The customer service industry is used to a lot of talk about the voice of the customer in marketing literature and in the media. If we could make that collective voice literal, I think it would sound something like this: “Hey, it’s me – your customer. At this point you should know me and understand what I am asking of you and saying about you. And since I am such a loyal customer, I don’t expect to wait long for an answer or response.”
In the impatient world of today’s customer, minutes are no longer acceptable and customers expect to have a response within seconds. This unrelenting ‘need for speed’ is driving three interesting innovations that are reshaping customer experience in the year ahead – in the short term, near term and long term.
Short-Term Trend: Customer Support Takes Over Social Media
In 2023 we should anticipate seeing a unification of social media engagement with customer support. Just a year ago, a social media comment or message from a customer posted on a company’s Facebook page was typically handed off to the social media or marketing team so they could respond. This has already started to change in many businesses and will continue to become much more commonplace in 2023 and beyond since timestamps matter.
Customer support teams are well equipped to meet the social media expectations around this ever-present speed of response because they already operate in a world where they work directly with customers all day every day; so they have a great sense of the customer voice, what customers need, what words and phrases work well with them, etc. While customer interactions are less of a day-to-day operational mindset for marketing teams, they still maintain the expertise on branding, messaging and how to best represent the business. Support agents and marketing can work together to create a more optimal customer experience.
As social media and customer support continue to meld, we can expect to see more agent support interaction with the customer directly through social media channels (with the guidance of marketing teams). This direct engagement is a logical fit for both support agents and customers, as most customer posts are related to an unresolved problem, unmet expectation or the need for answers around a product query.
Near-Term Trend: AI Analysis of Customer Sentiment
Attention may shift beyond simply delivering strong customer experiences to how well each of those experiences are perceived by the consumer. We can expect to see greater focus on quality of engagement, understanding the voice of the customer and dynamic assessments around sentiment, such as tone of voice on calls, emails, chat and text. The voice of the customer will not only matter more than ever before, it will be scrutinized and analyzed in ways it never has been.
Thanks to AI and a wealth of rich chat, SMS and WhatsApp messages showing the cadence of customer and agent conversations, (as opposed to stop/start email interactions), organizations will get smarter and more sophisticated feedback. AI-powered surveys that dynamically morph to get maximum feedback from customers based on prior responses, will reshape the customer feedback game and textual analysis will be able to pull together a much more integrated sense of how customers feel.
Today’s digital world tracks everything. This allows agents to cross reference data from multiple source points and pull them together to get a full picture of, for example, how fast response times contribute to customer revenue generation or retention. This data-driven ecosystem helps businesses compare customer satisfaction across different communication channels, such as whether customers are happier on chat than on calls, which agents trigger lower and higher customer sentiment and the speed with which agents resolve issues. This in turn, will not only improve the quality of customer experience, but the all-important speed with which that quality experience can be delivered.
Longer-Term Trend: Audio and Video Start Creeping Into Customer Support
Typing is considered to be time consuming, especially for younger generations. With technology fluent customers, particularly the Gen Z demographic, typing out a text message to a company’s support department is almost considered an inconvenience. This leads me to believe that we can expect to see early signs of audio and video in customer support emerging in 2023. This will range from prompting customers to record short videos from their phone or using audio recording to explain any issues they’re having (as opposed to typing out a long explanation), which is then transcribed and submitted to a support agent.
For the TikTok generation, video and audio are already the preferred communication options in their personal lives, so their preference and expectation to extend this into their brand engagement is a logical step.
While this trend is still in its infancy, it is gaining momentum and is more than just a nod to generational influence. For example, for certain industries, the ability to visually show a faulty component to customer support can be extremely useful, much more convenient and of course faster. Post-transcription, audio and videos can give businesses richer insights into customer experiences which they can use to deliver more personalized support.
As we move into 2023, we can expect the demand for speed of service to continue and for this to influence innovation, agent and consumer behavior, as well as industry standards.