When customer service is at its worst, it becomes a cycle that goes a little something like this: a customer buys or pays for something, is disappointed, comes back, gets angry, and may carry a little disappointment even after problems are resolved.

This is obviously not how Canadian SMBs want to approach customer service, and fortunately there are a number of ways to manage it in a far more effective fashion. A good place to start might be with Salesforce’s 2015 State of Service report , which polled more than 1,900 leaders around the world to identify the top trends. Some of these may sound like the kind of things only the largest companies could do, but here’s a breakdown of what the trends mean in layman’s terms and how even SMBs can take advantage of them.


Companies have realized for a few years now that not all customers hear about their products by walking into the store. That’s why marketers have been increasingly trying to generate demand online, targeting mobile devices, via social media and more. Those same channels that inform them about the value of products and services are also great mechanisms for helping them connect with companies and address their questions or concerns. According to a recent study by industry association CMO Club, 55 per cent of companies still aren’t developing an omni-channel strategy, so there’s plenty of time to catch up.

Here’s your omni-channel health check:

  • Do you have a digital presence on all the platforms your customers may choose to interact with you?
  • Is it clear that those channels can be used as a customer service touchpoint?
  • What kind of service-level guarantees can you reasonably expect to offer – ie., can you promise you’ll respond to a question or issue on social media before the end of business day?

Empowered Agents

We’ve all been on the other end of the line, calling a company with a problem or complaint and quickly realizing that the person we’ve phoned doesn’t know enough about the product or service and the best way to escalate the issue. In fact, a research firm called Mattersight just released a study that showed only 28 per cent of customers call customer service as their first attempt to solve a problem.

Excellence in customer service means doing the upfront work necessary to turn that attitude around. Even if you’re an SMB that doesn’t operate a call centre, there’s a lot you can do to make sure your “agents” (which might be yourself or a few key coworkers) are armed with the best resources.

Here’s your empowered agents health check:

  • Look through any data you’re able to collect through customer service technology. What are the most common issues, and what can you do to reduce the reasons for people calling in?
  • How can you make it easier for customers to find you? A phone number isn’t helpful if it goes straight to voice mail, and emails that sit in an inbox just generate more frustration. Think about how mobile tools can bring information to you wherever you are so you and your team can react in real time.
  • Keep your customers’ emotional needs top of mind. There’s no better way to do that than by nurturing strong relationships on an ongoing basis via leveraging data from CRM and keeping in touch through social media and other means.

Proactive Service

No one wants to be constantly putting out fires, but moving away from a reactive approach to customer service may have even greater benefits than Canadian SMBs imagine. Research from Deloitte, for example, suggests that 57 per cent of employees who believe they work at a ‘purpose-driven’ company are engaged and report a high level of job satisfaction, compared to just 23 per cent of those who don’t. You could define “purpose-driven” in many different ways, but it’s really about having clear goals and measuring against them as often as possible.

Here’s your proactive service health check:

  • What tools and technologies are in place to collect, store and manage information on customer service issues as they happen?
  • How easily can you identify common patterns about customer service issues. How “predictive” are your customers?
  • What means, if any, do you have to share information that could predict customer service issues with your team?


Customers aren’t born complainers. In fact, they may be happiest when they can take charge of a problem on their own, provided they have the access and capabilities to do do. Research firm Gartner suggests that in only five years, customer will manage 85 per cent of their relationship with companies in ways that don’t involve human beings at all.

Here’s your proactive service health check:

  • What kind of portals, apps or other resources could provide a baseline understanding of how to resolve simple and common service issues to the average customer
  • What kind of security needs to be in place to ensure they can resolve a problem rather than making it worse?
  • How can you best integrate self-service options with a quick and easy way to get to a real person if customers encounter difficulties can need more help?

Learn more about these four trends and the impact they’ll have in the coming year by downloading the 2015 State of Service Report, a free eBook from Salesforce:

2015 State of service. Insights on customer service trends from over 1900 industry leaders. See the research.