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The customer service landscape is forever changing as technologies and consumer expectations develop, but 2021 has seen a shift of proportions that we have arguably never experienced.
Organizations relying on call center support were forced to transition to digital channels during lockdowns. Query volumes spiked as customers (and companies) faced unprecedented problems, placing huge stress on customer service agents. All the while, significant tech advancements were made, particularly within AI and automation.
All of these pandemic repercussions will continue to reverberate across customer service teams and drive the major trends in the year to come, and likely far beyond. In this blog, we’ll look at the top customer service trends to expect in 2022 so you can build a team of customer experience excellence.
In recent years there has been a clear and decisive move towards digital customer support, but 2021 has fast-forwarded this shift further than anyone could have predicted. In a global survey of executives by McKinsey that analyzed the level of investment in digital customer service, it has been found:
“During the pandemic, consumers have moved dramatically toward online channels, and companies and industries have responded in turn. The survey results confirm the rapid shift toward interacting with customers through digital channels… Respondents are three times likelier now than before the crisis to say that at least 80 percent of their customer interactions are digital in nature.”
Live chat is at the core of this movement. Unsurprisingly, given its almost universal popularity (live chat is the number one support channel for shoppers between 18 and 49 years old), many businesses have already embraced live chat. There are, however, still digital laggards who have yet to implement this channel, or are using outdated providers that fail to take advantage of the channel’s benefits. This will shift significantly in 2022. According to 99 Firms, ‘by 2022, about 85% of businesses are expected to opt for live chat support.’
“COVID-19 has speeded the adoption of digital technologies by several years—and that many of these changes could be here for the long haul.”Source: McKinsey & Company: How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point—and transformed business forever
Once brands find success with live chat, they will also begin to look to omnichannel customer engagement in 2022. Omnichannel platforms connect all the key digital supports channels into one unified console, pulling together data from live chat, social media, ticketing, email, and SMS. This gives agents a 360-degree view of each and every customer so they can provide support that is not only more accurate and helpful, but also more efficient.
The pandemic will have yet another effect on customer service in 2022 – this time on customer service agents.
At the beginning of the year, we analyzed over 66 million live chats that passed through the Comm100 platform to see the effect that COVID-19 had on live chat operations. The analysis showed that despite a rise in overall chat volumes, there was a drop in chats per agent by an average of 56%. Given these numbers, we concluded that a greater interest in agent well-being and agent experience (AX) was a major contributing factor.
In 2020, during the peak of the pandemic, teams across industries began to place less pressure on typical efficiency metrics and more towards agent well-being. This was in part fueled by the heightened stress of the pandemic circumstances, but also by a deeper understanding that a positive AX will lead to a positive customer experience (CX).
Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert, backs up this belief in the agent experience:
“Our agents on the front line are more than just customer support. Perhaps another, better title might be customer retention expert, or revenue enhancement specialist. Maybe even brand evangelist. A good customer support agent is all of that, and more. They are the face of your brand. They may be the reason the customer comes back and spends more money with you.”
Customer service agents can be the difference between a won or lost sale, and brands are beginning to realize that. 2022 will see more companies putting resources into improving the AX in the knowledge that this will result in improved CX. The attempts to improve AX will largely focus on providing agents with the right tools that help them to do their job well and efficiently. Adrian Swinscoe, best-selling author and experience advisor, explains:
“Imagine how frustrated you would feel if you were keen to do a good job but were not properly equipped to do so. Imagine how you would feel if the company that you work for talks about valuing its customers and its employees but fails to invest in the tools that would help to make both customers and your life easier. Now, ask yourself… are you surprised that agent turnover is so high?”
With every year since 2016 being labelled the ‘year of the bots’, you wouldn’t be alone in ignoring this trend. However, every year, it has come true. Between 2018 and 2020, the adoption of chatbots increased by 67% – and 2022 will be no different. According to Juniper Research, by 2022 chatbots will:
It’s not hard to see why this shift to chatbots has happened – and continues to happen. With the improvements in AI, chatbots can handle up to 80% of all customer inquiries. This immediately empowers teams of all sizes to offer 24/7 support that is fast and accurate at a fraction of the cost required for live agent availability around the clock. By handling more straightforward and simple requests, chatbots also free up agents to tackle more difficult or complex questions – once again improving the overall customer experience.
As well as customer-facing chatbots, agent-facing chatbots will also see increased usage in 2022 as companies look to improve efficiency. Automation tools like Agent Assist monitor inbound messages in real time and suggest the most relevant answers to the agent – who can then pass them along as-is or modify them before replying.
If you’d like to understand how you can work towards any of these three top customer service trends for 2022 and get ahead of your competition, book a demo with us and begin your journey towards digital customer experience excellence!
Comm100 is an all-in-one digital customer service platform that will make your customers and agents smile – book a demo to find out more.Book a demo