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Service

Research Reveals New Customer Service Standards — Here’s What To Do About It

3,500 global consumers share their insights for U.S. service organizations.

Just a few months ago, customers may have reached out to your service team for a quick question or to solve a problem with an order. Now, they not only seek fast answers, but an empathic ear, flexible options, and proactive service.

Salesforce has kept a finger on the pulse of changing customer expectations throughout the pandemic by surveying 3,500 worldwide consumers, every two weeks. Based on findings from American respondents, this article reveals what U.S. service organizations can do to meet new customer standards.

30% of Americans seek customer service advice now as compared to pre-COVID

Optimize channels based on how customers seek information

Thirty percent of Americans now contact customer service more than they have in the past. Millennials have ramped up interactions the most (46%) compared to Gen-Zers (42%) and baby boomers (11%).

Order in which cross-generational consumers consult information sources

To deflect more cases, understand the steps customers are taking to access information. Then, optimize your channels to ensure customers get what they need in the manner they want. Here are a couple of ways:

Update SEO

Search is the first stop for Gen Z, millennials, and Gen X. Review search data to understand behaviors and key terms — you may find emerging terms you didn’t account for previously. Update your help center and knowledge articles. Infuse your content with top keywords to ensure search engines surface your page in results. A good rule of thumb is to target one keyword per article. The term should appear about five times (and no more than 10).

Enhance voice calls

While it’s not surprising baby boomers choose to call with questions, voice is also the second preference for Gen X and millennials. The phone isn’t dead after all.

Integrate cloud-telephony into your service console to give agents what they need to better serve customers. Instead of scribbling notes, toggling screens, and handling one case at a time, agents log calls automatically. With embedded artificial intelligence, call transcriptions are created in real time so agents stay focused on the customer. They can place the customer on hold, transfer to another agent, and add others into a conference call to help solve more complex cases.

Update SMS and chat capabilities

Text, web chat, and messenger apps all come into play as other methods customers use to reach out. Chatbots help customers with common questions, such as ways to check order status and other simple yes or no answers. Program bots to recommend knowledge articles. If a case requires more attention, set omni-channel routing to the right agent with the right skillset. Bots gather all relevant customer information and make a seamless transition during agent handoff.

For messenger apps, connect service to social. Agents can handle multiple cases via SMS and messenger, creating an asynchronous option for customers to come back to again and again.

Deliver proactive service

The top three reasons customers reach out? To confirm operating hours, make a purchase, and check account information.

Anticipate needs with proactive service. Seventy-two percent of Americans say they appreciate it when businesses reach out with resources or support. Another 68% say proactive communication makes them feel valued.

72% of Americans appreciate proactive resources/support from businesses

Connect marketing and service

Connecting marketing and service channels allows you to get ahead of any potential issues. If your company sends an SMS about an upcoming promotion and a customer responds back with a concern about their order, an agent can easily jump in and resolve the issue in the same message.

Most helpful customer service channels

Use AI

Embedding artificial intelligence (AI) into your service console helps agents deliver a more personalized experience. AI analyzes customer and qualifying case information to predict the next best actions for agents to take.

Know your customer

By connecting data, technology, and teams, everyone has a 360-view of the customer. If a high-value customer calls in, agents already have the background to best serve the customer. The agent can connect with the right team member and get the issue resolved right away.

Offer an empathetic ear

In the heat of the moment when a customer’s emotions are heightened, empathy matters. Seventy percent of Americans say companies that show care and empathy during the pandemic have earned their loyalty.

70% of Americans say companies that show care and empathy earn their loyalty

This is why it’s essential to review customer feedback to better understand if agents are empathizing with customers. Ask customers to respond to a survey following their experience. Include questions like, “Was your agent sensitive to your needs?” and “How did your agent respond to your concerns?”

Next, take an emotional intelligence (EQ) approach. Encourage agents to regularly self-reflect: how did they feel during the customer interaction? Were they able to manage their emotions and help the customer do so too? Self-awareness and self-regulation are key to being able to empathize with customers. Lastly, keep agents up to speed on customer service basics with customized training to reinforce communication skills.

Provide flexibility now to impact loyalty later

Customers are also appreciative of companies that are “bending the rules” in the current environment. As of June 1, it’s the top-desired customer service trait (compared with its ranking just one month prior at number six).

Most important customer service qualities May-June 2020

If a customer reaches out via chat, for example, make it easy for agents to easily swap chats and help more customers. And work across your teams to find ways to grant customers more leeway, such as deferring payment. It may impact short-term revenue, but it drives long-term loyalty.

Meet new customers standards

Meeting changing expectations means arming your team with the right information and technology. Learn more about how Service Cloud can help you meet the new customer service standards.

Plus, keep your own finger on the pulse of changing expectations with our Snapshot Resource Series Tableau Dashboard.

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