The customer support industry continues to change and evolve. It seems like only a few years ago technology like live chat and automated call-back solutions were all the rage and support professionals were trying to integrate these new technologies into their support solutions, and now they're everyday tools. But what are some customer support trends to keep an eye on in 2017? While they all may not rise to prominence immediately, here are five support trends to watch…
1) Self-service is evolving quickly and becoming more visual – Customer self-service portals are changing faster than some industry experts have predicted. This is due to an increasing number of people wanting to answer their own issues on their own time, with little interest in picking up the phone to talk to an agent unless it’s absolutely necessary. Similar to how live chat was once considered an optional support offering, self-service will no longer be optional in future. More self-service content is being created, especially related to video, with some companies even creating interactive video featuring question prompts to guide customers to the answer they need.
2) Personalization is becoming much more precise – Customers used to be concerned when a company knew too much about them. In general, this concern has waned significantly over the past decade and will likely continue down this path. In fact, in B2B (business-to-business), customers can sometimes be disappointed by what companies DON’T know about them. As a result, more companies are evaluating their customer support software solution to make sure it’s specific to their industry and suits their needs. For example, software companies are opting for a solution that can track information on products and versions so they can keep track of exactly which software their customers are using. This prevents agents from needing to repeatedly ask for the same (or worse, irrelevant) information and creates a better customer experience.
3) Mobile support is finally getting a voice – Speech virtual assistant solutions such as iPhone's Siri have become more commonly accepted and are starting to gain some initial traction in the support industry. It’s still remains to be seen exactly how this type of technology will be used in business, especially in customer support, but with the informational and emotional intelligence of these solutions increasing it’s important to keep them on your radar. Will companies start running self-service initiatives via apps with this technology? It’s possible and will likely emerge first in the B2C (business-to-consumer) industry, but time will tell if this technology is more than just a fad. Cutting-edge businesses will look seriously at this voice solution for helping their customers in 2017.
4) Eroding of even more silos, especially between support and operations – Customers have grown to expect faster and more accurate responses on a year-over-year basis and 2017 will be no different. Especially in B2B, these increasing demands will result in more accountability for businesses to meet or exceed their SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to keep their customers happy. This effort will require more collaboration between support and operations than ever before, and having a place to keep track of specific SLAs for each customer will be important to avoid confusion. Companies will either need to develop their own SLA solution to meet these rising demands or invest in a solution that does it for them. This trend may not be as flashy isn’t as the previous one, but in the practical B2B world it’s arguably much more important.
5) Omnichannel is finally getting predictive – Most people know what omnichannel support is – customer service across multiple channels, consolidated into one support system – but now data from this method of support is finally starting to shed insights into the impact of support technology as well. For example, businesses are now looking at their data and developing strategies per device (smartphone, tablet, PC) on not only what specific device to feature a certain type of support on but also where to feature it. Taking it a step further, all of this data is finally enabling businesses to be predictive in their approach to prevent issues before they even occur. Some companies that track product versions can send out an email or text message, depending on how a specific customer interacts with a company, that notifies them when a new version of the product is available.
To summarize, the customer support industry is mirroring other industries in the sense that it is evolving to keep up with customer demands. Customers, even in B2B, want personalized communication that fits their needs and reaches them via their desired contact methods. They have less patience than ever for support and it’s up to businesses to select the right devices, support channels, and software to meet their needs and keep them happy. Technology will continue to play a strong role in support in 2017 but success will be determined by how well individual companies and their employees work together to optimize the use of this technology to satisfy their customers.