Five trends shaping the future of customer engagement
In today’s consumer driven society, companies are under increasing demand from their customers to offer more support options – think phone, email, chat, video – all in an effort to decrease the amount of time they have to spend on resolving issues. The good news is that customers are also proving to be more loyal than ever before, but only if they feel like their support provider is listening to them and addressing their needs.
While it sounds deceptively easy, the reality of always providing a customer with what they want is challenging. Support teams are now faced with the task of figuring out how to engage with customers in more proactive ways across more channels than ever before. Customers may expect to have periodic issues with your product, but they don’t want to expend much effort to help solve that problem. And while you’re busy focusing on your customers in 2016, you will likely have to place an even bigger emphasis on streamlining your internal tools and processes. Most support organisations already run lean and efficient operations, so how can you improve an already highly functioning organisation and generate incremental revenue in the process?
The coming years could be difficult for support services, but savvy companies will embrace and overcome the upcoming obstacles. We expect to see a number of prominent trends in 2016 including increased investment in analytics, proactive support programs, customer engagement strategies, and knowledge management – all areas proven to improve the customer experience and reduce the level of customer effort.
1. Analytics: Put data to work for you
The interest in big data has been growing rapidly for years, as large corporations look for ways to manage and find insights from the vast quantity of corporate content being created. And we expect to see support services making use of data analytics in a number of ways in 2016.
Through unassisted support there is a need to bring more intelligence to the self-service website. Some companies are already using analytics to recommend solutions to the customer based on their profile and looking at problems other customers with similar profiles have experienced. Even filtering FAQ lists and search returns to only show content relevant to products owned by the customer can help eliminate the noise and make finding the right answer easier.
Similarly, assisted support technicians rarely have tools at their disposal that analyse all past support interactions, recommend actions to take, present applicable content, or identify experts to reach out to for help. Most companies say their average repeat rate, i.e., the percent of support issues received more than once, ranges from 70% to 90%. If you aren’t using previous scenarios to inform and guide repeat issues of a problem, you are forcing support techs to ‘reinvent the wheel’ every time which will mean a huge drain of resources.
2. Proactive support will emerge as a competitive differentiator
The term ‘proactive support’ has recently come to mean the remote monitoring of customer technology to detect errors early and fix them even before the customer is impacted. While this remains the case, proactive support is a broad category, and implies much more than simple remote monitoring. In 2016, companies will need to identify additional processes that can be automated to anticipate and deliver content or services in real time to customers. Embracing proactive capabilities will lower the human cost of service delivery, speed resolution for problems and questions, and drive improved customer satisfaction and loyalty scores.
3. Don’t ignore emerging channels
Creating a customer engagement strategy enables a business to define which channels (phone, email, chat, social media, online community, self-service knowledgebase, etc.) it should offer customers, how they should be staffed, and how quality is measured for each. In legacy support centers phone calls were king, however that is not necessarily the case anymore, even for B2B support.
Channel preferences are changing for a variety of reasons, but primary drivers include:
- Ubiquity of Google - Google has created a way for anyone to access any content with a simple typed or spoken search string, effectively training the general public that information can always be a simple search away.
- Mobile and video revolution -- Customers are starting to insist on low to no customer effort interactions. In 2016 this will create tremendous demand for mobile self-service channels. Companies will need to rise to the occasion for this and ready their self-service solutions to be mobile-enabled. In addition to mobile, video chat is growing in popularity.
- Social engagement -- For younger customers who came of age relying on Facebook and Twitter, social expectations for support are rising. Increasingly, customers expect their technology providers to have a support presence in the customers’ social channels of choice, and that the provider be monitoring social conversations to identify issues and problems. But also, social customers are more willing to share information and collaborate, boosting participation in online customer communities and social approaches to knowledge management.
- Virtual support -- For many organisations, the move to chat as a channel of support has been a challenge. Providing support via chat has become essential, but providing immediate access to live chat agents 24/7 can be quite expensive. To reduce the costs of having trained support personnel staff chat queues, organisations should look at technology to reduce these costs by offering virtual chat. Implementing virtual chat can reduce headcount costs, reduce or eliminate customer hold times, as well as improve customer satisfaction scores.
4. Knowledge and content management will be key
Retiring Baby Boomers, mobile and social trends, and increasingly sophisticated technology are forcing companies to create new KM strategies and programs. At the same time, technology companies are looking for every way possible to reduce the manual costs of the traditional employee and customer-facing knowledge solutions, and many support organisations will find it necessary to perform an overhaul of the traditional manual management of knowledge to scale the practice effectively in 2016.
The vast amount of knowledge being created each moment in our world requires automation. Interactive technology such as Siri, and Google will start to be used to collect data and turn it into internal and customer-facing information. This will become key to reducing cost and the manual overhead involved in today’s solutions. Forward thinking firms will use these solutions to automate knowledge creation, support agents will be provided with faster/stronger answers and, ultimately, for the very first time, they will be able to build and integrate an entire company's knowledge infrastructure seamlessly.
5. Reducing customer effort
Effort scores will take on a new level of importance in years to come. For the uninitiated, measuring customer effort for assisted and unassisted support as well as annual surveys can be as simple as asking a single survey question: How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request? Customers base their score on a variety of elements and the scores can help to capture additional information about what was the most painful part of not only the support experience but the overall customer experience, so processes can be changed, employees can be trained, and technology can be modified to eliminate these pain points.
As the shift to the cloud and outcome-based services change the fundamental charter and scope of support services, businesses of the future will need to pay attention to a variety of industry trends and developments to understand where people, process, and technology must be adjusted – and sometimes completely overhauled – to meet the needs of today’s more complex technology and more mobile and social customers. In short, 2016 is set to be a big year for customer service. Businesses that embrace the new requirements and expectations of their customers are set to stride ahead of those that don’t.
Peter Zeinoun is director of products for LogMeIn