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Customer Service Trends to Look for in 2017

We hope your customer service department saw a lot of improvements in 2016. But no matter where you stand at the end of the year, every team is wondering the same thing: what will 2017 bring?

In this article, we’re going to give you a sneak peak at some of the customer experience trends that you can expect to see in the new year, and some tips on how you can put them into practice.

We’ll be looking at the following trends in customer service for 2017:

  • Omni-channel will gain more traction as a customer support strategy and replace its predecessor, multi-channel.
  • Third party messaging applications, like Facebook messenger and Kik, will become mainstream channels for customer service.
  • Interactive email will grow and improve the customer experience overall.
  • Despite developments in 2016, human interaction will still take precedent over AI.
  • Third party application integration for live chat will help improve customer support, making it more comprehensive than ever before.

Omni-Channel Will Be the New Multi-Channel

In the past, a multi-channel customer support strategy was the norm. The future is its evolution: omni-channel.

But what’s the difference between the two strategies, really?

Let’s put it this way: on the multi-channel level, a customer can use multiple channels to access the support that they need. However with an omni-channel system, these customer service channels are not as segregated. Instead, you can think of them as touchpoints on a single, highly effective channel, which gives customers a seamless experience across devices and platforms.

For your company to have a successful omni-channel experience, all of your touchpoints need to work in harmony with one another. For example, if a customer can’t navigate your website to get your phone number, or feels that contacting you through email is inefficient, then he or she will likely walk away with a negative impression of your customer service as a whole.

A great example of omni-channel excellence is the fast food giant, Chipotle. Since so many diners want their meals faster than ever, Chipotle has provided customers with an app that allows users to place orders in advance for pick-up. Customers can also track their previous orders and save their favorites, empowering customers with their own purchasing data.

Customer Service Trends 2017 - Chipotle

Source: Multichannel Merchant

Get Onboard: Review your customer feedback from 2016 to see which touchpoints can be improved to create a more consistent customer service experience across the board. To do this, have a look at customer service feedback surveys and reports from different channels.

Third Party Messaging Support Will Win You Fans

Another trend that we see gaining support for 2017 is the use of third party messaging systems for customer support, like Facebook Messenger, Kik, and Whatsapp. If you’re still unclear on the definition, a third party messenger is any messaging application used by your customers that was not developed by your company.

There’s good reason to believe that this will be one of the bigger customer service trends of 2017.

Although the use of brands’ mobile apps has exploded since 2008, ‘brand app fatigue’ is starting to settle in. Messaging apps, by contrast, have never been hotter. Today six of the top 10 global apps are messaging apps, used by 1.4 billion people worldwide and growing by 12% annually.
The Harvard Business Review

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KLM Dutch Airlines, which allows customers to manage their booking from Facebook Messenger, is ahead of the curb. When you take into consideration that messenger applications like Kik and WhatsApp are only growing in popularity, you can see how providing such a service would make your customer service more competitive.

Additionally, third party messaging support offers several advantages for customers:

  • For one thing, customers can use interfaces that they are familiar with to communicate with companies in a way that is oftentimes more comfortable for them.
  • Communicating with customers in this way also allows for smoother and quicker follow-ups with any issue or transaction, which in the customers’ eyes, beats the comparatively sluggish stream of back and forth of emails.

This means support would also be very appealing to millennials, many of whom have been using these apps as a primary form of communication for years.

Get Onboard: Study your customer base to learn which messaging applications they use most frequently.

Email Will Be Taken to the Next Level

Email is one of the most common customer support channels, and what better way to enhance the customer experience than with interactive emails?

Whether you’re sending out a promotional email or a response to a customer inquiry, an engaging, well-designed email ups the likelihood that your email will be spared from the dreaded junk folder.

Baskin-Robbins is one company that’s ahead of the curb when it comes to interactive email. They launched a “The Big Thaw” contest where they invited their subscribers to vote to bring their favorite ice cream flavor back from the “deep freeze.” The flavor that won the vote would be made available nationwide in the coming year for a limited time. And if that wasn’t incentive enough, all participants received a coupon for “Buy One Cone, Get One Free” upon voting.

Customer Service Trends 2017 - Baskin-Robbins

Source: Email Critic

Dan Wheeler, Vice President of U.S. Brand and Field Marketing for Baskin-Robbins had this to say about the contest:

‘The Big Thaw’ allows us to engage with our fans in a fun and interactive way and gives them the chance to revisit and reminisce about some of their all-time favorite Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors.

By asking their email subscribers to participate in a fun, flavorful vote, Baskin-Robbins upped traffic to its website, and made subscribers feel like a valued part of the community.

Videos, free smartphone games, craft ideas, contests, and asking fans to click through to contribute or share their stories on social media platforms are all ways to make the content of your emails more interactive.

Many companies are taking this a step further and using CSS to create well-designed emails that help guide customers more organically through content. For example, Pret, the British sandwich retail chain, delivered an email campaign with an interactive smoothie cup.

Customer Service Trends 2017 - Pret

Source: Fresh Inbox

Get Onboard: Interactive email isn’t just for big email marketing campaigns. Pick one thing for the upcoming quarter that you can use to make your emails more dynamic, engaging, and helpful—for example, hyperlinked text or screenshots to help explain website navigation. Be sure to get customer feedback at the end of the quarter to assess how interactive emails work for your company.

Live Chat Will Be Deeply Integrated With Third Party Applications

With the increased use of live chat as a primary customer service channel, customer service teams are looking for ways to provide seamless support with advanced features. Just like with email support, live chat is going to be more interactive than ever before in 2017.

In live chat, advanced integrations can include screen sharing, analytics, help desk, CRM applications, and more. These integrations can help customers directly (like in the case of screen sharing), or can help teams utilize their live chat channel more effectively (like in the case of CRM applications). As live chat providers offer more third party integrations, and the push to move from a multi-channel to omni-channel grows stronger, teams will find that adopting some of these integrations will help them flourish.

Get Onboard: Review your live chat provider’s third party application integrations to get some ideas for 2017.

AI Will Take a Back Seat

2016 saw Microsoft chatbot, Taytweets, spiral out of control. If you need your memory refreshed, Taytweets is an AI robot that Microsoft launched earlier this year on Twitter as a means of engaging millennials. According to Microsoft, “The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets.” Unfortunately the bot did not have the desired result. In just 24 hours, TayTweets began parroting the profanity that was being tweeted at it, and managed to send out a tirade of offensive tweets before being shut down by Microsoft.

A number of AI advancements are being developed across industries, like Salesforce’s Einstein. The overall trend that we see though, is that in general, customer service will take a break from AI in 2017 while we wait for other industries to work out the kinks.

According to digital marketing agency AgilOne, more than 79% of U.S. consumers and 70% of U.K. consumers want a more personalized shopping experience. There’s even an app for it called the GetHuman app; customers can download it in order to speak with a human representative. The app shows you the number to call to reach customer service, the average wait time, and the right combination of numbers that will reach a representative. According to GetHuman, “We make customer service quick and painless for you.”

Personalized customer service is something that we can’t get out of chat bots just yet. All in all, keeping your customer service more human will be beneficial to your team in 2017.

Get Onboard: You can enhance the human touch in your communications with customers by doing the following:

  • Preface customer emails with personalized greetings.
  • Minimize the amount of hoops a customer has to jump through to get in touch with a representative.
  • Make live chat an easily accessible option on your website.
  • Train your agents on how to write the best email.

In conclusion, customer service as an industry has a lot to look forward in the new year. Companies have infinite options for implementing and carrying out new steps to make their customer experience easier and more enjoyable than ever before. By studying these customer service trends and following the tips that we have laid out here, you can help guide your team to reach new milestones in 2017.

What trends are you looking forward to? Share with us in the comment area below!

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Carla Jerez

About Carla Jerez

Carla Jerez is a senior content writer at Comm100. She has a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University and has years' experience writing for the SaaS industry. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, traveling, or playing around on Photoshop. Connect with her on LinkedIn.