It’s only just 2020, and the customer service experience trends are already starting to impact the industries all around the world. Throughout 2019, we were already seeing a shift in consumer behaviour – moving away from specific products and towards prefered brand and store experiences. This isn’t a new trend, to say the least, but with the changes in technology from the last decade, this new one promises to bring a whole new evolution to the customer service experience trends we’ve already witnessed.

Despite its steady evolution and ready adaptation to the changing demands of society, consumer behaviour, economic and political scenarios, customer service experience trends are the best way to stay ahead of the competition. This is because, at the heart of it all, customer service experiences are the only thing left to really differentiate one business from the competition.

As the trends continue to pop up on the radar, it’s important to stay on top of them. So, here are some key trends that you – and your business – need to keep in mind as we all venture further into this great mostly-yet-unknown era of the 2020s.

1. Self-Service, Self-Help & Automation

The last time I was in IKEA I was nearly overwhelmed by the number of people standing in line at the checkout. Luckily, the self-check out desks work like a dream, making short work of that particular queue. As I was ringing myself out of the store, I realized a few things – we humans really do like to be in control of our own decisions, don’t we? Developments in self-service and self-help technology have come a long way – when was the last time you actually stopped to ask for directions? I suspect many of us are more reliant on Google Maps or other navigator apps. Why? Because it’s easier to be in control of your own settings, isn’t it?

In store, we’re seeing these developments increase exponentially – the least of which are the self-service cashier counters. Self-registration, self-check in at airports; buy-your-own-tickets at cinemas… Pretty much everywhere we look, there is now an automated version of what used to be a human-run system.

Some might argue that the rise of artificial intelligence and automation has taken away the human connection from the customer service experience. Studies show, however, that self-service in particular improves customer satisfaction. It also has the additional benefit of avoiding many pain points for frontline employees. There are plenty of up- and downsides with any new development of technology – which is why many stores still offer staffed check out points for those of us who might not be comfortable to deal with the automated counters. Ideally, any self-service or automated system should be implemented to enhance the customer service experiences already being delivered.

2. Omnichanneling Customer Service Experiences

There’s a lot of ooh-aah and mystery around the term ‘omnichannel’. It’s been around for a while, and will play an even bigger role than before in this new decade. Creating omnichannel customer service experiences involves fully understanding customer touchpoints, expectations, and engagement channels thorughout their customer journey with your company. In short, it’s no longer enough to treat your in-store customers the ‘right way’, you now have to engage with them wherever they are are in touch with your brand – on your social media, on your websites, over the phone, etc.

By understanding how the Internet of Things (IoT) connects you, your company, your employees, and your customers (prospective and current) is vital to fully grasping the delivery of a full omnichannel customer service experience. In this new decade, perhaps more so than in the old, this approach is going to impact your customer loyalty and retention in ways that it never has before.

3. Customer Expectations & Impatience

Following all this talk about omnichannel approaches and automated customer service experience trends, it’s only natural to discuss the changes in customer expectations and – inevitably – their impatience. The IoT has a lot to answer for – improved connectivity, empowering the voiceless, enhancing our global understanding of the world and it’s social movements, but also a few negatie elements: like allowing a generation of humanity to gain instant gratification, particularly when it comes to the purchase of consumables – I’m thinking streaming video and audio in particular. All this new connectivity has added a new element to the customer service experience game: impatience.

Having worked hospitality, I’ve seen both the beauty and the horror of human nature – nothing showcases human nature more clearly than a restaurant or cafe. There is a level of expectation in a restaurant: you expect food to arrive in a reasonable timeframe, to be the right temperature, and to be what it said it was on the menu. That is the social pact between customer and restuarant. As the rise of ‘instant’ everything has taken over the market we run increasingly into establishments expecting quick and speedy responses and deliveries – ‘I want it now.’ We’re less and less inclined to wait for things, and that can mean sacrificing quality for speed.

This impatience, coupled with the expectation of living up to brand promises, can have detrimental effects on any customer service experience if the company doesn’t manage it carefully. People are happier to wait when they are comfortable or entertained, so if you need them to wait a bit, it’s important to keep that in mind when working on your CX strategies.

4. Employee Experience, Training & Satisfaction

Another trend that will have more impact in this decade is the status of your employees. Since we’re taking a lot of things away from them already – all that automation and self-help – it’s important to keep employee training and satisfaction in mind as well. The growing lack of human contact that your customers experience needs to be countered with stellar performance from the employees – when they do get the opportunity to interact with a customer, it must be flawless. Training staff in all the soft skills they need to excel at a customer encounter is the first step towards making sure your customers are happy. As important as that, however, is taking care of your employee satisfaction levels – a happy employee will deliver a happy customer, after all. It makes a big difference when your staff know what they’re doing and are happy to do it.

5. Measuring equals Foresight

Knowing is power. Also, what gets measured gets done. There are plenty of addages, proverbs, and quick quips we can throw around here, but they all come down to one solid truth: if you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t do anything about it.

Measuring your customer service experiences is the key to making sure you know how to improve them and build your customer loyalty. Similarly, if you don’t know what’s ailing your employees – or are wondering why your training isn’t sticking perhaps – then it’s time to take stock and figure out what’s actually going on inside your company, online and off.

Not sure where to start with your measuring? Well, we are a mystery shopping company with serious hands-on experience. Reach out, let’s connect!

Olwen - in purple Olwen has been in marketing for more than 8 years, she‘s been with AQ since 2016. Her passion is for helping people and businesses improve their customer service experience by providing interesting content. Follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.

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