Business models were forced to adapt quickly to unprecedented change in 2020. The changes that were implemented look set to become the standard as we head further into 2021, and consumers are now expecting a lot more from the brands that they spend money with. Customer service, which has been slow to evolve in the face of new technologies and consumer trends, has been quick to pivot. All businesses need to pay attention to the now established customer service trends that are increasingly vital in any industry landscape. From B2B to B2C companies, prioritizing a more seamless and efficient customer service model is more important than ever. Here are the customer service trends you can’t afford to ignore in 2021.
Crisis Management and Response
If 2020 taught business owners anything, it’s that a crisis can occur at any moment. From civil unrest to global catastrophes, businesses need to ensure that they have a strategy in place to tackle any crisis that might emerge. The faster that a business can adapt to wide-spread social issues, the more seamless they can make their customer service protocols. The key lesson to learn here is that brands need to have a proactive strategy in place that will update websites and contact details as and when a specific event occurs. Customers in the modern age want transparency. In the normal process of buying a product, that means quick communications and rapid product delivery. When a crisis occurs, those customers need to be updated in as close to real-time as possible. Even simple strategies like the quick addition of a website banner and social media post that directs consumers to a brand announcement about crisis impact can be of high value.
Implementing Live Chat
Over the last few years, most guides to business trends have highlighted the importance of chatbots for customer service. While these have value, particularly for smaller eCommerce brands that lack the resources to allow for 24/7 customer service, they are no longer in demand by consumers. More than ever, customers want real interactions with real people. The bigger the business, the more difficult this is to achieve. However, some solutions have been rolled out that are having a dramatic impact on a brand’s ability to live chat with customers on all channels simultaneously and in real-time. Have a look at this guide to live chat, what it is, the benefits of it, and how best to adapt to this growing customer demand. In these days of automation and AI, it’s easy to forget the need for the human touch. If there’s one customer service trend in 2021 that’s likely to remain a constant, then it’s the one-to-one communication channel between business and consumer.
If you think that self-service is only related to physical stores where customers scan their own products, then your thinking is outdated. While self-service checkouts are now the norm in physical stores, online self-service is a slightly different approach. The modern consumer is no longer passive about the products that they buy. When they shop online, especially, they do their research. Even for minor purchases, they will head to search engines to read reviews, and they will scroll through brand websites looking for answers to their questions. This offers an unparalleled opportunity for digital-savvy brands. It’s long been known that content is the key to online visibility, but too many businesses fail to optimize value in that content. The goal should be to know what questions your potential customers are going to ask and having the content ready and waiting for them that answers those questions. This not only makes a sale more likely but also boosts brand trust, which is only good for customer service and businesses alike.
Personalized Customer Service
This isn’t a new trend, but it’s more important than ever. Big data has become one of the most vital tools for businesses to use when it comes to all areas of business management, but it’s vital in terms of customer service. Data can be used to personalize all communications and product recommendations, and when customers want an experience as much as they want the product, those personalized communications have increasing value. There are many customer relationship management (CRM) tools available that can help brands make sense of the vast amounts of data they accumulate, making it easier to find actionable steps that will improve both the pre-and after-sales process. When it comes to improving customer service in 2021, ignoring the growing demand for personalization is a mistake that no business can afford to make.
New Delivery Options
Buyers have become very used to the contactless shopping, buy-online-pick-up-instore (BOPIS), and curbside delivery models that were rapidly launched in 2020. We can expect to see that these new methods of delivering products are going to stay with us long term. Research suggests that as many as 7 out of 10 US citizens would prefer to buy from a store if it has zero human contact, and 69% put a lot of value on curbside pickups. Of course, this is going to put a greater demand on remote customer service. When customers are less likely to enter a physical store, their primary means of communication are going to be digital or via phone calls. Those priority questions that businesses get asked the most will need to be addressed remotely far more regularly, further proving the need for a closer look at a self-service model that prioritizes having access to all of the FAQs that brands get asked.
Customer service has always been one of the slowest aspects of a business to implement change. Static customer service models have always proven to be effective as they are. Even as the world has turned increasingly online, the only real change in customer service has been the introduction of automated chatbots and automated email responses. If businesses want to evolve at the pace of consumer demand, customer service as a whole will need to be reapproached, redesigned, and optimized to reflect a changing world.