It seems almost cliché but here it is: customer expectations for service are getting higher (and will be even higher in 2022). Craig Stoss shares three ways to meet customer demands without losing your mind (or your team).
The past two years have seen an unprecedented change in how we work, consume, and interact. These changes have in turn altered expectations around how we want to be served in each of these interactions. There's a greater expectation that our web pages, applications, and services are more easily accessible online or remotely and our services are more contextual. In short, customers are demanding that we provide them lower effort, higher touch and more empathetic experiences.
To understand how these changes translated into customer support, Partnerhero surveyed our partners to see what projects were most important to their businesses going into 2022. Overwhelmingly, the responses were on more customer-focused initiatives. In 2022, more than ever, customer experience, low customer effort, and high customer satisfaction are going to be a required investment for your business.
By far, the most significant trend was to improve customer satisfaction (CSAT). Customer satisfaction is a byproduct of so many things that it is likely to be on every annual list. But specifically, right now we live in a world where automation and detailed analytics can greatly improve the customer experience. From our survey, we predict that over the course of 2022 you're going to see chatbots, automated assistance, more intelligent Voice of Customer (VoC) feedback programs, and better ticket quality assurance (QA) as integral differentiators for your customer support team.
Chatbots aren't particularly new to support but what is different is that there are now better technologies that can parse natural language faster and more accurately. What this allows you to do is more easily distribute, categorize, and even respond to customer inquiries, as well as highlight better context for your in-person agents to provide a higher quality of service.
The increase in SaaS software and app usage makes it simpler for companies to collect and integrate data from multiple systems and then tie it into useful context inside your ticket management tool or into your product itself. In 2022, you should begin programs to understand where your customers get stuck, which of those situations is repeatable, and use automation technology to either resolve the issue or provide real-time solutions. Great examples might be streamlining common requests through a chatbot tool, like refund or cancellation requests, password resets, and other common, first-contact-close issues. Automation can lower customer effort while providing high-quality service.
Automation can lower customer effort while providing high-quality service.
Another important part of this trend is to remove friction with chatbots and automation but not at the expense of reducing agents. There will always need to be a human touch. Hiding your people behind technology can significantly worsen the experience. Rarely do people enjoy long phone IVR messages or having to fill out complex forms to reach a human being. Chatbots are a great way to start a conversation, but should always be connected to a human at the other end.
Listening to customer concerns has always been part of business, but it's never been a process that routinely had a feedback loop. Now with many of our interactions being conducted through email, online channels, apps, and social media there is a more visible component to feedback. Feedback collection has never been easier because there are many new tools that allow you to collect, collate, search, and segment the data to more deeply understand the customers’ requirements. Having feedback in categorizable, readable formats can quite literally shape decisions to improve customer experience and your product. But only if you choose to take action.
Having feedback in categorizable, readable formats can quite literally shape decisions to improve customer experience and your product. But only if you choose to take action.
Taking action on feedback means closing the loop from the point it was given, to the actions the customer can expect to be taken, through to the resolution or outcome. Keep in mind that, depending on the medium, your responses might be publicly visible, meaning that aligning your customer voice strategy with the organization's mission and values is also important. Voice of Customer programs are an important method of showing you care about your customers’ feedback and that you want to do everything you can to drive value for them. Too often companies focus on the shiny new things when existing customers just want the tarnished, tried-and-true things to get some love. VoC can help you break out of that cycle to improve your products and services directly in line with the needs of your customers.
Ticket Quality Assurance programs validate that your tickets are handled to a consistent, high-quality standard. That means both the mechanics of working on and documenting a ticket as well as the brand tone and customer-facing aspects. QA programs are no longer a series of checkboxes of “yes the field is filled” or “no the problem was not solved”. They are a robust analysis that needs to come with a coaching training and longer-term trending.
The trend in 2022 will be to create, or revisit, ticket QA programs to ensure they are meeting your customers' high standards. The partners we surveyed expressed the need to ensure quality communications, understand customer edge cases to improve knowledge sharing, and reduce touches on tickets. Each of these can be accomplished through strong QA practices conducted by team leads or subject matter experts who take on coaching, training, and reporting tasks consistently and share their insights regularly. As part of continual improvement, coaching topics should include:
All of these topics will help your team provide consistent, high-care support and deliver a positive customer experience every time.
Each of these trends are a result of customers asking for simplified, more intelligent communications, and a known, consistent experience. Our partners have a lot going on in their business across multiple industries, but the trend is clear: Customer experience is critical to effective growth strategies. As we move into 2022, we recommend giving renewed attention to your customer-facing processes and the teams that provide them.
Customer experience is critical to effective growth strategies.
Adding technology to your in-person team will help streamline your support operations, simplifying the customer experience and reducing the volume of repeated tickets for your support team. Voice of Customer feedback will help you shape the processes and products in a way that illustrates your commitment to delivering customer value. And, continually validating the quality of tickets through a robust QA rubric will ensure that the experience stays consistent. Together this will make your support faster, smarter and more effortless to meet the customer demands for 2022.