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A look back over the year reveals trends ahead of 2014

Blog post   •   Dec 23, 2013 14:50 GMT

As 2013 draws to a close, in the midst of preparations for the festive period and looking ahead to 2014, I’d like to reflect on past and current trends in the areas of user support and customer service.

My reflections are based on the personal “reconnaissance” I’ve carried out in order to keep up to date with new developments and to monitor how companies are managing their customer service nowadays.

This is not only a major interest on my part, but also an important element for companies to include in their strategy for customer service within the company. Here’s a list of the support methods that are being used most frequently at the moment.

1.  Proactive support

Proactive support can take different forms:

  • Working with the customer to develop products and services.
  • Using various analytical tools to find out about the customer’s experience on the basis of the customer delivery.
  • Listening to what the customer thinks and wants with the aid of various social media.

Proactive support is not about “fire-fighting”, but rather about building up good relations with the customer, such as engaging with the customer by combining service and support for shared learning.

This results in the customer experiencing a strong delivery, with an increased understanding of the customer’s environment, reality and situation.

Providing proactive support, and thus preventing customers’ problems before they actually become a problem, shows that you support your customers and your support team in an engaged way.

2.  Self Service

Statistics from an online seminar held in the early autumn revealed that almost 91% of all business users will have a knowledge database for self service during 2014. But there’s a catch: the knowledge database needs to be set up so that it’s usable from a customer perspective. Users nowadays are becoming increasingly comfortable with using technology – especially mobile technology – to find what they’re looking for. Even though many companies are glad to see their users increasingly using email instead of phoning when they have a question, this step is still a long way short of what the customer wants.

The increased trend in mobile technology will continue in 2014, with the development of apps being a driving force in this. This needs to be recognised by companies today if they are really to show an interest in engagement for interacting with their customers (end users).

The knowledge database helps you to collude with your customers, putting your company in the spotlight. You get to learn more about who your customers are, which provides a better insight into how to improve support to the customer via service and support.

Introducing a knowledge database requires there to be a strategy, a plan for how it is used. Why not let Self Service be the driving force in this strategy?

3.  Product and Service Development

“Voice of the Customer” is a method used to analyse what customers experience, think and feel. The market now offers a number of different programs for support, and these are common among customers that have chosen to target proximity and engagement with their customers. Your customers are the best source of product and service development.

Creating proximity between operational teams, development teams and customer support produces a deep relationship that contributes to making it possible to pick up on and realise customer requirements more quickly. More and more customers are starting to look for values that contribute to greater flexibility and receptiveness from their suppliers and partners. Customer support’s channel to the customer is one of the strongest assets for product and service development.

Other trends that I’m following are Consumers/User Case Studies/Multichannel Support, as these are linked together with the strategy for communication with customers. In this case I cannot discern any notable overall plan for internal customer service or external (outward-facing) customer service. Each channel has various benefits and limitations, and it’s important to understand and manage them as an element of the overall customer service strategy.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to capture all of the trends seen in 2013 for customer service just here.

But these three areas are my favourites from the past year, and I’m fairly sure that  they will stay around at least well into 2014. What do you think? Feel free to share your opinions or get in touch with me if you are interested in finding our more about each area.

Jannica Wahlund, @jancankonsult.com, www.jancan-konsult.com

Related links:

Blog – Is Self Service good or bad for me as a customer or employee, or for my company?
White paper – Seven steps for success with Zero Level Support
Blog – What governs our behaviour and how does this affect our ability to deliver support?”
Blog – A network is not only a technical solution
Why web-based self service?