Customer Service Is Changing in 2019 Salesforce Report Says
July 30, 2019
By: Jason Sterns
I’ve been on a customer service trends kick lately talking about how changing customer expectations affect churn and customer satisfaction with contact centers is down.
In the post, I focus on the ways customer service trends are changing in 2019, drawing highlights from Salesforce’s third annual State of Service report, which gleaned insights from more than 3,500 service leaders and agents worldwide.
The report outlined service organizations’ biggest challenges and priorities, the changing role of customer service agents, the impact of AI on the future of service, and how mobile workers fit into the current landscape.
Fourth Industrial Revolution Driving Service Transformation
The report begins by discussing the impact of what Salesforce calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which it describes as the “fusion of advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.”
Why Salesforce chooses to label it an “industrial” revolution as opposed to a technological one is beyond me, but its point is that the proliferation of technology in everyday life “ups the ante” for companies to meet and exceed customers’ ever-rising standards of engagement.
The report reveals that 80 percent of customer service decision-makers feel emerging technology is transforming customers’ expectations of service, and 82 percent say their company’s customer service must change to stay competitive.
Service transformation viewed as a competitive must
Agents Taking on More Responsibilities
The second area covered in the report addresses the role of agents, seven out of ten who say their jobs are more strategic than they were two years ago. Agents also see their roles as more relational than transactional.
More than half (51 percent) want more challenging work and the opportunity to extend their responsibilities beyond traditional duties. In response, high-performing organizations are investing significant time and dollars into agent training.
Investment in agents correlates with service performance
AI’s Impact Coming Into Focus
Seventy percent of agents believe routine tasks that typically require human interaction should be automated using AI to make room for the more challenging roles they want to take on.
The role of artificial intelligence in customer service isn’t fully in focus —currently, only 24 percent of organization use AI — but in the coming months its growth will be unprecedented and is projected to surge by 143 percent, the report says.
Customer service is poised for an AI revolution
Customer Engagement Going Digital and Cross-channel
The average customer uses ten different channels to communicate with companies, the report says, and customer service teams are in a race to keep up.
While phone and email are still the channels of choice among customers, digital channels are coming into vogue. Sixty-six percent of service professionals say their organizations are seeing “increased case volume” through channels like social media, SMS-based text, and messenger apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Not only that but also the use of voice-activated personal assistants like Siri and Alexa is expected to grow 152 percent.
Service organization that use or plan to use the following channels
Mobile Workers Becoming the Face of Brands
Nearly nine in ten service decision-makers say the experience a customer has with a mobile worker reflects their brand, and Eighty-four percent cite “improved or expanded mobile service offerings and operations” as a priority. Most companies with field operations are making significant investments in their mobile workforce through training or technology.
Service organizations are investing in field service operations
Companies used to view customer service operations as an expense — a necessary evil. With customer expectations changing, that is no longer the case.
Organizations now view it as a driver of revenue and retention. As such, they are making changes to reflect this customer-centric paradigm shift through investment in training, technology, and employee experience.
While tried-and-tried KPIs such as FCR and AHT aren’t going away, they are being tracked alongside newer performance metrics — agent-driven revenue and customer effort are two examples.
The bottom line: Customers expect more from service and the need has never been greater to be mindful of the trends and their effect on your company and to invest in agent training, technology infrastructure, and (if you don’t mind me saying so) contact center outsourcing as a cost-saving measure.
I invite you to download and read the full report. It contains much more information than I have included here. You can also see more highlights in the infographic shown below.