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The start of a new year is the perfect time to look ahead to the future of customer service. There are five trends that I believe every company should be aware of as we move through 2013.
1. Social media is here to stay and is growing in importance in relation to customer service. Companies have to monitor the many different social media channels where customers communicate with their friends and followers. When a company is called out on social media, a quick response is imperative. Businesses are being watched and judged by not only what they do in response, but also how quickly, and by the percentage of customers they respond to. To keep up with the times, a company must address customers’ complaints and fix problems (let people know about that on social media also), as well as responding to positive comments. You need to take charge of your image as it exists today (like it or not) in the public forum that is social media.
2. Gamification continues to become more popular. Companies are redefining the customer experience by offering interactive games that combine customer engagement with entertainment. Customers visit websites, such as the Home Shopping Network’s (www.HSN.com), just to play the games and have fun. Customer engagement is added as the “winners” can earn discounts, products, elite status and more.
3. Big Data is getting bigger. Companies are gathering data in a myriad of ways – surveys, social media comments, buying trends, and so on. But, a collection of data is useless if a company just becomes bogged down in it – the key is to thoughtfully and purposefully collect effective data and then use it to your advantage. Armed with information, you have to use it to take action. Why collect the data and then not do anything with it?
4. Mobile devices have made instant communication the norm. More people than ever are using mobile devices (cell phones and tablets) in more ways than ever before. Customers are using their devices to connect with customer support centers via social media, voice, instant chat and video chat. Companies are delivering promotional offers in real time using location technology such as GPS, allowing customers the opportunity to interact while they are shopping. Who could have imagined such advances even a few short years ago? Just imagine the directions technology and customer service will take in the future.
5. Customer service expectations have grown. Customers are smart, and they expect the best. They have been shown what good service is by a variety of companies, including Amazon.com, Ace Hardware, FedEx, Nordstrom and more, and they expect it from you, too. No matter what your industry, you will be held to the same high standards set by the leaders in customer service. You must promise that high level of service and then keep your promise – or risk negative feedback on social media and the loss of customers. Because if you don’t provide top-notch service, your competitors will.