5 Customer Service Trends that will Matter in 2022

WINTER 2021/22

It’s that time of year again when we sit down, take stock of the last 12 months, and look forward to what matters over the next year. In the customer service industry, new ‘trends’ seem to emerge every year, where some from previous years have hardened to become permanent fixtures in the industry, and some never really look like they will take flight.  

This year is no different, but as the pandemic continues to grip the world, something feels a little different this time around.

 Of course, there is still a lingering fear of uncertainty for consumers, brands and customer support teams. However, there is also a sense of opportunity across our industry – an opportunity to recognise the pandemic as the watershed moment to rethink and do things differently and better than before. In fact, nearly 80% of CEOs surveyed by Accenture said they will fundamentally change how they engage with and create value for customers.

As customer service is no longer being seen as just a ‘nice to have’ all the way up to the very top, taking note of trends, new and emerging technologies, and shifts in consumer behaviour matters more than ever for delivering on increased investment and overall success.

Towards the end of last year, we conducted a survey of our own to uncover what is really going to matter in the year ahead, and here’s what we found when speaking to 3,000 consumers and 1,500 service agents across the UK and US.

1) Consumers want more now

Whether we like it or not, the pandemic has driven us online, with significant implications for consumer expectations and demands of brands and how they deliver customer service.

Almost two thirds (61%) of consumers we spoke to have had their expectations of CX increase since the onset of the pandemic, with 34% now expecting better support across digital channels. A further 25% of consumers now want a better balance between human interaction and digital tech solutions, while 22% now expect issues to be resolved faster, highlighting the lasting impact the pandemic has had on consumer demands.

Importantly, recognising these changes can bring significant benefits, with well over three quarters (83%) of consumers suggesting that they’d spend more money with a company if they received better customer service. And giving good customer service isn’t just important for building customer loyalty – it’s also key to growing your customer base, with almost half (47%) of consumers stating that they would recommend a company to a friend after a positive customer service experience.

2) Every conversation counts

Consumers are not only demanding more, but they’re also more active than ever. Gone are the days of brands getting away with subpar service and disappointed customers. Negative experiences can be instantly shared in online forums and on review sites, not to mention amplified on social media. And while positive experiences are shared by nearly half of all customers, negative experiences make a particularly lasting impact with 95% of customers spreading the word when something goes badly.

Poor word-of-mouth is just one of the consequences you’ll face when an interaction goes south, with the immediate loss of your customer, something that is likely to happen after just one bad experience, hitting you where it hurts right away.

So, how can brands adapt to these trends, respond effectively to their customers, and ensure every conversation counts?

3) Good AX = good CX

In their rush to deliver a top customer experience, many brands are neglecting the needs of their agents and those on the front line. Agents are faced with countless inquiries every day and expecting them to dig through folders and rely on Google to find the answers simply doesn’t cut it anymore. In fact, 59% of service agents feel they lack the knowledge to provide a better service, and 29% still Googling answers to customer problems.

When we asked agents about some of the main challenges they are currently facing, 79% feel their workload was too heavy, and a further 75% feel a constant pressure to work harder. Moreover, agents estimated that, on average, they spend 97 minutes a day answering questions that could easily be found in the FAQ, and 80 minutes simply adding tags to conversations.

Therefore, focusing on the agent experience (AX) should be a huge priority this year, and it isn’t that difficult to get right. For example, by implementing a centralised knowledge base, you can help your agents save precious time and make quick and easy answer-finding part of the day-to-day routine. And if you really want to up your game, choosing a knowledge base solution powered by machine learning will not only encourage accuracy through prompting agents to update knowledge articles as they go but will also act as a virtual assistant of sorts, suggesting answers based on keywords in customer questions.

4) Bring your digital offering up to speed

Customer service doesn’t just mean picking up the phone anymore – email, live chat and in-app support are just as important. People have an ever-expanding variety of technology at their fingertips, and many are used to using interconnected devices simultaneously. This multimodality will shape the future of how brands build relationships with their customers and respond to their demands, as consumers expect to be able to access support across a range of channels.

Despite growing expectations of digital support, 84% of customers still opt for phone as their preferred channel of choice. This tells us one thing: connecting through other channels isn’t yet easier than picking up the phone. Furthermore, only 68% of customer service agents have a single view or application for all customer support channels, meaning 32% are limited by clunky, outdated systems.

Brands’ digital offerings simply aren’t up to scratch – they must look to provide a more seamless experience across multiple channels and ensure customers get the same level of service regardless of how they access support. This means aggregating interactions into a single platform to provide a smooth and frustration-free experience, preventing your customers from getting passed around unnecessarily and giving your agents the tools they need to do the job effectively.

5) Get your self-service deployment right

When customers reach out to a company for service, they expect fast response times and seamless resolutions, no matter what channel they use. Chatbots and automated self-service technologies help ensure customers can resolve their simple questions and concerns quickly, and one of their greatest advantages is that they are available 24/7 to help consumers.

Self-service has been put on a (rather high) pedestal, but the benefits they bring can be quickly marred when brands use the technology at the wrong time and in the wrong places, which can be a huge turn-off for customers. In other words, if brands place too much emphasis and value on self-service, encourage deflection and avoid customer interaction at all costs, you’ll also likely discourage customer engagement and erode trust in the long-term.

 To use self-service effectively over the next year, brands ought to focus on getting self-service deployment right. This means that chatbots and self-service technologies shouldn’t replace live agents, but they can act as excellent additions to your team when introduced in a strategic and thoughtful manner.

By getting this dynamic right, your customers will appreciate how customer service chatbots provide quick, efficient resolutions to their questions and concerns. Meanwhile, your agents will stay focused on complex customer service challenges instead of answering frequently asked questions. And you will easily scale support to handle any influx in cases, whenever they come your way.

2022: the year of customer service?

There’s no doubt about it: in 2022, your brand’s success will depend on how you respond to these emerging trends. Expectations are higher than ever, and customer service has never been more important for businesses. Luckily, with the wealth of technology we have at our fingertips today, it’s also never been easier to provide exceptional customer service. The choice for brands is clear: invest in their customer experience and thrive, or continue to neglect it and risk getting left behind.

Tue Søttrup

CCXP, VP CX Excellence