6 Customer Service Trends to Watch in 2022
Improving customer experience - an area that involves everything from the quality of customer service to the products and services as received by the end-user - has always been a huge focus for businesses, and they are set to focus on it more than ever next year as the world begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As customer expectations continue to rapidly evolve just as our world does, businesses will need to rethink their product and service offerings, including the way they deliver customer support, to account for shifting tides in areas like channel digitization and immersive experiences.
With these changes, new customer service trends seem to be emerging, especially since digitization took hold and brought more customers to online channels. While keeping up can feel like and often is a big challenge, it’s essential for meeting customer expectations.
Top customer service trends 2022
To help you get ahead, we have put together the top trends that we think are going to shape customer service and service next year.
1. Remote customer service teams & globalization
The past almost two years have seen monumental shifts. While every aspect of our personal lives experienced great change, the world of work also saw a huge shake-up.
According to a recent survey by Upwork, roughly one in four Americans are working remotely this year. This is a huge increase when compared to 2018 when only around 7 percent of employees had the option to do this. In Europe, 12% are currently working from home compared to around 6% during the last decade. This is having a huge impact on customer service.
As some companies make the switch to fully remote and most adopt a partial or hybrid approach, dynamics are changing in customer service teams. Managers and supervisors therefore need to adapt to create a community feeling while everyone works away from the office.
Managers and indeed organizations shouldn’t fear the move to full-time or hybrid remote working because it carries with it several benefits. These include being able to select the very best talent from all over the world, offer customer service across different time zones and geographies, and save money on renting office space which can be reinvested into the business.
2. Empowered customer service agents
By now you have probably heard of the phenomenon that has been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’ or the ‘Big Quit’ (and if you haven’t, you need to get yourself up to speed).
This is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs from early 2021, around the time that many countries began to ease their COVID restrictions, to the present day. It’s a problem hitting organizations all over the world.
While there are many studies attempting to explore why there has been such a huge increase in resignation activity – in September, there were 4.4 million resignations in the U.S. alone according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – it’s widely thought that a global “awakening” of employees who feel more empowered is the root cause.
Given that customer service has historically been marked by a high turnover rate due to the stress of the job, CS managers should find these figures concerning.
Many employees are citing their former employers’ reluctance to allow them to keep working remotely, at least on a hybrid basis, is a huge contributor; employees no longer want to be in the office for 40 plus hours per week, and they are willing to walk if employers refuse to compromise on this.
In addition to embracing hybrid working and giving customer service agents the independence and flexibility to work in a way that suits them, CS team leaders should give agents better consideration by ensuring that they see meaning in their tasks and day-to-day work activities. This could be achieved by implementing for all agents individual reporting with key metrics, as well as coaching sessions to communicate feedback and provide resources to improve their skills (learning management system, documentation, etc.).
This will help CS agents feel empowered and feel that they’re making a positive contribution to the overall performance of the organization which will keep them engaged and thriving in their position.
3. Customer service digitization and cross-channel communication
There’s no doubt that your organization has already embraced the shift to a part-digital customer service strategy. But this isn’t enough. Digital channels should no longer be treated as add-ons to your existing customer service infrastructure. Instead, your customer service should be digital-first as customers increasingly come to you through a mix of digital channels.
A recent survey by McKinsey found that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digitization of customer interactions by a rate equivalent to three-to-four years in just a few months. This means that organizations must focus their efforts on building better digital customer service interactions.
Digitization shouldn’t just focus on the customer, though. Cross-channel, digital-led customer service should mean that your customer service teams can access the same information through all your channels. So, if a customer contacts you through Facebook Messenger, any details or information shared should be saved to a centralized platform. That way, if the same customer sends an email or makes a phone call, information gathered from these channels will also end up in the same space.
4. Use of new social media channels for customer service delivery
Customers, especially those belonging to the latest generations (i.e., millennials, Gen Z) expect to be able to receive customer support through any channel where your business has a presence.
While phone, email, and Facebook have been the key customer service channels for many years, platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok are playing an increasingly important role in the delivery of customer service.
Any channel where your organization has a presence and enables customers to interact with you through direct messages, comments on posts, or any other method is a channel where you should be deploying customer service agents to monitor for help requests, feedback, and grievances.
When these arise, agents should do their best to provide support through that channel and only redirect customers to an alternative channel where it’s not possible to communicate privately, an example being TikTok where providing bespoke customer support in video comments sections could create privacy problems.
5. Personalization of customer service experience
In the chatbot age and automated boilerplate responses, it’s easy to forget that the customer is a person. That’s why personalization is critical. Organizations should find ways to help customers feel unique, even when they’re speaking to a bot or have a low-level customer service query.
But this isn’t as difficult as you might think. Personalization can be as simple as addressing the customer by their name, remembering their preferences and previous engagements with the company, and providing individualized solutions. Agents should do this fast, though; today’s customers have several alternative options at their fingertips, so if they’re not getting the personalized resolution they want, they will simply look elsewhere.
The challenge for your customer service team is to pinpoint the moment when customers are looking for specific, personalized solutions and quickly provide it. This window of opportunity might only be a few seconds long, so it’s vital that organizations are now doing all they can to make their customer service operations as efficient, data-rich, and high-quality as possible.
6. Adoption of customer service tools to increase productivity
The quality of customer service that customers receive is a core part of their overall experience.
Customer service agents play a big role in this – if customers know they’ll spend a long time waiting, be passed between multiple people, speak to poorly trained advisors who can’t help them with their problem, and be rushed through the process so that the agent can get to the next person in the queue, they’re going to have an overwhelmingly negative experience.
Organizations are therefore adopting more and more tools that can streamline customer service workflows and increase productivity. A recent poll found that 55 percent of companies reported they accelerated their AI strategy in 2020, and 67 percent say that they expect to further accelerate their strategy in 2021 and beyond.
From AI-powered chatbots that augment live chats with natural language processing to centralized customer service dashboards where all agents can access cross-channel customer communication history, these tools help to free up your customer service agents and equip them with everything they need to provide the best support to customers with more high-level queries and problems.
Customer service is changing
As 2022 quickly approaches, organizations should anticipate a lot of changes in how they’ll be approaching customer service and providing the best experiences possible, not only for the customers themselves but their agents, too.
From the trends that we’ve looked at, one thing is clear: Digital is becoming a huge part of customer experience. This means that customer conversations will be taking place over an increasing number of digital channels, from live chat to social media apps.
The real challenge for organizations is finding ways to service customers no matter where they are and ensuring that communication history from every channel will be available to all agents in through centralized systems and customer profiles. This type of omnichannel strategy will enable organizations to provide better and more personalized customer service.