The only constant is business is change, and companies that adapt well to it can thrive. This is just as true in customer service as any other area.
Many customer service roles today involve interacting with clients in ways that didn't exist a few years ago. These include the ever-expanding range of social media platforms and instant website support chat, with traditional channels such as phone lines and mail still needing to be monitored.
Looking to the future, it's likely technology will continue to develop, producing ever more ways for companies to communicate with their customers effectively and vice versa. We don't have a crystal ball that will predict all changes in the customer service sphere over the coming years but by looking at established and emerging trends, we can get a good idea of which direction it is going in.
Many Voices, Many Channels
Before the rise of the internet, there were a limited amount of ways to reach a company. You could phone, write to them or fax them. There were few places to leave a review that would be publicly seen by a large number of people.
Those days, of course, are long gone, and the companies that have done best have been the most adaptable ones. Companies who respond to reviews and social media comments effectively are more likely to be seen as good customer service providers – a skill that is valuable in keeping customers and attracting more.
With so many social media sites, for example, and also the need to monitor and respond to requests that come in the traditional way such as by phone, a big challenge for customer service professionals is knowing where to focus their energy. The answer will depend on each company and their customers' needs and should be reviewed regularly – perhaps your customers are using a new platform today to the one they preferred last year. In the future, this is only likely to increase as the number of channels and ways to reach you increase.
Customer service training can prepare employees for this future by honing skills that will be important no matter how their customers contact them.
Keeping the Human Touch
No discussion about the future of business can avoid the topic of automation. As technology advances, more and more of our interactions will be dealt with automatically. This will, we hope, lead to greater efficiency.
What does this mean for customer service? In some ways, it will make it easier. It will automate away routine tasks and allow customer service representatives to focus directly on meeting customers' needs. As better analytics evolve, it will also allow companies to track customer satisfaction in ever more accurate ways, allowing them to upskill in the areas that matter most to their clients.
It may also present a challenge: how to get across "the human touch" when so much customer/client interaction is through a screen or by automated means. Skills like active listening will make companies that practice them well stand out even more against their competitors.
The key to rolling with these changes is adaptability. Staff who have received good customer service training are more likely to have the skills they need to evolve with the challenges and opportunities that changes to customer service brings.
Success in customer service will always be the same: understanding your customers' needs and meeting, or ideally exceeding, their expectations. Companies who put customers at the heart of their vision for success will always have an advantage over their competitors, no matter what the future brings.