What Customer Service Leaders Are Prioritizing in 2021

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Rebecca Riserbato
Rebecca Riserbato



Did you know that in the last year, customers have demanded responses from customer service teams in minutes, not days? While they expect self-service options, customers want support teams to be readily available when they have complex issues.

Customer service representative on a phone call.

In the coming year, it's becoming increasingly important to build and deliver an excellent customer experience. In fact, customer service professionals have told me that their service teams are getting revamped, and they're looking to empower their teams as the gatekeepers of the customer experience.

That's why 39% of customer service professionals say that creating a good customer experience is a top priority for their team.

In this post, let's dive into what customer service leaders are prioritizing for the rest of the year.

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1. Continuous learning and training.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that customer support teams need to adjust and scale more than ever before.

That's why companies like Amazon are focusing on continuous learning and training for their teams in 2021.

Laura Melisa Forero, a senior customer service manager at Amazon, says, "Customer service is in fact one of the most important areas in any company. We are all aware of the pandemic and the repercussions this has had on all of us. As a leader in customer service, my priority is the continuous learning and training for our representatives. We want to offer the customer a high-quality experience, even if our representatives are working remotely in their home office."

According to Forero, providing training opportunities for her team will enable them to provide excellent customer experiences 100% of the time. Most CS teams use customer-driven metrics to evaluate their performance and identify areas for growth are CSAT (50%), customer reviews (49%), and customer loyalty and retention (41%).

As a leader in the customer service industry, Forero adds, "Our customers rely on us as a company. And we want them to know that we will always give 110% in their service interactions."

2. Providing personalized support to customers.

To provide excellent customer experiences and continuously up-level your support team, you might be wondering, "Where can I innovate?"

It might seem like the customer service industry doesn't change much, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Customer service is in an era of innovation right now.

One way that Intercom is continuing to innovate is through providing personalized support to customers.

Bobby Stapleton, a senior manager of customer support at Intercom, says, "We're investing heavily in conversational support, which combines proactive, self-serve, and human support capabilities in a messenger-based experience, to provide fast, personalized, and convenient help to our customers."

This might mean that new systems, software, and processes can be developed to combine proactive, self-serve, and human support.

Additionally, Stapleton adds, "'Personalized' is all about relevance and means delivering the right content, at the right time, in the right place. For some customers, this may mean delivering a fast answer via self-serve channels or bots, whereas other customers may prefer one-on-one conversations with a human support rep."

Since customer's expectations are at an all-time high, personalizing their experience is a must. Stapleton concludes, "With relationships mattering more than ever with the switch to digital-first business during COVID, it's important to us to provide that personalized, contextual support that goes beyond a one-time transaction and really builds relationships with our customers. Personalization is no longer a nice to have--customers expect it and it's a key component to both support and CX strategies."

3. Helping our support teams be more efficient, without adding stress.

You might be thinking, "Wow, I'm stressed after reading this so far." That's understandable. Change and innovation can be intense, but there are ways to help your support teams be more efficient and provide excellent customer service without adding stress. You’re also not alone in this desire — 44% of survey respondents said increasing efficiency is a top priority for 2021.

Efficiency is, in fact, also another priority for Stapleton at Intercom.

He says, "We released a research report last year that found nearly half (47%) of support teams said inbound volume increased since COVID-19, and by an average of 51% above their normal volume. We're also experiencing increased support volume and are using our business messenger, bots, and automation to scale our support teams' ability to answer more questions, more efficiently."

Leaning into technology and automation will help Intercom continue to scale their customer support team's efficiency, while not adding too much to the support team's plate.

In HubSpot's 2021 State of Customer Service report, we learned that many teams aren't using technology to their full advantage. In fact, only 29% of respondents use a help desk, and 23% use a CRM. This data is interesting because research shows that companies that do use these technologies find them to be extremely effective.

If your team isn't fully using technology to your advantage, 2021 is the year to start using systems to help support teams increase efficiency, without adding stress.

4. Preventing team burnout.

With increased demands and pressure on customer service teams, it makes sense that representatives on your team might experience burnout.

We've all been there. That's why it's essential to try to prevent burnout and prioritize your employee's mental health. For example, as a service manager, you might be experiencing a time of innovation, along with stress. But that doesn't mean that you need to put all the pressure on your employees.

Think about it. Do you do your best work when you're burnt out, or your worst?

Stapleton at Intercom, says, "We know how difficult it can be for support teams on the front lines, and we want to make sure our team members are taking care of their mental health. We've been upfront and transparent discussing stress and mental health, aiming to provide psychological safety and removing stigma."

Additionally, this means you might have to adjust your expectations. Yes, you want to innovate, grow, and provide the best experience possible. But unrealistic goals won't help anyone.

"We've remodeled our teammate KPIs to be really clear on expectations, as well as empowering managers to provide flexibility and support adjusting those goals, depending on the week's challenges," Stapleton adds. "We're also in the process of giving Intercom CS teammates company days off staggered across the month, to encourage folks to take time away and rejuvenate."

5. Tracking customer feedback.

So we've discussed the increased expectations for customer service, but we haven't discussed how teams will monitor success.

Customer service teams that are innovating and adjusting systems and processes are also prioritizing tracking customer feedback.

According to our research, more companies are putting processes in place to formally track customer feedback. In addition, the monitoring of customer satisfaction (+4%), online reviews (+4%), and NPS (+6%) have all increased year over year, indicating a growing desire among companies to leverage the value of feedback to improve the customer experience.

Customer service is in an exciting era of innovation. The customer experience is becoming increasingly more important and that's why many customer service managers are prioritizing these strategies and realistic team goals.

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