As we begin 2021, the primary functions of customer service will continue to be a response to the COVID-19 crisis of 2020. Far away from everyday inconveniences such as broken washing machines or phone surcharges, customer service leaders will adapt their practices in order to offer empathetic and dedicated service to customers in distress. Following previous trends, the growing use of e-commerce and digital channels will roll over into the new year. In fact, according to a recent article published by Forrester,
”“brands will see a 40% increase in digital customer service, forcing an upgrade on their previously established core labour models.”
The 2021 trends require a supported shift in the digital playing field.
Customer service as a lifeline
The global pandemic inconvenienced many, but left many others devastated, forcing organisations to need strong customer service now more than ever. As highlighted in The Guardian, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the United Kingdom increased by 856,000 in April 2020, the most since records began, reaching almost 2.1 million total. The constant changes in government advice, policy and regulations require support from customer service organisations. This support consists of mapping new customer journeys, informing clients about available resources and expanding digital methods of communication.
As empathy and interactive problem-solving take centre stage, voice interaction will become increasingly crucial, no longer used solely as a high-cost last resort. During the pandemic, Forrester clients stated that
”“customers who need to revise their payment plans for utilities, loans, and other critical services due to job losses have driven up voice volumes by as much as 50%”.
Voice technology is also almost universally inclusive, which is key at a time when we need to be united. However, steps need to be taken to ensure that cross-channel customer service strategies provide agents with the same amount of customer information as they would through a digital channel.
Mass migration from physical to digital
Online shopping and banking, virtual healthcare and other forms of digital consumption came to the forefront during the pandemic. This rapid increase of digital channel use continues to cause a chain reaction among organisations. Forrester predicts that customers who used digital channels for the first time during the pandemic will continue to do so in 2021, in turn increasing how many customer service channels are required.
This increase will stand out in regard to asynchronous messaging, especially due to its flexibility and convenience for customers. As published in Forbes, Subrah Iyar, CEO and cofounder of Moxtra and former CEO, chairman and cofounder of WebEx, says that, ‘In place of “[email protected]” emails, businesses are able to deploy interactive digital platforms for remote customer engagement. All of these interactions will be conducted within private digital channels where customers can reach brand representatives and collaborate to better resolve issues and improve the customer’s experience with the brand’. With proper implementation, customers will be able to have a seamless experience across all digital channels.
Along with the digital service shift comes the trending phrase ‘work-at-home’ (WAH). WAH is in the process of becoming a long-term customer service strategy. Through digital optimisation and rapid pandemic-fuelled innovation, organisations are able to provide excellent customer service from their employees’ homes. According to a prediction by Forrester,
”“three global enterprises that run more than 70% of their customer service operations from home will go nearly 100% WAH in 2021”
However, before taking the WAH plunge, organisations need to be sure their customer service operations are prepared for the change.
Adapting to the digital shift, certain businesses who previously had mainly physical presences, such as retailers and banks, have moved most of their business online. Customer activity has been permanently altered, despite some return of physical commerce.
”“Forrester predicts that at least 30% of contact centres in industries with physical locations will shift online in 2021”
The digital shift will also show through with its use of Artificial Intelligence. In 2018, Gartner predicted that 70% of customer interactions will use some form of AI by 2022.
The ripple effect of the pandemic
In the coming year, the leaders of the customer service industry will irreversibly change the role it plays in business. Operations will transform from routine everyday service to an impactful strategy that caters to customers who are in distress post-pandemic. Asynchronous messaging will come to the fore, allowing both parties to communicate about the issue at their convenience.
Voice communications will also be promoted, especially for those situations where interactive problem-solving and empathetic communications are the best solution. A large proportion of customer service agents will be based remotely, and digital consumption trends will become the norm, even as the effects of the pandemic lessen.
The online environment is here to stay. With the proper tools, organisations can stay ahead of the curve and swiftly join the digital shift. Using its 15 years of experience as digital consultants and CRM experts, redk supports companies looking to enhance efficiency and profitability through world-class tools that optimise performance across organisations. Allow us to help you transition into the new year and the new digital norm.