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Customer Service Trends to Watch for in 2018: Our Year-End Recap

With 2018 coming to a close, it’s an appropriate time for year-end reflection. This includes revisiting an article we ran in January, which outlined trends that impact customer service. Let’s take a look and see what’s come to pass.

Adapt To Your Customers

The first trend we foresaw was the need for brands to adapt to their customers’ ever-evolving needs. If the numbers we reported about the growth in mobile usage on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are any indication, that adaptation is well underway. Brands have responded to the emergence of mobile as a vital customer channel by building up their omnichannel experience. With consumers clamoring for the ability to research and purchase goods and services wherever and whenever they want, smart companies are responding quickly to meet that demand. An Invesp report shows that companies utilizing omnichannel strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as opposed to the 39% retention rate for companies behind the omnichannel eight ball.

Deep Dive Into Tech

Predicting a heavy investment in technology was probably a no-brainer, but it has proven true, across many sectors. Even the simple act of buying flowers can involve AI technology; 1-800-Flowers uses IBM’s Watson to help walk site visitors through their options to find the perfect personalized selection. Amazon’s retail shop, Amazon Go, relies on RFID and deep learning algorithms to give consumers what they’ve been clamoring for for years — a simple shopping experience unhindered by checkout lines. Even support software giant Salesforce is utilizing AI technologies to provide automated-but-still-personalized customer support.

You Are Your Brand

Another CS trend on the rise at the start of the year was that of brands representing a cause. Through goodwill gestures or fundraising efforts, companies can show the world at large what matters to them collectively. A recent Edelman Earned Brand study found that 64% of consumers will make a purchasing decision based on a brand’s social or political position. But not all cause-based efforts resonate as desired; hit the wrong nerve with your customer base and you could have an all-hands-on-deck situation for your support team. Nearly three quarters of Millennials and Gen-Z will pay a premium for products and services from companies aligned with their social values. What your company says and does is being closely watched by your customers, and this isn’t going to change.

Transparency Is Key

Finally, brand transparency isn’t just a pipe dream. Companies have gained an understanding that authenticity on their part can result in loyalty from customers. A whopping 93% of food shoppers consider it important that companies offer them the ability to access easily understandable definitions of ingredients in their foods. Consumers in the EU expect fashion brands to provide transparency by offering detailed information about the provenance of their clothing. And to appeal to the important Millennial market, which demands brand authenticity, 90% of consumer marketers recognize the need for brand transparency over the long run. It’s a must-have in a time when the vast majority of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, from customer service to marketing.

When we first presented these predicted trends, we noted how there’s a power shift underway in which consumers take the lead. As the past year has shown, even with companies using bleeding-edge tech to prompt purchasing decisions, it’s still the human element behind the brand — the stories they tell, the people they hire, the causes they support, and the manufacturing and procurement methods they utilize — that matters most.

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Talk Back

Gonzalo Perez
Posted on December 21, 2018

Really interesting post!

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