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Forrester’s Top Trends For Customer Service In 2016

| Jan 7, 2016 1,404 views 2 Comments

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It’s a no-brainer that good customer service experiences boost satisfaction, loyalty, and can influence top line revenue. Good service — whether it’s to answer a customer’s question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be easy, effective, and strive to create an emotional bond between the customer and the company. Here are 5 top trends – out of a total of 10 – that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:

Trend 1: Companies Will Make Self Service Easier. In 2015, we found that web and mobile self-service interactions exceeded interactions over live-assist channels, which are increasingly used by customers as escalation paths to answer harder questions whose answers they can’t find online. In 2016, customer service organizations will make self-service easier for customers to use by shoring up its foundations and solidifying their knowledge-management strategy. They will start to explore virtual agents and communities to extend the reach of curated content. They will start embedding knowledge into devices — like Xerox does with its printers — or delivering it via wearables to a remote service technician.

Trend 2: Field Service Will Empower Customers To Control Their Time. 73% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service — whether on a call, in a chat, or while waiting for a service technician to troubleshoot and fix their product. In 2016, customer service organizations will better support customer journeys that start with an agent-assisted service interaction and end with a service call. They will explore lighter-weight field service management capabilities, which give customers self-service appointment management capabilities and allow agents to efficiently dispatch technicians and optimize their schedules.

Trend  3: Prescriptive Advice Will Power Offers, Decisions, And Connections. Decisioning — automatically deciding a customer’s or system’s next action — is starting to be heavily leveraged in customer service. In 2016, organizations will use analytics in a much more prescriptive manner – for example to prescribe the right set of steps for customers or agents to more effectively service customers; to correlate online behavior with requests for service and prescribe changes to agent schedules and forecasts. Analytics will be used to better route a customer to an agent who can most effectively answer a question based on skills and behavior data, or to better understand customer call patterns and preempt future calls.

Trend 4: Insights From Connected Devices Will Trigger Preemptive Service and Turn Companies Into Services-Based Ones. Companies use support automation to preemptively diagnose and fix issues for connected devices. For example, Tesla Motors pushes software patches to connected cars. Nintendo monitors devices to understand customer actions right before the point of failure. In 2016, the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to transform companies from being products-based to services-based . Examples abound where companies are starting to monitor the state of equipment via IoT, and  realizing new streams of revenue because of their customer-centric focus. To make the business model of IoT work, companies must keep a close eye on emerging interoperability standards: device-to-network connectivity, data messaging formats that work under constrained network conditions, and data models to aggregate, connect with contact center solutions, and act on the data via triggers, alerts to service personnel or automated actions.

Trend 5: The Customer Service Technology Ecosystem Will Consolidate. The customer service process involves complex software that falls into three main categories: queuing and routing technologies, customer relationship management (CRM) customer service technologies, and workforce optimization technologies. You need to use solutions from each of these three software categories, which you must integrate to deliver quality customer service. We believe that the combination of: 1) mature software categories in which vendors are struggling with growth opportunities; 2) the rise of robust software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions in each category; 3) rising buyer frustration; and 4) the increasing importance of delivering simpler and smarter customer service makes for ripe conditions for further consolidation to happen in the marketplace, This consolidation will make it easier for buyers to support the end-to-end customer service experience with a single set of vendor solutions.

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2 Responses to Forrester’s Top Trends For Customer Service In 2016

  1. Cathy January 11, 2016 at 8:35 am (1 comment) #

    Agreed with point one. However, as Richard Shapiro put it in my trends piece: “Erase the mindset that using technology to force self-serve is a positive outcome. Employing technology to make the customer experience easier and faster will become the new norm. Smart technology saves time and enhances the journey.” Read more at the blog by clicking my name.

  2. Graham Hill January 13, 2016 at 6:36 am (963 comments) #

    Hi Kate

    Thanks a for a very insightful post.

    The key to enabling each of the five trends you describe is developing and acting.on a much better understanding of who your customers are, what jobs they are trying to do and how you can help get the outcomes they desire easier, faster and better.

    The vast majority of companies are self-centred, to an extreme. They know little about and care little for their customers, (without which they would cease to exist). You see the results in the customer experience. Rather than mapping the journeys customers would like to take to get their jobs done (the customer journey), they map out the pathway they would like customers to follow to purchase their products (the path to purchase). If that isn’t bad enough, the outcomes customers want often extend a long way past the point of sale that the companies are interested in. The resulting gap between the customer’s journey and the company’s path to purchase is often huge. For example, a part of a credit card pre-usage customer journey I recently looked at for a UK bank was little more than five sequential outbound communications – a typical path to purchase – that were almost entirely irrelevant to achieving customer outcomes at that point in their journey. It should come as no surprise that the Bank was having big problems getting customers to use their new credit cards.

    In my view, the huge gap between the customer’s desired journey and the company’s path to purchase is the biggest challenge to companies looking to improve the customer experience today. It is the single biggest thing that will hinder the development of the trends you describe.

    Graham Hill
    @grahamhill

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