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2017 Customer Care Predictions: Why Bots Will Disappoint, and Response Times Will Shift to Real-time Customers are no longer content to wait even a few hours for a response.

By Abinash Tripathy

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Many of us are looking forward to 2017. Between Harambe, Brexit, the US election and demonetization, it's safe to say we are ready to say goodbye to 2016 and usher in a new year.

But looking back at 2016, there was certainly a diamond in the rough: the world of customer service has been flourishing. Forrester has even dubbed this the, "The Age Of The Customer." Where once, customer service meant call-centers in Malad, now it means chat, real-time responses, customer feedback, and dynamic FAQs. Forrester predicts that "revenue risk" will be high for "companies that don't optimise the customer experience." It is not an empty promise, either: Businesses are currently losing $62 Billion through poor customer service. It's not because customer service has gotten worse; it's because customers have higher expectations.

I have witnessed this rapidly evolving industry for the past half-decade. Based on what I've seen, these are my predictions for Customer Service in 2017..

1. Messaging Will Be The Preferred Channel

Mobile World Live has predicted that the mobile enterprise apps market will reach $73 Billion in 2016 and $128 Billion by 2022. Consumers live in their smartphones, and their preferred form of communication is on mobile devices. There are 4 billion global active users of messaging apps, and the top five apps are all messaging.

In 2017, companies can no longer afford not to offer messaging. Customers who are used to real-time mobile interactions will leave any company that cannot live up to this standard.

2. Response Times Will Shift to Real-Time

What was once considered Millennial only traits have now become a universal. Customers are no longer content to wait even a few hours for a response. Mobile first companies like Uber have acted upon this reality, offering close to real-time responses, and automated in-app support.

2017 will solidify our increasingly high expectations for speed. Customers will not support businesses that do not respond to them in close to real time.

3. Companies Will Use Bots and Automation

Most of the big players (Facebook, Microsoft, and Slack), have started to introduce bots and it was not uncommon to hear of 2016 referred to as the year of the bot. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella famously said in March that "bots are the new apps," Bots will be of particular importance to customer service. They will automate processes like ordering, simple requests, and directing an inquiry to the correct type of agent.

4. Machine Learning and AI based Customer Service Will Underwhelm

In 2017 most bots will be simple rules based as we're nowhere near the sophisticated level of AI seen in futuristic movies and shows. This is especially true for proliferated industries like customer service.

Bots will be mainly used for following simple rules-based algorithms. They will streamline and augment customer service flows, but will not replace humans any time soon. That said, although in its infancy, AI and bots will become absolutely essential components of customer service eventually, and those who do not adapt and prepare for AI will become laggards.

5. Customer Care to Become The Best Marketing Strategy

Marketing has become less and less about what a company says about themselves, and more about what the customer says. Between App Store Reviews, and Social Media, your customers have a far louder voice than you do. Research shows that news of bad customer service reaches twice as many people as news of good customer service.

Because of that, marketing and customer care will merge in 2017. Brand image will be highly connected to customer satisfaction, and eventually the two will become indistinguishable.

6. Customer Care Will Enable "Segment of One" Marketing Strategies

Marketing will be highly personalized, because of the 1:1 nature of customer service. What had been impossible in the age of email marketing, is now not only possible, but necessary in the age of messaging.
It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new user than to keep an existing one. Companies will emphasize retention through highly personalized and rapid, real-time communication. Marketing will not just be focused on increasing brand audience, but on keeping existing customers. 2017 will bring us the much sought after "segment of one" marketing.

Abinash Tripathy

CEO and Co-founder, Helpshift

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