The trouble with the future is that is usually arrives before we’re ready for it. ~ Arnold H. Glasow

As we look ahead as to what will affect and perhaps reroute our customer service priorities in 2014, it’s interesting (and perhaps a little lamentable) to observe the increasing connection of consumers with more and more devices, alongside the disconnection from face-to-face or voice-to-voice human interaction.

Look at a group of teens (your future customers) or young adults these days having dinner or meeting together, and most likely you’ll see them paying attention to their smartphones or wearable technology instead of looking at or speaking to one another. Yet that’s where we are. That’s where we’re increasingly headed. So from a screen, how do we make and keep a human connection?

Here are six customer service trends that every brand and organization should be adapting to or leading the charge on in 2014 that can assist in the acquisition, support and retention of the more connected, yet disconnected, customer:

1. Social Customer Service Gets Put in Its Place. For several years now, social CRM and social customer service have been much talked about trends to watch, and in 2014 they still are, just not in the same way as before. The trend is now not who’s doing it (because everyone should be), but who’s doing it well and is integrating it with their other channels, as social media takes its place among the traditional customer service lineup of email, phone, etc.

2. Brands Stop Talking About Big Data and Begin Acting on It. As the Big Data blitzkrieg intensifies, service organizations find themselves under pressure on several fronts, both technological and personnel-related. They will need to address these tangential issues so they can meet the ultimate Big Data challenge — leveraging the little data that comes from every direction to create a personalized customer experience. Which brings us to trend three….

3. Data Scientists Become Desirable. With 90% of all the data existing in the world having been generated over the last two years, it’s the management and use of it that will become the differentiator for brands looking to make a memorable and impressive connection with customers. And let’s face it, this will take a dedicated and knowledgeable effort by at least an individual if not a team. Rear-view analytics for customer service improvement are one thing; but predictive analytics to enhance the customer experience is the next immediate step – and time and data wait for no one.

“If service organizations take the same approach to Big Data that they initially took to social media — looking for that silver bullet — they’ll be even worse off than when they mishandled social efforts,” says Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials. “They’re not going to have nearly the amount time to get it right that they did with social.”

4. The Future of the Internet of Things Presents Itself. What was once the reality in sci-fi movies is now all our realities. From Google glass to fitness, appliance and automobile monitors, a study by Cisco shows that there will be more than 10 billion Internet-connected objects by the end of 2013. By 2020 the prediction is 50 billion, and that’s just the tip of the IoT iceberg, representing just 2.7% of the objects that could potentially be connected. Cisco estimates that there will be a total of 1.8 trillion connected and unconnected objects generating data by 2020. Data, knowledge, service and support will soon need to be delivered and managed everywhere.

5. People Still Make All the Difference. Technology has been customer service’s great enabler, allowing even small teams to support large groups of B2B or B2C customers across a growing number of channels. Still, with all the technology available on both the agent and the customer side, sometimes it’s the simplest human touch – a polite demeanor, some words of empathy, a handwritten note, or exceptional service effort – that is the thing that resonates with a customer and keeps them loyal to a brand. While customer engagement center technology continues to evolve, the importance of the individual making use of it and sometimes going above and beyond it will make all the difference.

6. The Cloud Brings Sky’s the Limit Options. The cloud, so suspect when new, is increasingly the place that organizations want their technologies to reside – particularly customer-facing technologies like customer service and CRM. Not so long ago, cloud-based CRM applications represented a small segment of the overall CRM market. Fast-forward a few years: In Gartner’s 2013 CRM Applications Report, software-as-a-service offerings accounted for almost 40% of total software revenues from CRM spend in 2012.

For many organizations, today’s cloud-based platforms can serve their needs for years to come, scaling as they grow. And if a third-party application is identified to address a trend or specific need, cloud-based technology users can usually rest easy in knowing it can be integrated into their arsenal. The cloud is creating sky’s the limit opportunities.

New Parature Whitepaper Details 2014 Customer Service Trends

Consumer preferences and expectations are changing and growing just as quickly as advancements in technology, encouraging (if not demanding) that brands embrace a strategy of non-stop adaptation to the next generation and the next big thing.

Parature’s new whitepaper, Customer Service: 6 Take-Note Trends for 2014, explores the trends highlighted above, as well as others to keep an eye on. The white paper features a wealth of new statistics and key insights from business leaders and well-known CRM analysts including Brian Vellmure and Brent Leary.

Click Here to Download This Intriguing
2014 White Paper from Parature