As a business owner, your year-in-review must include some reflection on what your business did well in 2012, as well as what it should do better in 2013. Customer service is an area that you should always work on improving due to the constant introduction and evolution of innovative technologies, like mobile technology and social web usage, and their impact on rising customer expectations. These innovations had a defining impact on customer service trends in 2012 and are likely to continue influencing customer service strategies in the coming year.
The three trends that most shaped the customer service landscape this past year are outlined below for your consideration.
1. Social Media
Social media is continuously changing the rules of the game. Online communities like Facebook, Yelp and Twitter make it easier than ever for people to register their complaints and compliments in a forum that’s accessible to anyone and everyone.
In 2012, business owners viewed social media as an opportunity to control web presence and online image, as well as to address criticism head-on.
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Historically, companies have addressed customer grievances quietly through one-on-one correspondence. But sites like Yelp, fueled by its customer reviews, make it impossible to actively (and sometimes proactively) combat criticism. This trend — the growing imperative for customer service reps to monitor and respond to customers’ public complaints — is one that has truly changed the nature of customer service.
While social media gives the consumer a great deal of power in shaping your reputation, it also gives you a forum to publicly address this criticism and make improvements where appropriate.
2. Mobile Technology
With almost six billion cell phone users in the world today, it’s pretty safe to say that mobile technology is “the new normal.”
In 2012, a top trend in customer service saw countless companies striving to catch up with this transition. It is now standard for larger companies, and increasingly common for smaller companies, to offer customers a mobile application so that most customer service needs can be addressed on the go.
The last year has seen continued refinement of mobile applications that allow customers to create accounts, change account information, place orders, track orders and generally conduct business from anywhere in the world. This has changed the way in which companies receive and respond to customer correspondence. It has also changed the speed at which customers expect their needs to be met. In 2012, companies continually worked to find ways to manage this change.
3. Service Representative Knowledge
As has always been true of customer service, the knowledge possessed by your representatives determines the quality of your customers’ experiences. With social media and mobile technology giving the customer more immediate access — access to both you and your competitors — customers now have higher expectations of your customer service personnel.
In 2012, companies worked to improve the ability of their representatives to solve customer inquiries or grievances as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. The companies that succeeded in improving their customer service results in 2012 did the following:
- Simplified customer service computer databases
- Trained agents to be experts on the latest information about the company, its products, its customer base and most effective paths for resolution of common problems