Truly, 2020 was the personification of philosopher Plato’s declaration, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Dictionary.com explains the statement: “A need or problem encourages creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem. This saying appears in the dialogue Republic, by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.”
Wow. What a year it was. And, by all accounts, what a year 2021 will be. An article published in the-future-of-commerce.com by contributor Kirsi Tarvainen addresses, “2021 customer service trends: Doubling down, post-pandemic.”
Tarvainen, senior product marketer for SAP Customer Experience, points out that 2020, “put the spotlight on customer service as businesses grappled with an influx of calls from distressed customers as well as wide-ranging disruptions to their operations. Service teams were tested like never before, forced to adapt quickly to new, uncertain situations. As we look ahead to 2021 customer service trends, we can expect organizations to continue ramping up their customer service for a vastly different world.”
Among her five top 2021 customer service trends that build on lessons learned, three topped my list. The first is that change is the only constant. Tarvainen notes that agility to adapt to new situations, better alignment between service teams and other parts of the organization, and a combination of knowledge support and targeted, ad hoc training are needed to make sure customer service specialists are on top of their game.
A second trend is providing service as a sales tool. Tarvainen notes: “…sales also can benefit a lot from a closer alignment with service…organizations are looking to the potential of this alignment to improve customer experience, increase revenue, and reduce cost. Too often, customer service is seen as a separate unit, triggered when something goes wrong and customers complain. This mindset causes businesses to miss out on growth opportunities.”
She adds that good alignment between sales and service helps customer service reps deliver more personalized experiences and can spur increased upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
A third trend is what Tarvainen calls, “Omnichannel customer service 3.0.” She points out, “Today, it takes just a couple of clicks to order basically anything. However, to keep customers coming back, you need to make sure they can easily reach you whenever they need help – through the channels they prefer…This is where self-service options, including chatbots, come into play so customers can get quick answers to easy questions. It’s no wonder that the use of chatbots has taken off; this trend will definitely continue in 2021.”
She also suggests, “But don’t neglect the good old telephone. When customers are uncertain, anxious, and puzzled, they often prefer talking to a real human being and this is where customer service can make a real difference.”
The pandemic triggered customer service invention out of necessity. In 2021, a commitment to ever-improving customer experience will become more prominent and mainstream.
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.Mark Lusky
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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.