Customer service in 2014: 3 predictions for SMEs


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Free and fast 2I’m a customer service specialist, not a futurist. But I don’t need a crystal ball to be aware of the major shift in consumer expectations taking place right now: it’s all about speeding things up.

Prediction 1: Goods will be delivered faster and for free

It all started with Amazon. The international online megastore has been slowly but surely raising the customer service bar since its launch as a bookseller nearly 20 years ago. Its latest trick? 30-minute delivery by drone. And whether you believe that the company is serious about this, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that customers would want and even expect that sort of service in the future.

Drone delivery is presumably beyond your SME’s reach in 2014, but you’d better believe that 3 to 5 day delivery is not fast enough to meet customer expectations anymore. Customers expect their goods the next business day if possible – and at most the day after that.

As for shipping costs… It’s a funny little psychological quirk, but most customers don’t want to fork out more on shipping than they do on their actual online purchases, regardless of how much money they’re saving by buying online. It just feels like a waste of money.

As a web shop owner, you might argue that you can’t afford to offer free shipping to customers who are only buying a few small items. But if you sell plenty of other items, free shipping makes an excellent loss leader to get customers in through your virtual door. It doesn’t make sense for a customer to balk at paying few extra euros/dollars/pounds for shipping, but it’s the way things are. Accepting reality and offering free shipping can net you a lot of extra sales.

Prediction 2: Customer service will be available 24/7 through social media.

Now, I don’t dare suggest that every business will be offering around-the-clock customer service by the end of next year. But KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has got the ball rolling with its promise to respond to Facebook and Twitter questions within an hour, and to other requests within a day, in ten different languages no less! This sets the challenge for major airlines to follow suit, and we can then expect that other major businesses will want to offer minimum-time response guarantees fairly soon.

Just don’t go overboard: a speedy answer to a question is one thing, but sometimes a fast reply to a comment is just too fast for customer comfort.

Prediction 3: Live chat is where it’s at.

I know what you’re thinking: as a blogger for Casengo (simple customer software renowned for its cool blend of live chat and email) I would say that, wouldn’t I? But it’s not just me – pundits around the world are predicting that live chat is the way of the future. It’s the logical next step in a culture that increasingly believes that, as Carrie Fisher once quipped, “instant gratification takes too long”. Live chat enables you to offer faster and more efficient support to your customers, while increasing your conversion rates. Win-win!

As the owner of an SME, you can’t expect to be all things to all people. You’re certainly not going to be able to compete with the big boys on delivery or on social media response times. But if you keep these predictions in mind as you continue to work on your customer service strategy, you’ll have an edge that many other businesses won’t.


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