Inside the Fifth Edition of the State of Service Report
New research reveals the top three trends driving the strategic role of customer service.
Service organizations have long played a pivotal role in customer experience. But since 2020, higher customer expectations mean service has become an essential component of many companies' operating strategies. And as companies face stiff economic headwinds, new Salesforce research reveals how companies are using digitization and automation to drive efficiency, productivity, and cost savings.
In the face of economic uncertainty, teams are increasingly focused on metrics that signal efficiency. Case in point: The share of service organizations tracking case deflection — often achieved through self-service tools for customers or automated processes — jumped by 20% since 2020.
For the fifth edition of State of Service, we surveyed more than 8,000 service professionals across the globe to understand companies’ evolving strategies and the role played by technology. To give service professionals the insights they need to plan for the road ahead, we’ve compiled the top three customer service trends driving a strategic role in the customer experience.
The top three customer service trends from Salesforce’s “State of Service” report:
Customer service trend #1: The best service strategies are connected, scalable, and digital-first
Considering that 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products, it’s never been more important for companies to deliver efficient service. For customers, that means prompt attention and streamlined communications: 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company and another 83% expect to solve complex problems by talking to one person.
In practice, however, companies find it challenging to combine efficiency and engagement. Not only do one-third of service agents admit that they struggle to resolve customer inquiries promptly, another 37% say customers often have to contact them more than once to solve issues. Additionally, even though 85% of customers expect consistent interactions, 60% say it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments instead of one company. And perhaps what is most frustrating of all is that 66% of customers say they often have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives.
Here’s how. Automation and AI form the foundation of digital self-service experiences like chatbots, customer portals, and help centers. When customers can interact with a chatbot to get the answer to a question or use a guided journey to start a return, for example, live agents have the time they need to manage more complicated requests. That’s critically important for the 78% of service agents who report difficulty balancing speed and quality. But even better, our research shows that 59% of customers actually prefer self-service when they have a simple question or issue.
When it comes to more complex problems, voice is still the overwhelming favorite: 81% of service professionals say the phone is a preferred channel for complex issues, up from 76% in 2020. Yet even voice has evolved beyond the desk phone, with 52% of agents using an agent console or computer to take phone calls in lieu of a landline and 53% using digital call transcription to increase productivity.
Customer service trend #2: Field service is increasingly a critical component of customer service strategies
Frontline service workers, for their part, are reaching parity with their colleagues who work in the contact center: 90% of frontline service workers are satisfied with the timeliness, accessibility, and accuracy of the information they have in the field. In addition, 90% say the technology they have in the field gives them the same information as their contact center colleagues. That empowers agility and enables them to provide the same level of support. Yet challenges remain: As 33% of frontline service workforces are contractors, 80% of decision makers say equipping them adequately is a challenge.
Companies with field service organizations broadly recognize that delivering customer satisfaction requires specialized tools: 88% of field service organizations use field service-specific solutions. Significant differences are evident, though, between high-performing organizations that report excellent customer satisfaction and underperformers with fair or poor customer satisfaction. High performers, for example, are more likely to report benefits like better ability to offer contactless service (54% versus 30%), higher productivity (55% versus 32%), and improved job satisfaction (53% versus 31%).