5.1 Customer Service Trends That Are Poised To Blindside Your Business

Author

Micah Solomon, Contributor

March 27, 2015

The  customer service expectations your customers have are different today from what they were just a few years ago. Below are six places that your customer experience has likely fallen out of sync with today’s customers, if your situation is anything like what I’m seeing at the companies for which I offer customer service consulting and speaking.

Check the list and see where you stand.  If you aren’t keeping up, the question becomes how quickly you can get up to speed. This answer can make or break your bottom line and survival prospects.

1. Social consumption is now the norm. “If I don’t have a picture of it on my phone, it didn’t happen”: Lisa Holladay, branding and marketing guru at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, tells me she’s heard this sentiment lately from young customers.  This means that if business isn’t building opportunities for social sharing into the customer experience, you’re missing out on a chance to delight–rather than drive away–your customers. (Ritz-Carlton does this gently with the Shareable Experiences feature in their app and their #RCMemories “Let us stay with you” campaign; for an entirely different and kind of niftily over the top approach to this, you should also check out 1888 in Sydney, aka the “instagram hotel.”)

2. Customers expect to be able to blur the lines between the fun and the mundane: On the one hand, there’s a new expectation that fun, adventure, even ‘danger’ can be incorporated in potentially mundane interactions. Business travel is a great example of this: More and more travelers try to integrate some adventure, some local exploration, into what are ostensibly business trips. Conversely, airlines whose long-haul flights that offer a “quick dine” option so the tray isn’t in the way when passengers are trying to work have their heads screwed on right.

3. 24/7ish Is The New 9 To 5: Customers expect extended hours: hours that you’re open, hours that you provide support.  This may mean 24/7 or as close as you can get. For example: For its advertising clients, Google now not only offers support in 42 languages, it does so nearly around the clock, and offers English language support English-language support 24/5. That’s pretty good, considering we’re talking about B2B, non mission-critical support.

Customers also expect more flexibility and options during traditionally “off” hours. For example, if you’re in foodservice, consider letting customers order from either the dinner or lunch menu in the mid-afternoon, and consider offering a cold sandwich menu available late in the evening after the kitchen has closed but your bar is still open.

4. Customers expect self service–well-designed self service–to be an option: No matter how good your human-delivered customer service, customers expect  self-service options as well. Self-service, which includes everything from web-based e-commerce to IVR (interactive voice response telephone systems) to concierge-like self-help touch-screen menus in public spaces to passengers printing their own boarding passes at home before traveling, is a powerful trend in customer service, and companies that ignore it, pursue it reluctantly, or violate the basic laws of its implementation will be left in the dust.

There are various factors driving the self-service trend: customers’ round-the-clock lifestyle, a buying populace that is increasingly tech savvy, and even in some cases the higher comfort level of socially anxious customers when doing business with machines rather than face to face or even on the phone.

5. “Fast enough” isn’t, anymore:  Do you still have internal company documents with obsolete standards like “We strive to respond to Internet inquiries within 48 hours.  Maybe such a time frame made sense a few years ago (I actually doubt it, but maybe), but today, such a response time is he equivalent of 36 years in Internet time.  Your customer support standard needs to be response within just a few hours; after that, your customer is going to assume that you’re never going to get back to them. An intensified expectation of timeliness also applies to product and services delivery, an area where amazon.com is obviously one of the leaders. Amazon’s example, and the twitchiness that apps and the Internet itself invoke, means that your company’s traditional definition of “fast enough” probably isn’t, anymore.

5.1. Bonus Trend: Customers expect your business to treat employees, the environment, and the community right.  Customers today have much more knowledge available to them of how you treat your employees, the environment, and the community than they did in the past. And they care about what they find out.  Beyond that, just about any HR manager you meet today will confirm what surveys are showing: that employees themselves today care intensely about the social responsibility profile of the companies where they work. So your company’s attitude affects their morale, which affects, yes, the level of customer service employees are able to successfully provide.

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer experience speaker and bestselling business author, most recently of High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service

This article was written by Micah Solomon from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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