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The top customer service trends and how they’re shifting in 2024

Customer service trends

Every company wants to please its customers. The challenge? Just when it seems like you have your customers figured out, their expectations turn on a dime.

These shifts aren’t always easy to track, either. It can take months or even years to notice a major shift in customer sentiment. All the while, you just want to do the right thing for your customers.

But the definition of “right” by customer expectations can get a little murky.

Even keeping up with trends can create some issues. After all, 50% of customers will switch brands after just one bad experience. To keep your customer service up to par, your team has to work hard. 

That can lead to stretched-out staffing. And don’t be surprised if customer service reps start to feel burned out.

Making matters worse, 40% of companies in the US report internal collaboration is the main challenge to a strong customer journey. 

The strain may only get more difficult as your business gets more customers. McKinsey reported last year 58% of care leaders expect call volumes to increase even further over the next 18 months.

So how can businesses provide seamless experiences when customer trends move so quickly? How do you meet sky-high expectations when workforces feel more stretched than ever?

In a word: timing.

That includes being responsive to trends in customer expectations. And it never hurts to quicken your response time. Done right, you can satisfy your customers without feeling like you’re forcing employees to work longer hours. 

In this guide, we’ll look at the emerging customer service trends. We’ll also address how to adapt to these trends without losing touch with a great customer experience.

Trend 1: Higher expectations across the board

Call this the global trend. Higher expectations are the overarching trend that turns the volume up on all the other preferences. 

Why the high expectations? For starters, customers are hip to the technology. They know companies can employ bots, AI, and machine learning tools to simulate a good customer experience.

Another reason: the phenomenon of “expectation transfer,” as TechCrunch calls it. When one business uses AI effectively, it raises the bar for all businesses. 

When a customer feels delighted by one business’s customer service, that experience becomes their new gold standard. When other companies don’t live up to the same standards, it’s a disappointment.

Now, more than 60% of customers say they’ve raised the bar on their customer service standards. 

That may even be under-selling it. The Intercom Customer Service Trends Report for 2023 reviewed things from the other angle: the perspective of customer support teams. And they say — to the tune of 83% — that expectations have gone up.

How so? For one, customers don’t like to have to repeat their queries. That’s an increasing frustration of the digital age. 

For example: If after an initial interaction with a support team member, a second support team member hops in and asks the customer to repeat the initial query (essentially restarting the interaction), that customer may get a “hamster wheel” feeling — and may feel like their time isn’t being respected.

This frustration with repeating their queries can be a dealbreaker. 92% of global and 88% of US consumers say they’ll spend more time with companies when they don’t have to repeat themselves.

By the time a customer finally speaks to a human rep, customers may even feel like it’s the third time. Before reaching out to customer support, many customers troubleshoot their queries online. Oracle reports 69% of customers have tried this to some degree before they even reach out to customer service. 

Machine assistance has something to do with this frustration as well. Customers know customer service teams have computers. They expect those computers to keep you in the loop.

Studies show 73% of consumers also expect companies to understand their specific needs. That number may only increase as AI improves and customer service grows more sophisticated.

On the backend, there are a few ways for customer service teams to improve customization without advanced AI:

  • Contact notes are helpful. A customer service representative should track specific customer preferences by placing a note in that customer’s profile. Any time a new customer service rep serves that customer, that customer note can add new notes.
  • Custom properties can organize customers by large groups, if not individuals. This helps you classify customers by specific preferences, adding a degree of personalization that may feel more specific than it really is. For example, a simple custom property like “So-and-so prefers early morning meetings” can work. It’s often enough of a personal detail to impress a customer.
  • Automated customer service workflows that automatically push interactions that occur across different support channels to your CRM so your team has a single source of truth. 

As the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. From the customer’s perspective, that means AI and machine learning technology will improve the speed and efficiency of customer service. 

From your perspective, it means a higher bar for personalization and responsiveness.

Trend 2: Technology is driving different customer service experiences

Given all the hubbub about AI this year, it’s easy to forget there are other types of technology that shape the average customer experience. And these platforms can completely shift the way the customer journey works. Let’s take a look at a few:

Support over text

Customers still love service on their terms. And increasingly, “on their terms” translates to the smartphone. 

That trend’s been building for a while now — with SMS customer service volume increasing by 28% in 2021, according to Zendesk’s CX Trends Report

Even in our personal lives, we often prefer getting a text instead of a phone call. A text is less intrusive and demands less of our time. Even better, we can delay our responses while we deal with something more pertinent.

In customer support, many of these principles still hold true. And there’s an advantage here for customer service providers: text is cheap. An operator could potentially handle multiple text conversations at the same time, extending their reach.

Perhaps that’s why an old Forrester study showed that customer service calls typically cost $16, while text exchanges only cost $1 to $5. And customer service via text has only gotten more efficient since that study.

Smarter self-service

The conventional approach in customer service is to please customers by being polite, personable, and responsive. 

But contrary to popular belief, that’s not always what customers are after.

Customers want to feel valued, sure. But they also want answers. If self-service is the fastest way to get to those answers, customers are perfectly happy to do the work themselves.

Self-service has another advantage built-in: it works 24/7, appeasing that 69% of customers who want to work on their problem before they feel like they have to reach out. 

And remember: some customers prefer to troubleshoot a problem and go about the rest of their day. In some cases, reaching out to customer service feels like an admission of defeat.

That isn’t to say every self-service option has to be low-tech. Customers would probably not prefer to read a long, stuffy user manual. 

Instead, chatbots and AI voice greetings can direct customers to the right answers. According to Oracle, 87% of firms using voice assistant and chatbot technology will get significant business value from it within one year.

Personalization is the new expectation

Personalization is an obvious side effect of “expectation transfer.” The more technology makes personalized experiences possible, the more customers will expect it. 

This means they could be more frustrated the more they have to enter a customer ID or state their name. It may help your backend for them to do so, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it.

It’s especially truer for the younger generations. According to Oracle, 79% of Gen Z and millennials rate personalized CS experiences as important. 

Again, that speaks to the concept of the “expectation transfer.” The exact generations who are used to personalization are the ones who believe it’s critical for a good experience. As those generations age, those expectations will only go up.

Trend 3: The expansion of AI and automation

AI is becoming so prevalent 85% of customer service interactions now begin with a chatbot of some sort. And 80% of marketers say they use chatbots to some degree. That may sound like nothing new — after all, chatbots have been everywhere for a while. 

But AI is also creating something of a cascade effect: with more adoption comes higher expectations. And there is more adoption. Around 90% of businesses have some sort of investment in AI. 

Even so, as you know, the quality of that AI still counts.

This doesn’t mean you have to turn around and invest all of your AI efforts in customer-facing solutions. If the AI isn’t ready yet, this can just lead to frustration on the part of your customers. 

60% of respondents in one survey said they’d be happy to wait a little while longer if it means speaking to a human on the other end of that wait.

The solution: expanding the use of AI to augment your team’s active tasks and self-service options.

For example, you can use any of these ChatGPT prompts to help you develop better responses to incoming messages:

  • Take the drafted response below and make it more friendly, but keep it to no more than three sentences. 
  • Create a concise, but empathetic response via an SMS text message asking a customer to reply back with the steps to replicate the issue a customer is reporting.
  • Compose a friendly, short message our team can send after closing a customer service ticket that asks for them to reply with feedback.

If you use OpenPhone, you can then save any of these messages as snippets you can easily send again later. 

Zendesk statistic showing the trend that shows the majority of customer service teams pland to expand their use of AI or bots.
Source: Zendesk

Implementing AI isn’t as simple as deploying the new technology and letting it take over. It’s also about using AI strategically, supplementing the work your team is already doing. 

If your staff is overworked and feeling strained, AI can help provide a seamless experience on the backend without adding much cost to your bottom line.

Consider what AI can do on the backend:

  • Tracking conversations in real-time
  • Providing feedback to agents as they talk to customers
  • Using intelligence to monitor customer language and speech patterns to predict future needs

You can use AI to invest in the quality of your customer service without unleashing an army of unhelpful chatbots.

AI can take call transcriptions as examples of winning conversations your customer service reps have had in the past. You can use this for employee training, often with little manual work required.

You can automatically get transcripts based on calls recorded in OpenPhone that include timestamps and speakers so you can easily retrieve information. Plus, AI-generated call summaries and action items for faster follow up after any call.  

Trend 4: Breaking down silos

Today’s tech means reducing silos between information your team needs isn’t only possible, but may work so well that customers notice it when you do it well. 

For a customer on the phone with a company, every new transfer to a new department feels like a new interaction. Customers are more aware of this than you might think. 86% of survey respondents believe collaboration across departments is “very important to successful customer service.”

In essence, customers can see your silo problems better than you can. Here are some ways you can break down those silo problems:

  • Reduce call transfer rates. For starters, calculate your call transfer rate (total number of transfers divided by total calls, multiplied by 100). Once you know this, use that number to identify key points of frustration in your customer journey.
  • Transcripts can help reinforce what winning calls sound like, which can help avoid unnecessary transfers in the first place. 
  • Expanding your internal knowledge base can help customer service representatives pull answers that have worked in other departments, reducing the need for transfers.

Of course, it helps to have the systems in place to break down those silos effectively. With OpenPhone, that might be:

  • Threads to loop in teammates and colleagues so everyone can read the full context of a conversation
  • Snippets that you can share across your team to save time and respond to common questions
  • Integrations that help various departments stay on the same page (like Slack, for example, which allows you to bring missed calls, voicemails, and text messages directly into a Slack channel to help your team stay on top of external conversations)

Embracing trends in customer service improves your team

You don’t have to fear trends in customer service. Yes, higher expectations can be intimidating. But they also force you to find new, innovative ways to help your team deliver better support. 

Leaning on AI doesn’t have to make your team sound artificial — instead, you can use it to help you craft responses to customers. Or you can use AI to handle manual tasks like summarizing calls and providing notes that increase your level of personalization.

Want to take more steps to delight customers who are part of these trends? Read all about how to delight customers to meet and exceed their growing expectations.

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