2020 will be a big year for customer service and support transformation.

Things that have been around for a while tend to get stuck with labels and imagery that are hard to change. When I say Xerox, you think copier machine. When I say IBM, you may think of the mainframe computer. When I say Johnson & Johnson, you probably think of baby products. 

Now… when I say Customer Service, you likely think of a crowded, cold, emotionless call center or potentially the call center show called “Outsourced” that aired on Hulu back in 2010 (and which I loved). You may also think of your most recent service experience dining out at a restaurant, buying at a local convenience store or perhaps calling your auto insurance company. 

Customer Service has come to be seen as a dreaded interaction. How much do I tip? How long will it take for someone to answer my call? Is the store clerk watching my every move!? But it doesn’t have to be that way. When delivered appropriately, customer service can create a very delightful experience and lead to loyal customers who will come back for more. 

The proliferation of digital business has greatly shifted expectations in many areas of our lives – namely the ability to buy anything online, find and connect with almost anyone in the world, and order an Uber or Lyft at the push of a button. These new “effortless” online experiences have changed the rules for customer service and how support professionals must perform. 

Internet-born or digital-first companies often no longer have phone numbers for you to reach them – (we’re looking at you, our awesome customer Xero). Think about it – can you call Facebook or Netflix when something isn’t working…not if you’re just a basic consumer like me! 

These new giants of enterprise created online self-help or self-service out of pure necessity. Facebook has 2.4B monthly active users, Apple 588M apple users, Amazon 101M Prime Members, Netflix 158M subscribers, and Google 2B Android platform users! Think about those numbers (which are not all encompassing). How many support agents would be needed to support these massive, global, complex, and ever-changing businesses if they offered a 1-800 number to every type of customer and partner they had?  

As Customer Service and Support organizations think through their agendas for the year, here are 4 predictions & changes we see happening: 

#1 Support teams will “rightsize” online & offline resources.

2020 will be the year that Support organizations recalibrate and assess their online presence and offline performance to catch up to and exceed customer expectations. Customers today expect a seamless and quick digital and physical service experience. The support organization is at the center of providing this through a mix of online and offline tool sets that span having a single (or a few) online support portals, proactive chatbots, dynamic self-servicing and the right mix of inbound engagement channels (email, phone, web ticketing, voice) with the right level of support staff – based on the nature of the business. 

Investing in self-service is now becoming the norm and organizations are spending on making existing systems and sites more intelligent with AI for a more engaging, personalized, and proactive customer experience.

#2 Brand and design consistency will increase in importance for support.

Since self-service is inherently digital, support organizations will have to focus on brand consistency and design to provide a beautiful end user experience. Support sites will be consolidated and simplified so that customers have an easier time finding what they need. Intranet innovations are focused on consistent design and layout which helps with end user adoption. This is an indicator for what can be expected on external websites as well. Having a consistent brand and modern design makes people feel comfortable perusing websites, brings more trust in the information they find and keeps them returning for more. 

#3 Knowledge and Content Management become central focal points.

It can be argued that customers and agents are actually searching for the same information and therefore any knowledge or support portals should be unified for both stakeholders to consolidate the experience. Agents and support staff depend on having access to the right content and knowledge to answer a customer’s request. Customers prefer to find the right answers themselves online as quickly as possible. 

At the center of this customer-agent interaction is content and knowledge management. Support organizations will use the power of AI to curate content for both customers and support staff as well as to identify areas of improvement such as content gaps or keyword improvements to help with customer self-service. However, this depends on having dedicated and quality knowledge managers who can help shepherd the development and access to quality content for key stakeholders. 

#4 Analytics will drive the customer experience. 

Lastly, what gets measured gets improved. Companies and their support organizations will invest in technologies that contain advanced analytics capabilities to achieve three key things – 1) to bring visibility to the company around a customer’s total journey including online and offline touchpoints, 2) to learn where AI can be applied to personalize customer experiences at scale, and 3) to predict a customer’s likelihood to churn over time. 

In summary, Support will continue to rise in importance as a strategic function within the business. Support is still the bridge to the voice of the customer and with the right tools and “experience intelligence” in place, support teams will be able to influence a customer’s sentiment and likelihood to remain loyal. 

Time will tell whether the Customer Service function gets stuck with the call center label and imagery or whether that perception will shift to one of Customer Service as digital experience heros. We are cheering for the latter.