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The Future of Customer Service is Personalized and Connected — Plan Your Strategy for 2023 and Beyond

Animated customer service worker wearing a green tie, inside a computer / future of customer service
The customer experience should be the biggest guiding principle when it comes to success in your service organization. [rlt_images / Getty]

As customer expectations have evolved, service organizations need to rise to meet this challenge.

The future of customer service starts with learning what customers expect today: a consistent and empathetic connected experience.

The catch? Challenging economic conditions mean that organizations should focus on cost efficiency and service productivity. Balancing this with evolving customer expectations makes issues like data silos and disconnected service channels more urgent to solve quickly. 

The 5th edition of the State of Service is Salesforce’s largest service study to date — a deep dive into trends that service organizations must consider when building their customer service strategies. 

We surveyed more than 8,000 service professionals across 36 countries at every level of service, from the chief customer officer to the customer service agent to the frontline service worker.

Cut costs while improving service

How are service organizations rising to meet the challenge of increased customer expectations? Our newest and biggest State of Service report sheds light on how service leaders are driving success now.

One thing rings true: Digital transformation is helping service organizations deliver success now with personalized and empathetic interactions with their customers. 

Improving your customer service to gain a more complete view of the customer journey can help you save time and money by eliminating costly, inefficient processes. With a streamlined approach, your agents can focus their valuable time on delivering better service.

Here are three things you need to know when building your 2023 service plans. 

1. Driving value for customers is the future of customer service

Improved customer service is by far your best asset for the future. For many people, customer service is the make-or-break factor when it comes to continuing a relationship with your company. 

It all starts with service. From each facet of your organization, every experience a customer has with your company is critical for your business. You have to deliver exceptional experiences for customers all while your operations are efficient, with cost savings in mind.

48% of customers have switched brands for better customer service, and 94% say good customer service makes them more likely to make another purchase.

State of the Connected Customer Report, May 2022

We’ve all heard the buzz around economic unpredictability — which results in the need for more efficiency and cost savings. At the same time, 60% of service professionals say customer expectations have increased since before the pandemic. 

With these high priorities to balance, it would make sense to familiarize yourself with what customers really want. We found that 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, yet 56% say most companies treat them like numbers.

Salesforce dug deep to find out what they’re looking for and how we can accommodate them for a better future of customer service. We found that 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately upon contact, and 83% expect to resolve complex problems through one person. 

Customers don’t want lengthy qualifying questions without human correspondence — they want to be connected and recognized as more than just numbers. 

Statista research shows that 86% of responding consumers stated that it’s important or very important to them that they can contact a real person when communicating with a business. Customers expect self-service tools for simple concerns, but when they have complex questions, they need empathetic assistance and expect both speed and quality.

The takeaway: Get your customers on the right service channels to get real answers. Your bottom line will thank you for it. 

2. Better customer service can save your company money

In an uncertain economic climate, cost savings becomes a priority for just about everyone. With this comes the need for efficiency. It’s a beautiful thing for contact center agents to be able to remediate tasks and streamline processes with automation. But what is the true impact of automation? 

Partnering with IT is one way service organizations can automate routine processes, and the data show it’s a good strategy. In fact, 77% of decision-makers who partner with IT say it helps the organization save on software costs, and 79% say it results in faster time to market for new tech solutions.

Process automation is now a staple of nearly 60% of service organizations, and leading companies are seeing the benefits. 

Yet, the number of service organizations partnering with IT to get automation in place has declined. Our research shows that 37% of organizations say IT is the sole decision maker, up from 25% in 2020. There’s a big opportunity for service organizations to unlock value using automation — as a team.

98% of service organizations who use automation report time-saving benefits — but only 58% of service organizations are using automation.

State of Service Report, Fifth Edition

Research shows that automation not only saves time for contact center agents but also connects them to other departments for more streamlined workflows. Automation removes siloed information from teams, making sure everyone involved is working from the same data—and it gives customers a better experience. 

The metrics that service organizations are tracking also tell a story. More organizations are tracking cost per contact, first contact resolution, customer effort, and case deflection than ever before.

The takeaway: When it comes to cost savings, having the right tools, connecting with other teams, and getting the right automation in place for your entire organization are key. This will help not just your IT team, but your organization as a whole and ultimately your customers.

3. Customers want to be connected every step of the way

Customers want to have a seamless connected experience, across any channel. This starts with your contact center. It’s safe to say that the more connected the contact center agents are to their organizational departments, the more connected the customer is. 

For example, if a contact center agent has a complex case come through, the more information they have on the issue, the more likely they are to resolve it faster. When agents have timely, relevant data easily accessible, they can respond with knowledge and empathy. 

Our report found that agents in high-performing service organizations are significantly more likely than their peers to have a complete understanding of customer needs (73%) and to treat customers with empathy (69%).

So what does a truly connected service journey look like for your customers? Service leaders report that customers are looking more towards digital channels, self-service, and yes, the phone to get connected. 

The takeaway: Customers expect that both their contact center agent and their teams have all the information. They want the representative they’re speaking with to have the ability to handle things themselves, or quickly get in touch with someone who can. 

The future of customer service as we know it 

As you build plans for 2023 and beyond, keep the customer journey in focus. The customer experience should be the biggest guiding principle when it comes to success in your service organization. 

Additionally, your support team wants efficiency in their work, productive tools, and career development. Investing in your team and your tools means cost savings for your organization. 

Also, be on the lookout for new service roles as the industry grows. Organizations show the rise of a new role responsible for customer loyalty and happiness: the chief customer officer. 

While the tools and roles may change along with the future of customer service, your mission remains the same: to be there for your customers.

Tap into today’s trends

Our 5th State of Service report has all you need to stay current on how service organizations are overcoming challenges and delivering success now.

Brenda Bown CMO, Service Cloud

Brenda Bown is the CMO of Service Cloud and the CMO of the Communications, Media, & Technology industries at Salesforce, where she leads teams focused on messaging, go-to-market strategy, campaigns and experiences. She has over 25 years of Marketing experience in global companies.

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