While 2020 was a challenging year, customer service changes bolstered by pandemic consequences actually have strengthened positive outcomes. Remote work environments, increased empathy and initiatives implemented to weather the storm have contributed to making and keeping customers happy more consistently. As success stories have spread through social media, mainstream media, word-of-mouth and reviews, companies are adopting measures that have proven successful elsewhere. More companies are discovering what enlightened enterprises have known for years: taking great care of customers benefits both reputation and revenues.
Building on customer service enhancements in 2020, the New Year promises to continue trends established both out of necessity and enlightened thinking.
One major 2020 trend has been improving the efficiency and effectiveness of remote call centers and customer service staffs. Due to the pandemic, most companies established protocols for employees to work from home. While this already existed in many customer service environments to some extent, it grew exponentially because of the need to avoid in-person contact. Along the way, processes and procedures have become more robust and helpful to the customer experience.
Another has been the expansion of empathy by customer service reps toward customers, both by establishing a more caring and substantial bond, and by making customers feel their experiences have become more personalized.
Author Scott Clark weighs in on the status of customer service post-pandemic in an article published in cmswire.com. He states: “Long after the pandemic is over, the customer will still be king. The customers of tomorrow will expect a highly personalized customer service experience (even via a chatbot), a speedy response and resolution to their inquiries, an empathetic human touch, and a positive emotional connection with a brand — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Empathy toward customers is a bigger deal than ever. Notes Clark: “The Edelman Trust Barometer report indicated that 71% of those polled said that if they believe that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. Customers, like everyone else, have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. Although customers understand that brands have also been impacted, they still expect brands to be empathetic to their needs and desires.”
Empathy and personalization go hand in hand. When customers feel experiences are being curated to their specific needs and wants, they are more likely to feel that their customer service rep is showing empathy.
Clark ties personalization to technology: “Customers today expect a highly personalized experience when they interact with a brand, through all of its channels, including customer service, and that’s not likely to change. A report from Epsilon revealed that 80% of customers are more likely to make a purchase when brands provide a personalized experience. The ability to provide personalized customer service across all of a brand’s channels requires the use of technology that unifies all of the data that has been generated throughout the customer journey. Typically this is facilitated through the use of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform or a Customer Data Platform (CDP).”
Pressure on companies to provide exceptional service or lose business is growing, tied in part to increasing reports and reviews about companies that have become known for legendary customer service—including Costco and Amazon.
Clark emphasizes that customer expectations have risen as a result. He cites a Microsoft report noting that 61% of customers have stopped doing business with a company globally because of poor customer service.
Good customer service is on a roll that will continue into the New Year and beyond.
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.