Crystal ball

10 customer experience trends to watch this year

8th Jan 2016

To predict the future of customer service, we must understand the past – because some things never change – as well as current trends and technology. Customers want to be treated with respect, and their expectations have grown thanks to the spotlight on customer service and our super-connected society. Here are 10 major trends in customer experience and service that are relevant to the majority of businesses: 

1. Social media customer service is here to stay 
This has been a rising trend over the past few years. Customers actively share their thoughts through online channels for the world to see. Whether they have had a good experience or a bad experience, they let others know via Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or other online sites – and most do it immediately, smartphone always in hand. If you consistently offer good customer service, social media can be a source of positive word-of-mouth advertising. But when you do receive a complaint, ensure a timely response and look for opportunities to turn complaining customers into your biggest fans.

2. Customers are smarter than ever
When it comes to service and experience, customers know the difference between good and bad. Our marketing and advertising teach them what to expect. And, they not only compare you to others in your industry, but also others outside of your industry. 

3. Your millennial customers are growing
The generation born from around 1982 to 2004 is almost 25% of the population. Their expectations differ from the baby boomers, and they are generally more tech savvy and interact with companies differently. They have less tolerance for slow response time and are open to newer forms of communication. Don’t ignore the differences. It would be like ignoring your customer. 

4. Big Data gets bigger and Micro Data gets smaller 
With the abundant data that is available in the form of direct feedback from customers as well as analytics, we can determine overall trends and patterns. The key is knowing how to interpret Big Data. Micro Data, on the other hand, is accumulating more specific knowledge about individuals’ buying patterns and preferences, allowing you to customise their experience and create a richer connection. 

5. Targeted advertising based on weather and other factors
Through tracking data, you can now know when your customers buy: what day, what time, how hot or cold it is outside and more. Weather actually has a strong connection to customers’ buying patterns, so much so that IBM bought The Weather Company because of the data. You can use this accumulated information to send customised advertising to customers at just the right time. 

6. Self-help customer service is a powerful solution
Directing people to a self-help solution doesn’t mean you want to avoid an interaction with the customer. Many customers appreciate the speed and efficiency of finding answers to their questions online versus calling a company, which can sometimes be time-consuming and even frustrating. Start by posting a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on your website. Post YouTube videos that teach how to use your products and answer your customers most frequent questions. 

7. Value continues to trump price
Despite the fact that many customers are searching for bargain prices, customer service can still make price less relevant. Facts and statistics continue to prove that people will pay more for good customer service. Some stats are predicting that the customer experience – based on customer service – will be the biggest competitive differentiator in the next three to five years. 

8. Customers want and expect to be appreciated
This is one of those “never changes” principles of customer service, but even though it’s basic, companies that take the time to say thank you are standing out. It can be a simple thank you as a customer leaves the store. A phone call from the sales rep or an executive, or a personalised text or email. What about a hand-written thank you note? It may be the most powerful of all, because hardly anyone does it anymore! 

9. Omnichannel continues to expand 
So, since you know your customers spend a lot of time on their phones and other devices, that’s where you need to reach them. Which channels are right for you? The ones that your customers are using. You can connect by phone, email, instant chat, social media, YouTube videos and more. Just make sure your message is consistent across all channels to ensure a seamless customer experience. 

10. The new hot phrase in customer experience and marketing: cognitive analytics
Computers are now doing more than assimilating data. They are analysing and interpreting data – faster and more accurately than humans. IBM Watson’s analytics program is the leader in data analytics. What they are doing in this area is nothing short of amazing.  

So, there you have it. Some basics, some continuing trends and some cutting-edge trends in the way we do business with our customers. I’m sure there are others that I haven’t mentioned, but these 10 ideas can help you improve your interactions with your customers. Wishing you an amazing 2016! 

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