Send in the drones! Five customer service tech trends for 2015

22nd Jan 2015

A year is a long time in the customer service field. In 2014, we saw the rise of the ‘social command centre’, an industry takeover by Generation Y and an array of businesses experimenting with new ideas and innovations; all in the name of trying to improve the service brands were able to deliver to their customers.

Despite this, customer satisfaction levels among the UK’s top organisations continued to fall, and even at the start of 2015, the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) reported its UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) to be at its lowest point since 2010.

Part of the issue, as the ICS’s CEO, Jo Causon reported, was that customer expectations increased beyond most organisations’ achievable rate of change in 2014; so much so that experts are predicting a 2015 involving further innovation and out-of-the-box thinking in the service space, as brands continue to try and catch up with their customers’ needs through technology.

Video support gains greater traction

When Amazon launched the Mayday button on its Kindle device in 2013, it not only delivered 24/7 support via video chat, but in the words of the ecommerce giant’s management team, it offered customers “a way to bring tech support from the mall to your living room”.

With Amazon’s support service now deemed by many as a gamechanger, and in an age when YouTube is the third most visited website in the world, it’s widely predicted that video will continue to make an impact on how service teams interact with their customers, something Garry Veale, president of Avaya Europe believes is being firmly driven by the influence of younger generations:  

“As consumers have become accustomed to communicating via video, businesses have increasingly been offering video chat to their customers. In 2015, the growing spending power of Millennials will continue to fuel this trend – research shows that  Generation Y typically prefers not to use the phone, while Generation Z shies away from email too, making video often Millennials’ first choice communication method.

“I also expect to see video enabling deeper customer engagement in specific areas like healthcare, financial services and distance learning where it can make an important face-to-face impact. The midmarket too, which typically has found customer-facing video prohibitively expensive will take advantage of lower-cost solutions.”

However, while the cost of providing video support to multiple devices decreases, Tom Needs, chief commercial officer for Adapt believes the expected proliferation in 2015 boils down to customer loyalty more than it does cost:

“More and more firms are providing 24/7 video interaction with their customer service teams – Barclays has just announced plans to do exactly this for its online banking service. Barclays recognise that this will drive great customer experience, increase loyalty, and increase revenues. It’s only a matter of time before more follow.

“Innovative customer service is now back on the agenda and this means much more than having a Twitter handle that your marketing team checks once a week. Companies need to think harder and faster to develop the best ways to interact with their customers, in the fast paced environment in which we live.”

Social media customer service improves

With more than 1.3 billion active Facebook users and 280 million Twitter accounts creating billions of conversations daily, 2014 saw companies moving from simply monitoring social platforms to doing something about them; capturing, routing and responding to those conversations within the contact centre and the wider organisation.

KLM was one of many companies heralded for its innovative approach to delivering customer service through social networks, but while many big brands treated their social customer service as somewhat of an experiment last year, Garry Veale expects 2015 to be a year for improving the process:   

"The social customer service trend is set to continue in 2015, but with a greater focus on quality. Rather than simply using social media to increase their number of fans and followers, organisations will move to examining how it can impact sales and their overall business objectives. In doing so, they will rely not just on an analytics platform, but also on an omni-channel customer engagement platform that seamlessly feeds social media analysis and interactions into the contact centre.

"2015 will be all about engaging customers wherever they choose to be and encouraging interaction between them, employees and even third parties."

Drone delivery gets serious?  

It seems too far-fetched to be real, but the fact is, a number of big businesses spent time in 2014 experimenting with delivery by drone, from Dominos with its Domicopter to Amazon with its anticipatory shipping concept.

While the idea of thousands of automated helicopters whirling above our heads as we walk to work probably is beyond the realms of current possibilities, the premise behind the drone tests stem from one of customer service’s biggest contact complaints – distribution.

One of the key associated stats in 2014 was that 90% of customers using ecommerce state delivery to be their biggest annoyance. 9 out of 10 people. Last year, eBay’s head of engineering, Sam Philips declared that delivery methods had become of such importance to companies involved in shipping physical goods that it would soon become the only differentiator in which ecommerce players would compete. The results? Businesses will likely spend 2015 tightening the customer support function for better delivery methods in 2015.

“Consumer patience with perceived slow service is very short; where customers have a choice of supplier they will increasingly drop a poor provider and move to someone slicker, faster and cooler,” says Ann-Marie Stagg, founder of the Call Centre Managers Association (CCMA).

“The old loyalties that previous generations have shown to brands will disappear as shopping (like almost everything else) becomes multi-national and multi-optional.

“As the High Street continues to decline and small shopkeepers are forced out of business internet sales will only continue to grow exponentially. The challenge will be in delivering both physical and service goods as fast as the speed of light…perhaps Amazon’s idea of drone deliveries could be a serious possibility after all.”    

Long-live the wearables

It seems slightly paradoxical to tip wearables as a trend for customer service in 2015, given that Google only just announced it would be dropping Google Glass from its product set this month.

However, when you consider the importance attached to the original wearable, the good-old tried and trusted headset in the call centre, and the continuing innovation being delivered from headsets to improve customer experience within contact centres, it stands to reason that business leaders will continue to experiment with other types of wearable device in their attempts to further improve customer service; with or without Google’s much-maligned eyewear.

“This year wearable device launches have continued to gain momentum – just look at the hype that surrounded the iWatch announcement – as have real-life uses of them,” says Garry Veale. “On their own, Google Glass or the iWatch may not yet have generated the same mass consumer adoption that triggered corporate IT to accommodate BYOD or social media use, but we will see the first signs of this in 2015.

“Those first signs will reflect companies’ ever-increasing focus on the customer, since they will be based on customer engagement. Wearables provide a new way for consumers to interface with service representatives, meeting customers on their terms. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and the potential for new customer adoption. From a business stand point it leads to greater efficiency.

“Take financial services, for example: by integrating a video strategy, enabled by a wearable device, banks can cut costs by centralising and reducing customer service staff (especially in low-traffic regions) to contact centre locations where they can take inquiries from customers across the country through either an app or a video-enabled ATM. This can lead to other benefits, for example extended service hours. This year I believe we will start to see an increasing number of organisations offering customers the ability to interact with them via their wearable devices.”

Text analytics, at scale

While the implementation of more visual support solutions may dominate customer service innovation in 2015, all of last year’s trends in the contact centre point towards a more proactive, rather than reactive future, as BT’s futurologist, Dr. Nicola Millard sums up in her 2020 ‘relationship hub’ vision.  

As a result, from a technology point of view, Paul White, CEO of MplSystems suggests that customer service departments will begin to reap more of the benefits offered to them through Text Analytics; but only if they are able to cope with the rapid increase in scale text interactions are generating. Research from ContactBabel last year found an increase of 60%  in customer service departments dealing with web chat sessions through 2013/14, with 250 million chats being conducted– a rise of 300% since 2011.

“Whether it’s messages from mobile apps, social media, web chat, email or Visual IVR channels, many contact centres are seriously concerned about how to manage dramatically escalating text-based messaging volumes as customers increasingly engage via digital channels,” White explains.

“Some businesses are still seeing major backlogs – sometimes of up to 48 hours – particularly at busy times such as the countdown to Christmas. The latest multi-channel textual analytics solutions are poised to address this during 2015, enabling up to 60% of messages to be handled automatically and freeing significant amounts of agent time and allowing them to focus on more complex customer engagement issues.”

Growing use of NPS

As with text analytics, the final customer service tech trend for 2015 may not be new to businesses, but the types of results delivered from its implementation could be.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) has long been hailed as the “de facto standard” for measuring and transforming customer experience, yet only 10% of businesses that took on NPS in 2014 reported success.  

However, much of the failed use came down to businesses clambering to adopt an NPS programme last year at the expense of the quality of thinking required to reap rewards, something Nick Peart, EMEA marketing director at Zendesk expects to change dramatically this coming 12 months.

“The growing use Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys will have a big impact on customer service in 2015. Although NPS isn’t ‘new’ to the marketplace, organisations have a much better awareness of the technologies and analytics tools available to them to measure the loyalty that exists between them and their customers. NPS surveys ask a simple question: “How likely are you to recommend the company to someone you know?” Customers can answer on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being “not at all likely” and 10 being “extremely likely". We found that customers are twice as likely to leave written comments on NPS surveys (53 %) as they are on customer satisfaction surveys.

“By gaining increased knowledge and understanding of their customers are thinking and feeling through analysing feedback, brands and service professionals have instant access to their customers thought processes and the option to make improvements accordingly.”

What do you think will be the biggest customer service technology trends this year?

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