It's never been more important — or more difficult — to build a great customer experience.
Over the past years, we've seen service teams pivot operating models, go hybrid, and embrace all sorts of emerging technology -- all while managing increased volumes of queries.
With all of the constant change in the service field, we're digging into HubSpot data from hundreds of service professionals to learn all about the new and ongoing trends shaping their industry.
The State of Customer Service [Data-Backed Shifts in 2023]
Artificial intelligence will innovate service teams.
Until recently, service teams leveraged AI and automation-fueled tools like HubSpot Service Hub to create workflows that would keep customers engaged, automate administrative tasks, and -- for the more advanced teams -- launch chatbots to field simple service questions on livechat, email, and other channels.
Now, with the landslide of new generative AI tools, artificial intelligence is becoming accessible and affordable to teams that once thought of it as a high-priced future technology.
As HubSpot's CEO, Yamini Rangan puts it, "SMBs don't typically have the time, resources or the level of AI expertise that larger companies do. But with Gen AI, SMBs now can leverage powerful technology to improve both efficiency and effectiveness. If used thoughtfully, SMBs can reach more customers, serve customers with even more insights and with unprecedented relevance."
"Service professionals can use Gen AI to anticipate customer needs, suggest resolutions, and offer proactive support," Rangan adds. "...AI won’t replace go-to-market teams - it will guide them to drive better outcomes."
Still thinking AI is just a fad or a technology that will lose steam once we pass the buzzword phase? Think again.
Our survey found that most service professionals using it find it effective. This will likely grow as more tools and tech become available in the near future.
So, why is AI worth the hype? Below is a ranking of the top benefits AI users in the service field are already seeing, according to our State of AI Survey.
|Benefits of AI in Service||% of Survey sample|
|Make customer service available 24/7||36%|
|Save time by automating manual tasks||31%|
|Helps respond to customer support requests faster or reduces average handling time.||30%|
|Handles smaller tasks, allowing more time for complex customer service requests.||28%|
|Helps professionals address requests more effectively||25%|
Retention remains top-of-mind.
In the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns, companies around the world were dealing with downgrades, customer disengagement, and cancellations.
While these have certainly decreased as the world's reopened, retention is still something service teams and businesses want to maintain or increase, especially with ongoing recession news.
While retaining customers through downgrades or customer resources might not feel as impactful as upgrading in the moment, it's important to remember companies with defined retention strategies have been linked to solid ROI and overall growth -- especially in uncertain times.
Customer service is getting more social.
Think having a basic service phone number or email will be a leg up on the competition? Think again.
In a January HubSpot survey of more than 120 consumers, 64% said they regularly use social media messaging, such as Instagram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Twitter DMs to get in contact with service teams.
In our 2023 State of Social Media Report, we revealed that 43% of companies offering customer service through DMs have a customer service rep responding to messages, while 41% ask a marketer to handle messaging and escalate major service issues to them.
As 2023 continues, we expect to see more use of automated bots integrated into social media messaging platforms to streamline service or marketing's work there. In early 2023, 13% of brands we researched were already doing this.
Service teams need more time to work -- but are expected to work faster than ever.
In 2022, a whopping 43% and 51% of agent-level respondents and high-growth and low-growth companies, respectively, said that not having enough time in the day was their biggest day-to-day challenge.
In 2023, time remains a constant struggle. In a HubSpot recent survey of consumers, 60% said they will be more loyal to a brand with a fast customer service response time.
Luckily, service teams have begun to use emerging technologies like AI and automation to adapt to continuous time pressures. In our 2023 State of AI Survey, 64% of service reps who use AI today said it enables more time to personalize and improve upon the responses they give to customers.
Customers have increasing expectations.
Back in 2022, a whopping 88% of reps we surveyed agreed that customers have higher expectations than they did in previous years. Meanwhile. 79% said customers are more informed than they were in the past. As the world becomes more fast-paced and hybrid, these expectations are growing.
In most cases, customers are calling service people when they've already reviewed all the troubleshooting steps, watched a handful of how-to videos, and surfed the online knowledge bases. What they really want is someone to relate to them, listen, and actively help them with an authentic level of care.
In 2023, many findings in our State of Consumer Trends Report validated that consumers in fact crave authentic experiences and want to work with mission-driven companies that care about their customers.
And, it makes sense. In a highly automated era, when is the last time you said, "Speak to a human" to a service bot, or hoped you were connected to a down-to-Earth person who understood your problem?
Customers want a great experience and are wary of scenarios that don't feel helpful, transparent, or authentic. Whether an experience with a brand is good or bad. they're likely to tell their friends, loved ones, social media followers, and online review sites about it.
Shrinking service tech stacks will boost ROI.
Throughout the last three years, one thing became apparent:
Despite how connected we are to our computers, tablets, phones, and the world-wide-web, a lot of companies were buried in tech tools that didn't integrate, company siloes, and data that didn't paint a whole picture of their landscape. This, in turn, caused missteps that could potentially lose customers.
HubSpot called this era, "The Crisis of Disconnection."
But, in 2023, service teams are beginning to catch on to the fact that streamlined and all-in-on software strategies can help reconnect them to other departments and their customers.
In fact, a recent HubSpot Report found that 48% of service professionals with a connected, all-in-one solution beat their 2022 goals, while 44% of professionals that considered their tools "mostly integrated" similarly outperformed.
Recommendations for Service Teams
Stay connected to your customers and other teams.
Siloes, poor data, switching between many tools, and other crises of disconnection can negatively impact you, your customer, and your company's ROI.
Leverage AI and automation to streamline tasks.
Aside from keeping connected with your customers and team, CX is another top priority of service professionals.
However, it takes time to build excellent and highly-connected experiences. (And, as we mentioned, time is one thing reps can't get enough of.) To navigate many these problems, teams are continuing to invest in emerging AI or automation tools like:
automated ticketing systems that eliminate time spent filtering and organizing service queries
Knowledge bases, chatbots, and other resources that help customers answer their own questions.
CRM software to help streamline customer management and relationship-building processes.
By leveraging the tools above, customer service professionals can both streamline tasks and begin to focus on bigger-picture projects, like breaking down company siloes, or building better customer experiences.
Prioritize retention and relationships.
Customers are loyal to brands that value their opinion and provide helpful, authentic experiences. And, loyal customers can bring revenue, as well as good reviews, and even referred customers, to your company for a long period of time. This is likely why customer success and customer retention are among the top three 2022 priorities of service professionals we surveyed.
Track and share your successes.
The best way to justify more investment from business leaders is to show that your team is, in fact, helping them grow their customer base and increase steady revenue. Whenever possible, don't let your key projects, strategies, or metrics live in a team-only silo.
If you're a leader, make sure your results, and your team's results, are shared with decision-makers on your company's wider leadership team.
If you're a rep or agent, be sure to share your accomplishments with your manager, colleagues, or internal communications to ensure the wider company knows how you're successfully retaining, gaining, and delighting loyal customers.
How Companies Can Solve for the Customer in 2023
Now that you've read through just of few of the key trends in today's service industry, it can help to also consider the best tools and tactics to leverage them.
Whether you're a leader or a service professional aiming to level up your work, tools like HubSpot's Service Hub and CRM can keep your team and your customers connected and more able to take on the changing customer service landscape. Learn more about these tools by clicking the banner below.