Good, Bad and Just Ugly Customer Service Trends

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CMO of Clarabridge
6 min read
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Some trends are here to stay, while others - like bell bottom jeans and shell suites -- are destined to die out. Fashion isn’t the only industry that works this way. The customer service industry has seen just as many fads come and go. Remember when companies thought it was a good idea to inundate customers with lengthy surveys?

That said, there are some recent trends in customer service that are here to stay because they’re delighting customers while simultaneously generating revenue. There are also some recent trends that need to die out as soon as possible and other trends that could doom companies if they aren’t shaken quickly.

Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to customer service.

Related: Customer Service Lessons Learned on the Road

Here's the good trends.

Customer experience is a high priority.

Customer experience has become a strategic priority for companies. And it’s not just the customer service team that’s hard at work. Now, customer experience is a priority for the CMO, the COO and the CEO. Some companies have even added a new position - Chief Customer Officer -- to the c-suite to ensure customers' needs are well-represented in all areas of business.

That’s because the cat is out of the bag. Customer experience initiatives dramatically impact revenue. According to a recent Forrester study, customer experience leaders outperformed the portfolios of customer experience laggards by 80 percent. And, according to the London School of Economics, a seven-point increase in net promoter scores (NPS) can have a one percent impact on revenue. Reducing detractors by just two percent can unlock an additional one percent of growth. For companies with $1 billion in yearly revenue, that’s an additional $10 million in revenue for every seven-point increase and $20 million if you can convert two percent of your detractors to be neutral or promoters.

Companies that prioritize customer experience, identify and fix problems faster and are able to tailor products and services to meet expectations. The end result is a reduction in haters and an ever growing pool of promoters.

Customer experience is a company-wide initiative.

As c-suites around the world start to embrace customer experience as a strategic priority, customer experience becomes a company-wide initiative. More and more, we’re seeing organizations make it easier and more efficient for internal stakeholders and employees to access customer insights. Now, every department has a hand in shaping the customer experience and driving change.

Take United Airlines, for example. The company’s new CEO, Oscar Munoz, holds every employee accountable for doing better when it comes to customer service. He empowers employees to meet customer expectations. And it’s paying off. Fortune magazine recently recognized United Airlines as the fourth most respected airline in its 2016 World’s Most Admired Companies list. When a company takes on a top-down approach to customer experience, empowering the entire organization to serve customers better, the results speak for itself.

Customer experience is customer driven.

Companies are starting to put customers in the driver’s seat when it comes to customer experience. That’s because customers want to choose how they interact with businesses. And when customers are able to drive their own experiences, they feel empowered and have higher overall satisfaction and brand affinity.

Empowering customers to drive their own experiences is more important than ever before given the growing generational divide in preferences. According to a 2015 study by the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), millennials prefer to interact with brands via social channels while generation X looks to brands or the community for support.

Meanwhile, baby boomers still cling to direct human interaction. As each generation comes with its own set of needs, companies must be flexible when it comes to customer experience.

Related: What Buffer Can Teach Us About Customer Service

Here's the bad trends.

Social service is lacking.

Although many companies are prioritizing customer experience, just as many continue to fall flat on social customer service. For the first time ever, millennials are the largest segment of the population in the U.S. This group prefers to communicate with brands via social media. However, according to research by Satmetrix, 55 percent of customer requests for service on social media are not acknowledged. When brands ignore social customer service requests, they miss the opportunity to create a positive experience, and they lose out on valuable, candid customer insights.

Customer journey maps are falling short.

Customer journey maps - diagrams that illustrate the steps customers go through when engaging with a company -- are hugely important to providing a quality customer experience. In fact, they are the foundation on which customer experience strategies should be built. Unfortunately, the majority of companies are incorrectly mapping the customer journey.

According to Esteban Kolsky, a well-recognized expert in journey mapping, 34 percent of companies have undertaken customer journey mapping, but only two percent of those companies reported success with the process. What’s more, when customers are shown a customer journey map, 72 percent say it doesn’t describe their needs or their relationship with the brand.

So where are companies going wrong? Often it’s a misunderstanding of the methodology. Journey mapping must be data driven. Brands must capture customer feedback and data as consumers are on their journey. The full journey is only captured when a company can weave interactions together into a complete experience.

Related: This Surprising Customer Service Exchange Has Gone Viral

And here's the ugly trends.

Some companies continue to take an inside-out approach.

As customer experience becomes central to business success, companies must embrace an outside-in mentality. The term - coined by Forrester analysts, Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine -- is a reminder that companies must think about customers first and their business second. While many companies have started to think this way, there are just as many that have not.

Brands are falling into the social care chasm.

Most brands are still falling into the social customer care chasm, with only 33 percent of social media users saying the service they received does not meet their expectations. Social use is climbing, and customers are clued into social as a channel for resolving issues, but brands still aren’t meeting the customers where they are.

The ugly truth is that customer experience is still a new concept for some companies. For others, customer experience is just a minor blip on their radar. We’ve come a long way, as companies like Amazon, Apple and Kroger lead the charge. But there’s still work to be done. Customer expectations are changing, and businesses must evolve, or they’ll be left behind.

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