10 customer service trends you need to know in 2018

Customer support is a vital part of your business. Your customer service agents are on the front line with the customer, and they need to be able to provide the best possible support at all times.

To make sure you're keeping up with the kind of experience your customers expect it's important to know where the industry is headed.

We've compiled a list of 10 customer service trends in 2018 that can help keep your company on track. 

1. The popularity of chat support has grown 400%

The past several years have seen an enormous increase in the popularity of live chat support. Between 2015 and 2018, it grew by 400%, with 79% of customers saying that they preferred chat support over other support channels. Customers really appreciate the immediacy chat provides, and it gives them a way to handle other tasks while also working with your team.

If you're not using live chat right now, it is time to consider it. Being able to support your customers via live chat is fast becoming par for the course, and you don't want to fall behind the competition. Just make sure you're finding the right person for the job. Chat support does require a different skill set than phone or email support.

UJET offers an intuitive chat tool that you can integrate into your website directly. You can set it to pop up with context about the customer in advance, which saves time and gives your agents a way to help the customer faster. The chat window is unobtrusive and won't interfere with the customer experience when they interact with your website.

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Example of UJET support pop-up

Live chat pop-ups can potentially be annoying if they show up in the wrong place or block out important parts of the site. You need to make sure they're optimized for your website experience.

2. 83% of customers want to find their answers on your website

Waiting for support is expensive for everyone involved. In fact, wait times could cost Americans more than $100 billion dollars a year!

One great way to alleviate this potential pain point is by providing robust and up-to-date Knowledge Base and FAQ documentation. This gives customers the ability to seek out answers on their own, without taking the time to reach out to the team, and, when done correctly, can potentially reduce incoming support requests.

Though it might not solve every customer problem, it will give the self-motivated among your customer base a way to resolve things on their own. With UJET, you can tag certain FAQ or Knowledge Base articles to pop up for the customer based on their issue and give them an opportunity to call or chat if needed. This can help the customer save time and work through any difficulties faster.

One company that does really great Knowledge Base documentation is Buffer. Their FAQ section is comprehensive and explains pretty much everything you can do with their service. This kind of information is invaluable for your customers as well as your team. Being able to reference the right documentation for a difficult process will help them resolve customer issues faster.

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Buffer FAQ article example

Buffer uses this article on scheduling a post to walk through the specific actions a customer needs to take to accomplish their goal, as well as screenshots of what it should look like while they're doing it.

3. By 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be handled with AI

The key here is simple conversations. Using AI and chatbots is a great way to proactively engage with customers and find out what they're trying to do. But always remember: People like talking to people, not robots.

Most chat providers will offer the opportunity for proactive chat, as well as prepopulated or canned replies, but they should not be the focus of your chat interactions. If you're a small company, chatbots, also known as conversational marketing tools, are a game changer. You can use these tools to help customers with basic questions and to set up a time to connect with a real, live human being.

You can see these chatbots being used to enhance the customer experience in other ways as well. From product recommendations, ordering an Uber or Lyft, or ordering pizza, you're likely to encounter a robot at some point in these interactions. There are also some companies using AI to interact with the customer on their blog posts.

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Typeform blog post with an embedded chatbot

This bot pops up between paragraphs to offer asides or additional information for the reader. While it may be interruptive for some customers, bots are an interesting way to change their experience with your website.

4. 75% of customers expect a consistent experience

Proper customer management is vital to a growing business. Eighty-seven percent of customers think companies need to put more work into providing a consistent experience. When a customer contacts support, it should be easy for your team to know exactly what questions the customer have previously asked. Being able to keep track of these past interactions makes it easy to identify potential flight risks as well as diagnose more serious or involved issues.

Whether you're talking on the phone, via live chat, email, or on social media, every interaction needs to build the relationship you have with the customer. Every team member should strive to provide the same kind of experience. This not only helps the customer solve their direct issue but also anchors your brand as helpful and efficient.

UJET is a customer-interaction platform that offers a holistic experience in web, voice, and mobile apps. Customers who reach out to you will have the same experience, and your team will have the tools in place to solve issues faster and smarter.

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Start your free demo here for more information.

5. Strong omnichannel support can help retain 89% of customers

Customers will want to be able to connect with your team in the channel of their choosing. With social media, email, chat, phone, etc., it's important for you to have the ability to reach customers in a multitude of ways.

This is true for SaaS business as well as ecommerce, where omnichannel strategies are changing the way that customers interact with brands. Seamless integration with email software, a CMS, and a chat platform makes it much easier for your team to connect with the customer. It's also important for giving customers a way to move through the channel they prefer without breaking the flow of the interaction.

You won't be surprised to find support handles everywhere, including Facebook to Twitter. Apple is one of the largest tech providers around, and they are actively engaged in providing support via social media as well as phone, chat, and email.

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Interaction with @AppleSupport

Typically, Apple will respond by asking for more information in a direct message, which allows them to probe further for an email or send a live chat link directly to the customer.

6. Half of your customers have engaged with a company on social media

Building a better relationship with your customers includes interacting with them outside of a straightforward support capacity. With social media, a preferred place for customers to have conversations about their favorite or least favorite brands, you need to be a part of the conversation. Failing to respond to customers directly can potentially increase your churn rate by 15%.

Having a member of your team check social feeds is a great place to start. You can reach out when someone asks a question about your brand or has a general comment about the services you provide.

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Facebook comments by Seamless, via Brand24

Seamless reps do a great job of responding to comments about the company as well as references to their products. As a food-delivery service, Seamless can easily respond to comments like “I need soup to fight this cold...” without seeming out of place.

7. Speed of service is more important than ever

Sitting on hold for 30 minutes or not hearing back from a support-request email for days should be a thing of the past. Seventy-seven percent of customers already feel they have to wait too long to connect with a live customer service agent, and they'll wait on the phone for just 11 minutes before giving up.

Make sure you can track average hold time and other key statistics. Optimize staffing levels and ensure agents are trained to handle customer requests quickly and efficiently. 

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UJET Dashboard 

The faster you're able to provide solutions to customers, the shorter their wait, and the less likely they'll be to leave due to a poor customer experience.

8. Loyal customers are more likely to leave good reviews

Offering a loyalty program is a great way to make new and current customers happy. It is also a successful tactic for customer retention and goes a long way in cementing the relationship between company and customer. The happier your customers are, the longer they'll stay with your company.

Customers who are loyal to your brand also help promote your service for free. When people are happy with a product or service, they're more inclined to tell their friends about it.

A well-known example of this is Amazon Prime. With their free shipping, streaming content, delivery, and more, customers who make use of a Prime membership are much more likely to shop more and recommend Prime to their friends. Even as a loss leader, Prime is built to increase revenue over time by building loyalty in their product.

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Example of Prime membership perks

Customers who can easily tap into the full potential of your brand are much more likely to be happier in the long run.

9. Customers want to connect with a community

Building a place for customers to connect with one another builds loyalty and helps educate customers. Not only can you provide information to customers via this community, but more experienced users can help newbies learn as well. Communities, too, are a great place for the exchange of ideas between customers and your company.

Just make sure that the community is consistently monitored and that expectations are set. This is a place where bug reports and pain points will surface. Customers who are involved with the community will be very vocal with their opinions. Even if that sounds like a double-edged sword, it can help your company learn more about actual users, and the information can be used to build a better product.

LEGO uses their community to build and vote on new product ideas. They've been crowdsourcing their new models for a number of years on LEGO Ideas.

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Example model being voted on, via Lego Ideas

LEGO also uses their community to connect with their most passionate customers. The product ideas listed there are by and for the customers, and LEGO gives them an outlet to speak about and build what they love.

10. Your team will expect some sort of work-from-home plan

This last customer service trend is more for your team than the customer, but the benefits can be seen by both. Offering the ability to work from home is becoming more and more important to a lot of people. Not only can a work-from-home plan give your employees more flexibility, it can increase the potential applicant pool as well.

Still, giving your team the ability to work from home is a big step, from a logistical standpoint. You'll have to weigh the benefits for the team vs. the difficulty of maintaining consistent experiences outside of a central office. Offering this kind of perk will also require a contact center software that supports working from home. Modern voice over IP providers like UJET can help easily help you support remote employees.

There are a number of different companies with work-from-home plans in place. Apple, Salesforce, Amazon, and Wells Fargo are just a few. Combining that ability with the team that works within an office can help grow a company's team but will require additional work to be successful.

Companies need to understand the full experience

Even though each customer service trend may not be necessary, or even possible, for your company to implement right away, you still need to be aware of how the industry is changing. Offering the same level of support as your competitors is key to being successful.

Think about which of these trends can have the greatest effect on your business right away, and start there. As your company grows, you can implement more of these ideas over time.