Inside the Fourth Edition of the “State of Service” Report

Dec 08, 2020 - 7 minutes

 
Bill Patterson
Executive Vice President and General Manager of CRM Applications at Salesforce

In the midst of dual health and economic crises, the strategic role of customer service cannot be overstated. New research from the fourth edition of the Salesforce “State of Service” report reveals just how much stock customers put in quality customer service and support today.

The stakes have never been higher for customer retention as service teams face customers who are more anxious, more demanding, and have more complex cases. Service is more than a matter of closing a ticket and moving on to the next — it’s ensuring that the brand is associated with empathy and personalisation as customers encounter circumstances that are completely out of their control. Think about all of the ways service teams have already adapted their policies, reskilled team members, and scaled support across channels to help, all while experiencing increased case volumes.

In 2018, we launched the third edition of the “State of Service” report. Our biggest finding at the time was the rising importance of customer service to overall business goals. Flash forward to today: Customer service has become the primary function to keep customers happy, bringing with it enormous business value.

For our latest research, we surveyed more than 7,000 global decision makers, agents, mobile workers, and dispatchers to understand changing customer service trends and key strategies and technology — and discover how service organisations are navigating abrupt changes to the work environment. To give service professionals the insights they need to plan for the road ahead, we’ve compiled the top three customer service trends driving the strategic role of service.

1. Changing customer service expectations underpin new strategies

2. Service teams scale support with digital investments

3. Customer service career paths come into focus

blog

IDC Report: A New CX Focus for Field Service Delivery

blog

How to Improve Customer Care: Seven Ways to Step up Your Service

 
 
 

What do 7,000+ service professionals across 33 countries have to say about the strategic role of customer service today?

Read the Salesforce “State of Service” report for an in-depth look at the findings.

Fill out the form to get the report.

Enter your first name
Enter your last name
Enter your title
Enter a valid email address
Enter your company name
Select the number of employees
Enter a valid phone number
Select your country
By registering I confirm that I have read and agree to the Privacy Statement.
This is a required field
 
 

Customer service trend #1: Changing customer service expectations underpin new strategies

The “State of the Connected Customer” report found that 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company, and 82% expect to solve complex problems by talking to one person. In practice, however, delivering quality service and speed at the same time isn’t always easy for service professionals. Less than one-third (29%) of service professionals say their organisations excel at response times, and even fewer give themselves top marks for handle times (26%), first-contact resolutions (22%), and hold/wait times (20%).

When customers do interact with different departments — such as when they receive an email to upgrade their device and then contact customer service to discuss the upgrade — 76% expect consistent interactions. However, in reality the majority (53%) of customers say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information. That means customers may find themselves repeating information or feeling as though the experience wasn’t personalised to meet their needs, which can negatively impact customer loyalty.

The rigidity of business policies and protocols can also be in direct conflict with customer satisfaction. This is particularly an issue now as customers face difficult and unfamiliar circumstances that are out of their control — and policies that were not designed with these situations in mind. As a result, 83% of service professionals say they’ve changed policies to provide more flexibility to customers.

Agents on high-performing teams (defined as service teams that have excellent customer satisfaction) are nearly twice as likely as underperformers (defined as service teams with fair or poor customer satisfaction) to have clear guidelines on how flexible they can be. Also, they are more likely to feel encouraged by management to be flexible with customers as well.

Flexibility empowers service teams to resolve each issue in the most personalised way, while helping customers out when they need it most. (For example, deferring a payment when a loyal customer needs additional time.)

We use Einstein Analytics to keep a pulse on agent productivity — measuring average handle time, agent capacity, and performance. Our reports refresh every half hour, so we see how agents are doing even while they work from home. If we see productivity drop, we can reach out right away to see if they are having connectivity or other issues.”

 
Jim Mitchell
Senior Business Systems Solution Architect
VIZIO

Customer service trend #2: Service teams scale support with digital investments

As service volumes rise, 87% of service professionals say customers have increased their use of digital channels during the pandemic. This trend will only continue: Customers estimate that 60% of their interactions with companies during 2021 will take place online — up from 42% in 2019, according to the “State of the Connected Customer” report.
Service professionals recognise the critical role digital channels play to scale support: 81% of decision makers say they are accelerating digital initiatives. Self-service options like knowledge base articles, community portals, and chatbots all give customers the information they need quickly. At the same time, 77% of agents say automating routine tasks (for example, updating payment methods or password resets) lets them focus on more complex work. Seventy-eight percent of service professionals say customers have increased their use of self-service during the pandemic, and 66% say self-service reduces call volume.
Service professionals have also realised the importance of data to identify what, when, and where resources can and should be allocated as conditions shift: 74% of decision makers say they are more reliant on data than they were prior to the pandemic. But there is still a ways to go — only 30% of decision makers say they excel at using their data to make strategic business decisions.

Lastly, service professionals are taking a fresh look at their key performance indicators (KPIs). Seventy-one percent say they’ve changed or reprioritised metrics due to the pandemic. Customer satisfaction is still the top metric, but revenue has the highest adoption growth rate, up 57% since 2018. Customer effort has emerged as a new and exciting metric as well, defined as how much time and how many steps customers take to find an answer. A lower customer effort leads to increased customer satisfaction because the answer is available in a few steps, such as on your help center or customer portal.

A 360-degree view of the customer from a single platform helps service professionals deliver more personalised support, resolve cases faster, and make smarter business decisions. It’s important to note that service organisations with digital initiatives in place prior to the pandemic were able to quickly pivot to meet new customer needs and scale support.

Real digital transformation can only happen when you have the proper alignment of your people and processes with your ERP [enterprise resource planning]. And there is no better way to make that happen than to have everything in one native platform.”

 
Josh Batz
Chief Technology Officer
Fike Corporation

Customer service trend #3: Customer service career paths come into focus

Seventy-seven percent of agents say their role is more strategic than two years ago, up from 71% in 2018. Because of this, service agents are increasingly enthusiastic about their futures. Sixty-seven percent of agents see a clear career path, up from 59% in 2018. This coincides with an uptick in on-demand training; 54% had it in 2018, now 61% do. While product knowledge and digital literacy are essential, soft skills like communication style, listening skills, and adaptability are prized as service professionals broaden their scope.

The Top Three Skills Service and Support Staff Say Are Very Important

 
 

76%

Say communication

 

71%

Say listening skills

 

62%

Say adaptibility

Providing field service also remains a key differentiator for brands, even during the pandemic. Seventy percent of consumers say they still prefer in-person service appointments over alternatives, and 80% of decision makers say field service is a key part of their strategies. This puts safety for both employees and customers in full view: 80% of mobile workers say their employer has taken the necessary steps to keep them safe during the pandemic. The right tools, including mobile capabilities and a connected field service management solution, minimise time at job sites, and remote troubleshooting may reduce the need for a routine visit altogether.

Concern over personal safety is first and foremost. The COVID-19 Pre-Arrival Checklist helps to build trust with our technicians and reassures them that we are committed to their health and safety.”

 
Greg Peckham
Director of Technology
Snap Install, Inc.

Uncover more insights from “State of Service”

These customer service trends are only a snapshot of what’s driving the strategic role of service today. The customer service playbook has clearly been upended as customer expectations shift and radically new standards of engagement emerge. Dive deeper into the findings and more as you plan for the road ahead with the fourth edition of the Salesforce “State of Service” report.
 
 
 

What do 7,000+ service professionals across 33 countries have to say about the strategic role of customer service today?

Read the Salesforce “State of Service” report for an in-depth look at the findings.

Fill out the form to get the report.

Enter your first name
Enter your last name
Enter your title
Enter a valid email address
Enter your company name
Select the number of employees
Enter a valid phone number
Select your country
By registering I confirm that I have read and agree to the Privacy Statement.
This is a required field
 
 

About the Author

 
Bill Patterson
Executive Vice President and General Manager of CRM Applications at Salesforce
Bill Patterson is Executive Vice President and General Manager of CRM Applications at Salesforce, where he leads product innovation, growth, and customer success for Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Salesforce Essentials.
Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.
 

Blog

Report

Guide

 
 

Get weekly updates and fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.

Enter a valid email address