In a world that's being changed rapidly by technology, it only makes sense that the same is happening with customer experiences.

As we progress forward with new, innovative developments from telephones to computers to internet to social media the customer service industry has adapted, too. An industry that was once handled solely in person or via snail mail is now dominated by AI systems, virtual representatives, and human interactions conducted through social media, live chat, and the occasional phone call.

Today's customer experience is giving customers more power. They get to control how, when, and where they interact with service representatives. For example, more than 70% of Twitter users expect a response from a business within an hour when using the platform for customer service. And, if that expectation isn't met, there's plenty of competitors lining up to lure away those unhappy customers. 

To keep up with these constantly shifting trends, we put together a list of the most important ones that HubSpot service reps are looking out for this year.

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2020 Customer Service Trends

1. Customers Want a Personalized Experience.

When someone reaches out to your team, they want to be treated like a person, not a number. They want to feel like their case is important and that your rep cares deeply about solving their issue. It shouldn't feel like your team is applying a one-size-fits-all approach to every customer interaction. Since every support case is a little different, each one should be treated as such. 

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More than 70% of consumers expect your business to understand and anticipate their needs. This means that you're prepared to handle unexpected situations and are rarely scrambling to come up with a solution. Even if a customer asks you to do something you don't normally do, you should be flexible enough to adapt and meet their needs anyway. 

"More than 70% of consumers expect your business to understand and anticipate their needs." - Salesforce

2. Businesses Are Prioritizing Customer Experiences.

Since customers have more power over the buying process, more businesses are prioritizing customer experience over other acquisition strategies. Over 80% of companies recognize customer experience as a competitive differentiator in their industry and 72% of them say improving digital customer experiences is their top priority. 

"72% of businesses say improving digital customer experiences is their top priority." - Forrester

With more businesses shifting their focus to customer experiences, customer expectations are rising as well. 66% of customers say it's never been harder for a company to impress them with new products and services. This means that if your business isn't prioritizing customer experience, you run the risk of failing to meet customer needs and potentially falling behind your competitors.

3. Face-to-Face Video Support Is Increasing.

Face-to-face video was once an internal tool that teams would use to conduct meetings between offices or team members who worked in different departments. Since March 2020, video conferencing has grown tremendously in popularly as many businesses were forced to adapt to a remote or semi-remote environment. 

Now, tools like Zoom are becoming commonplace as organizations are starting to realize how useful face-to-face video communication can be both internally and when working with customers. In fact, Zoom has gained over 290 million daily participants in just the last year alone.

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With remote work seemingly here to stay, we should expect video-conferencing to follow suit. Companies are going to need these types of platforms to effectively communicate both internally and with their customer base.

4. Mobile Experiences Are as Important as Desktop.

One trend that many businesses overlook is the importance of mobile experiences. 52% of customers say they are less likely to do business with a brand because of a poor mobile experience. 

"52% of customers say they are less likely to do business with a brand because of a poor mobile experience." - WOW Local Marketing

This makes sense, too, because for some brands we interact with them more through smartphones and apps, then we do through desktops or websites. Take your favorite fast-food chain, for example. I don't think I've ever visited Dunkin's website, but I use its app almost every day. If I have a bad experience on the app, that weighs just as heavily as it would if I were going to its website or visiting one of its branches.

5. More Companies Have Remote Customer Service Teams.

With a global pandemic forcing businesses to close their offices, it's no surprise that remote work is on the rise. But, did you know that it was already becoming popular before 2020?

A 2017 report shows that over 40% of remote employees have been remote for more than five years and 28% have been remote for three to five years. This means that remote work isn't just a reaction to 2020; it's been slowly growing in popularity until it exploded onto the scene this year. If companies continue to save money on office space while maintaining their productivity, we should expect remote work to become a normal business function in the future.

6. Routine Tasks Should Be Automated.

In customer service, you can perform the same task multiple times within the same day. Whether that's solving a common problem, transferring calls to a special department, or sending follow-up notes to customers, there are a few actions that can seem tedious or menial throughout your workday. /p>

This is where artificial intelligence has made great strides in reducing the workload for customer service personnel. APIs and workflows automate routine functions like assigning cases and chatbots can handle customer inquiries without the need of a human rep. In fact, Gartner predicts that 85% of customers will eventually do all of their business with companies without interacting with a human.

"85% of customers do business with companies without interacting with a human." - Gartner

7. Blockchain Has Changed E-Commerce Customer Support.

Blockchain is a digital ledger designed to be transparent, commutative, and incorruptible. It can record anything of value and track changes made to its record in real-time. This technology has allowed e-commerce companies to create powerful cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

But, if you're like me and still not sure how Bitcoin works, a more relatable example of blockchain is a Google doc. If your team is creating a shared doc, everyone can add to it as well as view other changes made by their colleagues. Rather than having to wait until a new version is sent to the entire team, Google doc tracks these changes and updates the document automatically for all users.

This has changed ecommerce support because it has opened the door for new types of digital agreements. Take smart contracts, for example, which can execute contract terms without requiring the authorization of a human user. Support reps will not only need to know how to support the terms of these contracts, but they'll also need to know how to troubleshoot the technology in case anything goes wrong.

8. Virtual Assistants Are Becoming More Helpful.

As artificial intelligence improves, virtual assistants like chatbots will become more sophisticated as well. Rather than just being simple, question-and-answer bots, these assistants will guide customers through troubleshooting steps and answer questions that pop along the way.

Below is a great example of a virtual assistant using augmented reality to support customers in the app, LetGo. It lets users know how they should title their listing and what price their product typically sells for on the app.

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9. Self-Service Is a Standard Form of Customer Service.

Google — and other search engines — has changed the way consumers access information. Rather than calling your support line when they have a question, people will Google their inquiry first to see if they can find a solution. This cuts the need to call your support team and potentially get stuck on hold waiting for an answer.

"Phone support will soon become a backup channel for when self-service options fail." - IBM Watson

Since more than 90% of consumers expect a brand to offer some form of self-service support, IBM Watson predicts that phone support will soon become a backup channel for when self-service options fail. Even resources as simple as a knowledge base or an FAQ page can go a long way in helping your customers find solutions to their problems independently.

10. Customers Value Brand Experiences More Than Product or Price.

Before the internet and social media, the price and quality of your product made up the majority of the customer experience. That's because people relied on advertising to make their buying decisions then would either return or leave a business based on their experience with the product.

"Customers are willing to pay 45 times more for an excellent customer experience versus a poor one." - Dimension Data

Nowadays, consumers can predict a product's value using third-party review sites and social media comments. When two products are similar in price or quality, customer experience becomes the most important differentiator. In fact, in these cases, most customers are willing to pay 45 times more for an excellent experience than for a poor one.

11. Customer Data Should Lead Service Decisions.

With more customer service technology available, support teams have greater access to customer data than ever before. Tools like help desks and ticketing systems record interactions and create valuable datasets that management uses to study customer behavior. They can analyze the channels that customers are using most and the type of problems people are having with the company. After all, 42% of executives anticipate that data analytics will soon result in a "significant shift" in their ability to deliver a superior customer experience.

"42% of executives anticipate that data analytics will soon result in a 'significant shift' in their ability to deliver a superior customer experience." - Forbes

12. Live Chat and Messaging Apps Are Effective Customer Service Channels.

Live chat and other messaging apps are great for customer service because they provide a balanced medium between phone and email support. Customers prefer live chat because it's faster than email, but not as hands-on as phone support. They can submit a question, navigate to another page to work on something else, then return momentarily to receive their answer. This creates a smooth service experience than presents minimal distractions from the customer's primary goal.

"79% of businesses say live chat support has had a positive effect on sales, revenue, and customer loyalty. " - Kayako

Still skeptical of live chat? Well, 79% of businesses say live chat support has had a positive effect on sales, revenue, and customer loyalty. Customers get faster answers from support, leading to less friction during their customer experience, which results in more sales, revenue, and loyalty for the business.

For further reading, check out this post on our predictions for the future of customer service technology.

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Originally published Sep 23, 2020 7:45:41 AM, updated September 23 2020

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Customer Service