What Forrester’s predicted custserv trends can teach your SME


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US market research company Forrester has once again released its list of the top customer service trends of the moment. The 2014 report has some very useful ideas – but it’s, ehm, kinda heavy on the corporate speak.

But never fear! To help you out, I’ve hand-picked the top trends that SMEs can’t afford to miss out on. I’ve translated them into normal, everyday business talk. Here’s my take on how you can adapt these big-business trends to work for your situation.

Forrester: ‘The agent experience is no longer an afterthought’

I absolutely agree. Your (or your employees’) experience as a customer service rep is of vital importance to giving amazing customer service. For too long now, companies have expected their customer service staff to achieve consistently high results, despite – not because of – the conditions in which they work. When you are supplied with poor software applications and limited autonomy, there’s only so much you can do to help the customer. If the company’s outdated computer system can’t provide you with full information on the client’s earlier contacts with your company, even the most heartfelt, “I’m so sorry to hear that” isn’t going to cut the mustard.

Get in on the trend: Keep your customer service staff happy and let them know they’re appreciated. Use effective and efficient customer service management software. And above all, make sure that nothing in your staff’s working environment is getting between them and providing great service.

Forrester: ‘Knowledge will evolve from purely reactive to giving advice’

Indeed! Forrester has also found that 67% of consumers use web self-service knowledge to find answers to their questions. But this so-called ‘structured knowledge management’ (basically online FAQ pages), is famously annoying, hard to use, incomplete and often out of date. As online information becomes increasingly high-quality, better-indexed and easier to find, consumers are losing patience with poor-quality, badly-put-together “web self-service knowledge”, along with the premium call customer service lines which are often the only alternative. It’s time for customer service ‘knowledge’ to start living in the social media age, like the rest of us.

Get in on the trend: Make your FAQ displays dynamic and smart, using a knowledge base that can easily be updated. And keep that base updated! Make sure that your company is active on social media where users can interact with each other as well as with you. Don’t forget that your happy customers are brand ambassadors – make the most of them!

Forrester: ‘Customers demand omnichannel service’

This is more true than ever before. Customers are no longer satisfied with just being able to contact you in one particular way. They want it all! Social media and live chat are increasingly popular; ignore that fact at your own risk. The better and the faster the service you provide, in your customer’s preferred medium, the higher your customer satisfaction levels and thus retention rates. Forrester also point out that today’s customers expect to be able to start an interaction in one channel and complete it in another.

Get in on the trend: Customer support software comes into its own here. With all interactions grouped per customer, you can have email, chat, Facebook and (coming soon) Twitter discussions – and even notes on phone calls – all in one place. That means that your customers can contact you in various ways, yet you always remain up to speed on a case regardless of how many channels have been used.