While the world shut down last year, customer service ramped up - and shifted to digital overnight.
Already a linchpin of admired and beloved brands, customer service took on heightened importance during a time when people around the world scrambled to figure out what’s next, whether that was organizing their finances, adjusting travel plans, or adapting to new digital experiences. Brands, even those in legacy industries typically slower to adapt to change, stepped up by enhancing their customer service channels, such as chatbots, live chat functions, video chat, and more, all while their agents worked from home.
That’s why it’s imperative for brands to continue building on customer service progress made during the pandemic, while finding new ways to service and support their customers as the world moves further into digital versus brick-and-mortar spaces.
The face of brands in a digital world
One key reason for brands to further enhance their customer support offerings is that service agents and field service employees are the front line of every engagement customers have with brands. When customers are shopping online and have questions, they aren’t connected with people from sales, marketing, or commerce departments; they’re speaking with service agents.
These agents are responsible for driving real business results. In fact, 91% of customers say a positive customer service experience makes them more likely to make another purchase This means that service keeps customers coming back and will drive more revenue than ever before. The companies that thrive are the ones who can make every customer engagement more valuable and do so seamlessly, from online to curbside to in-person.
Last year, daily call volume reached an all-time high, up 24% compared to 2019, according to Salesforce data. With customer service interactions surging, there are millions of additional engagements brands must manage and this can happen either to their benefit or peril. Customer expectations are higher, too: 88% of customers expect companies to have accelerated digital initiatives due to COVID-19. When customers no longer need to leave the comfort of their home to work, shop, eat or even attend a doctor's appointment, companies need to take note and action.
Staying current with evolving channels
Customer service channels have been growing and evolving for a long time, but this went into hyperdrive in 2020. For example, while they were once differentiators, chatbots and live chat functions are now mainstream. Video chat, commonplace for connecting with family members or hosting work calls, is now an emerging customer service channel.
As customer service continues to play a larger and more strategic role for a brand’s image and reputation, companies need to reach customers through the channels that the customers prefer. In addition to these digital channels, voice has remained a crucial channel for customer service across all industries. In our new 'service from anywhere' world, technology has integrated voice into the overall CRM more than ever before. Voice capabilities can offer agents real-time call transcription and AI-powered guidance on recommended next steps, allowing for faster delivery and smarter and more personalized service.
Using AI and automation to create efficiencies
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are no longer a 'nice-to-have', but necessities for customer service teams, both for employee productivity as well as customer success. The fact that overall daily case interactions grew 26% from November 2020 to March 2021 underscores the need to make AI and automation work both with and for you.
And now with many companies offering agents hybrid or remote work options, it’s imperative for service leaders to use AI and automation to manage higher case volumes more efficiently and do more with fewer resources. For one, automation can allow companies to make complex business processes simple and automate repetitive and manual tasks, making every engagement more efficient. For example, last year a major bank freed up more of their agents' time by automating routine data entry and streamlining authentication processes, saving their service team 4-6 hours of work and allowing them to spend more time delivering personalized support and resolving inquiries faster.
Additionally, workforce engagement management solutions can support service leaders in predicting how many requests will come into the contact center, and on which channels, including phone, email, web chat, text and social, enabling them to intelligently plan staffing needs and match agents to work based on their skills, availability, and shift preference.
Maintaining excellence requires a unified approach
This last year taught businesses they must have the right agent at the right time with the right skills to provide exemplary customer service. That’s not changing in 2021; instead, it’s our new reality both now and moving forward.
To match customer expectations, brands must continue building on their service successes - or remedy failures - from the past year, whether that’s through equipping their distributed workforces with more tools to succeed, enhancing their customer service channels, or all of the above.
When the entire workforce - from the agent on the phone to the IT pro in the back office to the installation technician in the field - is focused on serving the customer, making every engagement seamless isn’t only possible, it’s transformational.