Sunday, February 15, 2015

Customer Service Trends - 2015

Thought I’d take a break from the ongoing series of posts on journey mapping to summarize my notes on a timely report I recently came across from trendwatching.com on customer service trends for 2015.  Five key trends are identified in the wider context of the following (my comments, where applicable, appear in parenthesis):

  • Great service is increasingly about customer feelings and emotions.  This includes such things as being recognized, listened to, and cared for
  • Globally in 2014, 66% of customers switched brands or business due to poor customer service (a 4% increase over 2013).  82% of these switchers said the brand could have done something to stop them (My note - this talks to the importance of service recovery - see my previous post and identifying a customer’s future purchase intentions...the subject of a future post)

The Five Customer Service Trends

1. Newism - Customers’ Desire For a Constant Stream of New Products and Services
This trend focuses on products and services that come with a Plan B…that is, access, when needed, to an alternative or back-up which overcomes the limitations of the original.  Plan B mitigates the risk of purchasing a new or unfamiliar brand, product or service.  Some examples of Plan B include…
  • Owners of BMW’s e-Car get access to a gasoline powered vehicle when needed (e.g. taking a long drive that exceeds the e-Car’s charge limit).  This eases the “range anxiety” that’s often associated with driving an electric car
  • Two brands could partner with each other to offer a complimentary alternative.  eBay, for example, collaborates with partner brick and mortar stores to offer delivery at that location as opposed to at the customer’s home
2. Video Valets - Provide Web-Enabled Face-to-Face Interaction Between Customers and Service Agents
Examples of Trend #2 are…
  • The Amazon Kindle has a Mayday Button allowing the customer to immediately connect  via video with a service rep. (My note - this feature has security and privacy implications for both the customer and the service rep, so it may not be appropriate in all settings.  Perhaps best when there’s already an existing relationship between the customer and the company representative, as in, for example, between a client and their doctor or financial advisor)
  • The insurance provider, Esurrance, uses an app and mobile phone camera to allow a policy holder the opportunity to transmit images of vehicle damage from an accident directly to the company’s claim center.

3. Enhanced Physical Delivery…More Than Just Functional
In 2014, US e-commerce sales totalled $1.5 trillion…much of these sales took the form of physical products shipped to a customer.  How can value be added to a delivery?
  • The retailer, Jean Online, takes customer delivery to a new level…upon presenting the package to a customer, the courier waits until the customer has finished trying on the jeans.  If the customer is not fully satisfied with quality or fit, the courier takes the jeans back…no questions asked.

4. Using Customer Information in Their Immediate Context
Thirty-six percent of global consumers are willing to share their current location with retailers via the GPS on their mobile phones.  As a result, customers will increasingly expect use of real-time data to shape and enhance the services they require (My Note - some airlines and their travel partners have taken the lead on this by providing apps that provide real-time information on flight status, directions to the baggage carrousel, and remote hotel and rental car check-in).

5. Politeness
In a relationship of equals, demands can go both ways. And that’s why rising numbers of consumers are willing to let brands demand something of them – a little contribution, effort, even pain – in the name of some broader good. 
The implications for customer service? In 2015, smart brands will realize that it’s often other consumers who have the greatest impact on customer experience – good or bad. So they’ll encourage – or even force – every consumer to do their bit when it comes to creating a positive atmosphere and ensuring processes run smoothly.  Examples of how companies are “incentivizing” politeness as part of the customer experience…
  • 54% of New York consumers say it is rude and inappropriate to text, tweet, email or talk on a cellphone during a restaurant meal.  Consequently, some restaurants reward polite patrons with discounts or complimentary dessert and coffee.
  • In the Philippines, McDonalds and Coca-Cola team-up to encourage diners not to use their cell phones while in the common seating area of the restaurant.

There you have it…some key customer experience trends to watch, and build on, during 2015.