A shift is occurring in the customer support industry. After years of looking at support as just a cost center, companies are waking up to the fact that delivering great customer support is directly correlated to the success of the enterprise. Empowered consumers have real-time mediums to share their experiences across large social graphs and those experiences can have an immediate and significant impact on brand sentiment, customer loyalty, and the bottom line.
As we look towards 2018, forward-thinking organizations need to embrace emerging customer support trends in order to position themselves for success. Let’s take a look at what lies ahead in the coming year:
Omnichannel will be the real breakthrough technology.
While AI and chatbots are regarded as some of the hottest technology to enter the customer support space, omnichannel will be the real game-changer. The omnichannel experience will prove to be even more valuable as support teams can drive rapid resolution by seamlessly switching between voice, chat, video and screen-sharing with annotations. Additionally, assisted AI where companies find the balance between bots, machine learning and agents, will start showing significant efficiencies.
Focus on customer support will become more important to brands.
Today’s consumers, most notably the millennial generation, want instant connection and results, whether it be when they’re ordering food, texting a friend or speaking with a customer support agent. In order to meet these demands (and keep negative reviews at bay) companies will make maintaining brand loyalty a focal point of their business. As a result, we will see customer support focus starting to bleed into several parts of the business, like product, marketing and UX.
The landscape of customer-brand relationships will shift.
Social platforms give customers the opportunity to amplify great experiences with brands. On the flip side, it also provides them with a powerful platform to share bad experiences, voice grievances, and impact how others view products and brands. Consumers have come to hold brands to higher standards – more accessible, faster response times, available through multiple channels – and these shifting power dynamics mean that companies need to be more sensitive than ever to providing customers with great customer experiences.
Customer verification and fraud will be top-of-mind for companies and customers.
In February 2017, it was reported that 15.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft of fraud in 2016 (up 16% from 2015). With the Equifax breach leaking personal data of 145.5 million U.S. consumers, this number will surely continue to increase. Consequently, companies will look for solutions that offer simple verification processes and other avenues to ensure that a customer’s identity is accurate and secure. Security and privacy certifications like SOC 2 and HIPAA will become even more critical to companies for handling customer information.
Companies will look at support as a revenue driver versus a cost center.
Once cast off as less important than other operations within a company, customer support will shift from being viewed as an afterthought or cost center. Instead, it will be regarded as integral to the brand experience, one that emphasizes the importance of a customer interaction and keeps up with the product, service, and brand reputation it’s associated with.
Companies will prioritize customer support more than ever.
In light of major customer support disasters seen by some transportation and ridesharing companies, brands will make revamping their customer support strategies a key priority for 2018. Additionally, those who do not update their legacy systems to include the latest in customer support technology will fall behind, both in terms of customer retention and new user acquisition.
I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store for the companies that align their support organizations to these developments. By implementing new technologies, processes, and mindsets, brands can win big by delivering the type of support that today’s customers expect.
This article originally appeared in Customer Think.