Customer service is at least thousands of years old. The first customer complaint was recorded in 1750 BCE. Ea-Nasir, a copper merchant in Mesopotamia, sold some poor quality copper to a gentleman named Nanni. Nanni wasn't happy about it and he created this clay tablet to voice his concern. The original customer service ticket.
While the concept of customer service is historic, the practice is rapidly changing. I started working in CS over 10 years ago and while we were not using clay tablets, our original work feels like ancient history.
10 years ago: customers were patient. Today, customers demand an immediate response.
10 years ago, it was okay to not have live chat as a customer support channel. Today, not having live chat is unthinkable for any startup. The customer's demand for immediacy brought about this change.
10 years ago, our internal SLA on web tickets at HubSpot was 24 hours. Today, it's 5 hours. Plus, channels like chat, self-service, and email are more common today than they were 10 years ago.
Today, customers are a lot more demanding and those customer expectations were set by a small set of companies known for their exceptional customer experience. In particular, Amazon has really colored the average first-world consumer's perception of immediacy, quality, and ease of doing business.
Like I said, there has been a lot of change in customer service and few companies have cracked the code to a seamless, frictionless customer experience.
With the evolution of customer service in mind, we wanted to learn more about the current state of the customer service industry. It was clear to us that things had changed but we wanted to dig deeper into exactly what that meant, and gather data that will help businesses adapt.
To better understand the state of service, HubSpot's in-house research team ran an online survey of 1,025 service professionals from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. We asked these customer service professionals about their customers, tools, and questions related to their role and function within their company.
We've compiled our findings into an ebook available today and will be sharing more content over the coming weeks with our findings. Get the full research report now here.
The State of Customer Service in 2019
There is a lot of data in the full report, but here are a few of the biggest key takeaways.
Customers have more control and a bigger voice.
Our data suggests that customers have more control over the customer service process and command a larger voice in customer feedback. Here are a few of the metrics:
88% of service professionals agree customers have higher expectations than in the past
76% of service professionals agree customers are smarter and more informed now than in the past.
89% of customer service professionals agree that customers are more likely to share positive or negative experiences now than in the past.
When I first saw these data points, these thoughts immediately came to mind:
Treat your customers right, because they're going to define your success more than you can.
Treat your service workers right, so they are empowered and motivated to create great customer experiences.
Study your customers, so you understand the sharp edges in their experience, and make their lives better.
For start-ups, marketing is your voice. For scale-ups, customers are your voice. You have to be delivering delightful experiences to customers for them to be the voice of your company. But, how can customer service professionals enable this?
First, customer service folks need to be human. Throw out the script. Throw out the playbook. Use your brain, and solve for the customer. This can be hard in environments where you're constrained by metrics, clicktime, and companies that treat you like a machine. In a customer service role, you have the capacity to deliver amazing customer experiences so challenge your team to keep the customer first.
What does customer first mean?
Our data found that while many companies say they're "customer-first" as part of their marketing message, very few companies truly take necessary actions to back up this motto.
Only 58% of companies survey their customers to collect feedback.
Only 12% of customers believe a company when they say "they solve for the customer" or "put the customer first.
When we saw data supporting the idea that companies aren't truly customer-first and collecting feedback from customers, we resonated with the idea that it's easier to talk the talk than it is to walk the walk. At HubSpot, we strongly believe that being "customer-first" starts first with being in touch with your customers.
Companies can take actionable steps to bridge the gap between saying they're "customer-first" and only having 12% of consumers believe them by having stakeholders listen to your customers. Bring customers into your office for interviews, have senior management shadow support, sales, and service, and talk to customers every week. If the executive team isn't valuing customer feedback and demonstrating they do so by spending time with your customers, then you're not putting customers first.
Putting the Customer First
We personally learned so much from this study. I'm excited to share this data with you and your teams. We hope you find this research insightful and helpful in understanding trends in the customer service industry. We plan on doing a version of this survey every year and tracking the results.
I'd like to end on this call-to-action for customer service folks around the globe:
Start taking action to put the customer first. It's no longer enough to just say it, you're customers won't stand for it.