5 Trends that will shape the 2021 Customer Care Landscape

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As support teams look to 2021, there’s no shortage of priorities, from team efficiency, to customer experience, to operational business impact. Leading Edge Connections latest research reveals how industry leaders are working to find balance.

Let’s face it, the number of items on the plate continues to increase. Customer expectations continue to rise, while at the same time, all parts of the business are dealing with increased pressure to operate with greater efficiently and at lower cost. 2020’s COVID issues have only upped the stakes! It’s never been more important for teams to demonstrate just how much of a value driver they are.

To discover more about how current care leaders are navigating the current landscape, we surveyed a number of support managers across both B2B and B2C and industries like finance, retail, healthcare, and tech. We looked to discover their top challenges, their key initiatives, and the opportunities they see to deliver even greater value to their customers and the business in 2021.

What emerged is a wealth of information that we feel like is the beginnings of a playbook for care support. In 2021, 56% of care support leaders are increasing their overall spend on technology to help scale their efforts. The majority wants to move to a proactive approach, and 50% are increasing their investment in automation. There’s even a grander focus on ROI, and nearly everyone is planning to measure their team’s impact on customer retention.

Here are our five key trends based on our research findings. This information can help create a solid blueprint for how care support leaders can ensure everything finds balance. Balance being high levels of efficiency, a great customer experience, and measurable bottom-line impact.

1. Customer expectations are rising so catch up all your Care Teams

It absolutely no surprise that customer expectations are higher than ever. As consumers ourselves, we all know just how high our expectations can get! We demand quick, personal support, 24/7.

But here’s the rub. While 75% of Care support leaders say that customer expectations for their team are increasing, less than half are sure they’re actually meeting those expectations.

In a world where buyers have hundreds of choices, businesses need to deliver what customers want or risk losing out to the competition. Most Care Support leaders have taken this as a top challenge for their team.

2. Technology drives the playbook in 2021

While customer expectations are rising, budgets are dramatically shrinking. With more than half of companies planning to reduce the size of their team as a result of the current economic downturn, care support leaders are turning to technology, instead of headcount, to scale their efforts. In fact, 58% of Care Support leaders plan to increase spending on technology in 2021. By deepening their investment in critical tools, businesses can offset the anticipated impact of downsizing their team which, as our research reveals, will drive longer wait times and lower customer retention.

Today the overwhelming majority of care support teams use between 1 to 10 tools, almost half of that group uses 6 to 10. While it’s clear that tools like knowledge bases, phone support, and ticketing systems deliver immense value to frontline agents and customers, what we found to be deeply concerning is that 46% of care support leaders believe their current tech stack actually holds them back from achieving their goals!

Within 2021, 54% of Care Support leaders plan on optimizing their entire tech stack. The goal here being to make it more efficient and consolidate their existing tools. It’s a much-needed fix! The crazy thing is that today nearly 41% of Care Support teams are slowed down either daily or weekly by siloed or outdated tools. Our research shows two key areas of investment for these solutions: proactively answering customers’ questions and automating support with chatbots.

3. Proactive Support will gain momentum in 2021

For far too many years now businesses subscribed to the same old reactive support strategies. Answer every question or concern as they come in and pray to God your team can keep up. The problem with this model is that it imprisons agents on an endless treadmill of queries and leaves your customers stuck listening to terrible hold recordings.

Today Care Support leaders are beginning to invest in a different approach, proactive support. Our research shows 80% of Care Support leaders want to move from a reactive to a proactive approach. For enterprises size organizations are 50% more likely to make that transition.

Proactive support empowers businesses to get ahead of known customer questions and issues before they arise. For companies with thousands upon thousands of customers, it’s the antidote to 48+hour turn times, unending ticket backlogs, and agent burnout. At Leading Edge Connections, we use proactive support to onboard customers, alert them to known issues, and surface our top FAQs. This not only reduces the number of conversations that ever reach our support team, it delights our customers too! It gives them the information they need at the exact moment they need it.

4. Chatbots, for customers and agents

When customers do need to reach out, chatbots are powering faster resolutions to their queries while simultaneously reducing overhead for frontline agents. Modern chatbots can triage issues, route customers, and even answer routine questions, all on their own. It’s crazy how quick these small things make big impacts.

Companies who use chatbots are 65% more likely to report a definite improvement in their resolution times and 33% more likely to report a definite improvement in customer satisfaction scores. What’s more, Care Support teams who use chatbots are 27% more likely to meet increasing customer expectations.

It’s no surprise then that in 2021 50% of Care Support leaders plan to invest more in automation, including chatbots, to increase their team’s efficiency. Companies that already use chatbots are doubling down on the benefits they’re seeing.

5. ROI, yes ROI in 2021

Care Support teams have intuitively known their impact on customers, and the entire business, extends beyond how many tickets they close or how fast they close them. But, having any measurable ROI was elusive.

Today the leading metric for Care Support teams is customer satisfaction. Nearly 25% of Care Support leaders say this is the metric they track most closely. Measuring customer satisfaction enables businesses to know just how successfully they are meeting customer expectations. It’s also a crucial leading indicator of future churn and retention.

What customer satisfaction is not is a measure of ROI. When it comes to the bottom line, customer satisfaction hasn’t been able to tell us in dollars how many customers your agents helped retain or grow.

So, what’s standing in their way? It turns out many of the same challenges that make the trends we’ve already discussed such a great investment. In short, Care Support leaders are stopped by a lack of relevant technology and time constraints. As Care Support leaders look to 2021 many plan to address these hurdles and shed new light on their team’s contribution to business growth. Our research shows 31% plan to measure their team’s impact on customer retention and 28% plan to do the same for their renewals.

Simply put: good care support is good business.

In conclusion

At Leading Edge Connections, we believe this is the new modern way of providing support. In a world where businesses live or die by their customers’ loyalty, the value of a great support experience can’t be understated. It’s a huge undertaking in 2021 and for many it’s the opportune time to explore outsourcing your care support functions to experts who live in this evolving world.