What will 2013 look like for customer service?
Will face-to-face customer service disappear as social media takes over everything? Will the ACSI national customer satisfaction benchmark continue its long term positive trend of rising? Will the entire world wring their hands as another horrible customer service fail goes viral?
While the number of potential trends related to customer service is virtually endless — screens are getting smaller, mobile shall rule — I’ve chosen to focus on the 50,000 foot, macro trends that are less actionable tactically but more important for long-term strategic deployment.
We’ve spoken a lot about how oligopolistic firms can get away with poor service. Large banks get away with bad service because switching costs are often too high. Airlines get away with bad service because there are realistically very few options.
This trend will not get any better.
As more market share goes to fewer companies in certain industries, customer service will matter less to these firms. Exceptions will always exist but, sadly, many companies in such industries will not consider a great customer experience a key driver of profitability.
On the flip side, in more competitive industries, I believe we will see customer experience matter more than ever. If you own a local pizza shop or an auto repair company, you better deliver a great customer experience — and fix it fast when you don’t.
Anywhere competition is increasing, a great customer experience and Hero-ClassTM customer service will matter.
Big Data promises to get, well, bigger in 2013. Global data is now growing at 40% per year (pdf). As our social and economic activities leave an exponentially increasing number of digital footprints, large organizations will find immense opportunities to mine data and find ways to reach customers.
People will continue to sacrifice privacy for convenience, and large organizations will be the beneficiaries.
Depending on the industry, small organizations will see one of their historical competitive advantages — customer knowledge — erode, as big data enables big business to know customers better.
While the customization from Big Data can never replace the human touch, it can narrow the gap on one of the few advantages small business has over large business.
Perhaps predicting this trend might come from being wholly enmeshed in the online echo chamber, but it does seem as if the concept of customer experience is gaining more mainstream adoption. Looking at customer service from a holistic experiential standpoint is nothing new; yet, it is still a foreign concept to millions of businesses across the world.
Certainly, more large organizations are beginning to embrace the concept of customer experience optimization; yet, structural impediments (silos) and sheer size can provide a challenge to larger orgs.
Smaller organizations have more control over the total experience than their larger counterparts and, thus, can find competitive advantage by adopting an experiential approach.
I don’t think the online hype around social media will ever really die down; it will just change form. However, I think companies are starting to have a better understanding of the role social media plays in their business models.
Those who thought it was an ROI-less fad are realizing that it cannot be ignored; those who thought it was going to change everything realize that, in most industries, it hasn’t and won’t.
Social media will continue to become increasingly important in the customer service field, as that is where customers can be found. In the end, however, don’t expect call centers to shut their doors any time soon to make way for Facebook centers (though that might make my trend list for 2016!).
So, there we are. 4 customer service trends to watch in 2013. What changes do you think 2013 will bring for the customer service field? Or will it just be more of the same?
And on a personal note…
Thanks to everyone for a great launch year here at Customers That Stick. Have a happy and safe New Year, and we will see you all in 2013!
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.