As global connectivity spreads, expectations for businesses are increasing. Given the growing prevalence of review sites and customers’ ability to share their feelings about companies, a greater focus on customer service is key for success. To that end, here are our five predictions about where customer service best practices are heading!

1. A self-service world

If grocery stores- hardly known for being at the cutting edge of technology- can do it, anyone can. 60% of consumers surveyed look at a company’s website to find answers before any other form of support, so companies are beginning to implement new solutions such as cloud-based portal sites that combine knowledge bases and community forums. Customers can find the information they need by themselves, and customer service representatives have more time to devote to the problems they can’t fix alone: everyone wins!

Customer Self-Service

Furthermore, now that we live in the age of mobile, more and more companies will be creating mobile apps, or at the very least mobile-optimizing their sites. Based on a survey from IntelliResponse, 60 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds agreed with the statement, “If I had a customer service question, I would rather use a mobile app or web browser on my smartphone than call a contact center for an answer”. As the Millennial generation continues to gain purchasing power, it’s important to give them what they want in order to ensure continued market competitiveness.

2. Real-time responses

In customer service, efficiency is key; 82% of consumers say that having their issues resolved quickly is the most important factor for great customer service. This ties in with the increasing power of big data and connected devices, which can help both customers and businesses react more quickly. Customers are beginning to have access to real-time data that will help them make purchase decisions, a process that’s only improving with the growth of the Internet of Things. Research by Postscapes and Harbor Research indicates that nearly 2 billion connected devices were shipped in 2014, and this number is predicted to grow to 8 billion by 2020. This means that both consumers and companies will have access to a wealth of information, and can learn more about each other to make better decisions. For example, if a connected device breaks down, the company could immediately be alerted to the problem and begin to resolve it… maybe even before the customer notices!

3. Instantaneous replies

We’ve all experienced long holds and companies that say they’ll come at a certain time, only to wait for hours without seeing a trace of them. However, social media is changing that. According to a study by Edison Media, two-thirds of customers now expect to receive service in less than a day via social media… so why not give it to them? A great example of this is DAVIDsTEA, a Canadian tea company, who provides rapid-fire Twitter service and friendly, communicative replies to customer queries. Live chat will also become more common as a service channel, with more companies implementing apps and CRM systems that enable instantaneous communication or introducing texting into their customer service routines.

4. Customers helping customers

Customers know what they want, and they know what tricks can help them succeed. That’s why tools such as knowledge bases and community forums are so helpful; if one customer has the same problem as another, they can post questions or reply to help each other out.

 Customers Helping Customers

Reaching out to customer influencers can also serve as an effective customer service program- without having to pay a penny. A good example of this is HootSuite’s HootSuite Ambassador program, which uses highly engaged customers to spread the word about its software and offers perks such as free access to its paid programs in exchange. Programs like this show potential customers that other customers are so dedicated to the product that they’re willing to spend time talking about it, and that they’ll probably have a good experience too!

5. Listening above all

Customers are the foundation of your success- simple, right? You might have the best product ever, but if you aren’t listening to their needs, you’re doomed to fail. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to customer service; it’s important to listen to your particular customer base to know which solutions work best for them. For example, online giant Amazon gets its managers to attend two days of call centre training in order to encourage empathy for the customer at all levels. This plays into their overall mantra of word-of-mouth success. Companies can also listen to their customers by implementing ways for them to share ideas for product releases, and take these into account when developing the latest version.

All of these trends work together to form the best experience possible for your customers. For example, using self-service tools so that customers can find the information they need encourages customers to help each other. Does your customer service approach keep any of these trends in mind?