Every business leader can agree the stakes have never been higher to build trust and maintain customer loyalty. Ninety percent of customers say how a company acts during a crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness. 

Customer service has taken center stage as companies build trust and drive loyalty today and into the future. Now, meeting customer service expectations while balancing distributed workforces and new business models means service professionals need to rewrite their approach to customer service. This includes key strategies to respond to customer needs, ways to help agents adapt to a more strategic role, and ensuring everyone stays safe.

We’ve compiled recommendations, based on insights from over 7,000 service professionals across 33 countries for the fourth edition of the State of Service report, to help write your next chapter on customer service.

In part one of this two-part series, we look at how to exceed expectations and reduce silos.

Note: If you’d like to check out the State of Service findings first before diving in, read the executive summary.


Exceed customer expectations

Besides fast resolutions, customers want more flexibility and an empathetic ear. Here’s how to meet these new customer service expectations.


Be empathetic

Seventy-one percent of consumers say that businesses showing empathy during the pandemic have earned their loyalty. Teach emotional intelligence best practices. Conduct role playing exercises from the side of your customer and your organisation. Encourage agents to use positive language. Instead of saying, “That’s against our policy,” try, “Here’s how we can handle this.”

71% of consumers say that businesses showing empathy during the pandemic have earned their loyalty.”


Turn agents into superheroes

The right digital tools help agents use their time efficiently instead of searching for customer information or details from past interactions. Ensure agents have a 360-degree view on a complete service platform like Service Cloud

Let’s take a phone interaction as an example (customers choose phone calls second to email). Equipping agents with cloud telephony allows them to stay focused on the customer. That’s because calls are automatically transcribed in real time. At the same time, agents can access complete customer information for the context they need to deliver personalised service.

Agents can also engage with customers using messaging apps. In Asia, one of the most popular messaging apps is WhatsApp. Service Cloud enables agents to manage multiple WhatsApp conversations with customers at once, resulting in faster service and better agent productivity.


Offer flexibility

Eighty-three percent of service professionals say they’ve changed policies to provide more flexibility to customers during the pandemic. Agents on high-performing teams — those defined as having high customer satisfaction — are most likely to have clarity, encouragement, and training on how to be flexible with customers.

The key is to regularly communicate new updates. Train agents on new processes by setting up a customised digital learning module. Frequently audit your knowledge base to ensure articles are up to date.

83% of service professionals say they’ve changed policies to provide more flexibility to customers during the pandemic.”


Reduce organisational silos

Sixty-seven percent of customers expect consistent interactions across departments. But 53% say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information.

Here’s how to connect the dots:


Align your teams

Everyone in your organisation affects the customer experience. Bring teams together to rally around the customer. Set shared goals. Encourage ongoing communication and collaboration. (Check out this Customer 360 playbook to help.)


Partner with IT

Customer service has become more connected and more digital. This means partnerships with IT are critical. Eighty-eight percent of service decision makers call IT a strategic partner. Make technology strategy and selection a joint effort with IT.

83% of service professionals say they’ve changed policies to provide more flexibility to customers during the pandemic.”


Get a complete view

Forty-eight percent of agents say they can find what they need on a single screen. 

To ensure they can deliver quality service, agents need access to service history, past interactions, and preferences. Platforms like Salesforce Customer 360 can help. It aggregates data into a single source of truth so everyone gets a complete view of your customers for the personalised support they expect. 

Meralco, the largest private sector electricity distribution utility company in the Philippines, benefitted from having a complete view of customers on one screen. After Meralco moved its sales and service pipeline to Salesforce, its employees no longer needed to navigate through multiple successive screens to help customers. They went from using fifteen screens to just one. This resulted in a five-fold improvement in productivity and cut the time taken to complete a customer service application form by two-thirds.


Use your data

Thirty percent of service decision makers say they have an excellent ability to use data to make strategic business decisions. That’s because it can be difficult to analyse data spread across systems. To combine data, try tools like MuleSoft. Mulesoft provides integration software for connecting data with application programming interfaces (APIs) to give a complete picture of how your service performs.


Start building trust and loyalty today

Customers appreciate when businesses empathise with their challenges and demonstrate flexibility during a crisis. You can uncover what customers want by using a service platform like Service Cloud to get a 360-degree view of your customers. With this understanding, you can then deliver more customised solutions and a higher level of customer service.

Get started by diving into the latest findings from the Salesforce State of Service report

Learn how Service Cloud helps you build trust and loyalty, as well as exceed customer expectations.


Another version of this article originally appeared on the U.S.-version of the Salesforce blog.