The Shifting Sands of Customer Service

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Michael Kropidlowski, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, AspectFor decades companies big and small have been trying to figure out how to provide customers with better service. One theory is that the better service your company provides, the happier your customers are and in turn they reward you through their loyalty.

Sounds simple, right?  Some of you reading this are thinking, “Ahhh…not so much.” Millennial Snip It

That’s probably because many of you feel like today’s customer service expectations are like shifting sands – always changing and difficult to keep pace with – making it challenging to plan for and strategize about service improvement and differentiation.

Today’s consumers are different. They are smarter and more powerful than ever before. They have greater expectations of the organizations they do business with. The challenge is meeting and then exceeding these expectations to build a meaningful relationship with customers.

Consumers are defining the service standards for brands. And the scary part is that brands, in turn, are not able to define their customers or even recognize them…and that is a big problem because their very market success depends on delivering service experiences that drive customer loyalty.

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The good news is we are starting to see patterns in survey data that definitely give us solid information about what today’s consumers are looking for when it comes to service. In our own Aspect research in conjunction with the Center of Generational Kinetics, we looked at consumer attitudes, expectations, preferences and customer service priorities by generation and found the following:

  1. Customer Service = Customer Experience
  2. Communication Preferences Drive Customer Experience Expectations
  3. The Future of Customer Service is Self-service

This research is important because never before have CEOs, marketers and customer experience leaders been responsible for navigating such a challenging set of customer expectations colliding with rapid technological innovation. Today’s leaders are grappling with how to serve four generations of customers and integrate mobile, digital, social media, in-person and content strategies—all at the same time! Omni-channel is the channel.

There is light on the horizon however. In a September 3, 2015 Huffington Post article, 2015 State of Service – 15 Key Business Findings, Vala Afshar summarizes the recent Salesforce.com annual survey of more than 1,900 global customer service leaders into 15 key business findings to better understand and highlight service trends in 2015.

Similar to our research around consumer attitudes, expectations, preferences and customer service priorities by generation, Afshar wrote of the 2015 State of Service report that the research found customer service leaders are realizing that Omni-channel customers drive a service sea change and stated, “Not surprisingly, the research found that customers today expect service on their own terms: whenever they need it and in whichever digital channel they inhabit. The challenge for service providers is to ensure delivery of consist customer experience, across all channels, at all times.”

In addition to Omni-Channel, self-service was reported as surging due to the changing customer mindset and a preference by Millennials for self-service options and online support over live service. Again, service leaders report that they understand that today’s consumers want self-service options that are personalized and available how and when they want it.

To learn more about consumer expectations and gain insight from global leaders of service organizations, I encourage you to reference the above mentioned resources to understand today’s consumer and how service leaders are planning to stabilize shifting sands and build a strong service foundation for better customer experiences in 2015 and beyond.

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