the next ten years, robots would start to replace humans in customer service roles. Sixty-four percent said yes. Here’s my prediction. Robots won’t replace humans—at least not 100%. We are already seeing chatbots, voice recognition software, AI-infused conversations (with the computer) and other digital technologies becoming more capable, and therefore more popular. However, they won’t replace customer support agents and frontline employees. What they will do is make their jobs easier. Currently, AI and digital support are really good for basic questions and simple problems. While they will improve, we’ll still need human-to-human interactions when necessary. Certain businesses will excel in the adoption of high-end robotic and AI-infused technologies, but we’re a long way away from computers and robots replacing people. A few years ago I came up with a quote that still holds true today, and I believe will hold true ten years from now: The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business: the human touch.
If I had to sum up my predictions for the future of customer service and CX, I might use another old saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes, you need to provide your customers with modern convenience and technology that they have come to expect and rely on, but the basics are basics for a reason. Customers will always want to be treated well, be treated like individuals, and feel a real human connection.
Image Credit: Shep Hyken
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