The customer service world has seen several changes in the last year, including an increased awareness and drive for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, and generative AI, which has had a particularly explosive impact. In fact, it is estimated that 95% of interactions between brands and customers will be powered by artificial intelligence (AI) by 2025.
Organisations are constantly having to find the right balance between keeping pace with these changes and maintaining the same level of customer service. In a bid to shine a light on these challenges, National Customer Service Week, an annual event designed to celebrate great customer service and raise awareness of the vital role it plays in successful business practice, focuses on five core themes: The Future of AI, Service with Respect, Customer Service as a Profession, Driving Sustainable Growth, and Service Recognition Day.
The future of AI
There is arguably no industry that has been left untouched by the explosion of generative AI since the launch of ChatGPT and its subsequent rivals, like Google’s Bard, early this year. AI has the ability to increase customer satisfaction and provide 24/7 support through chatbots, voice assistants, and self-service portals, reducing the need for human agents. And, despite popular belief, interaction with these AI services doesn’t have to mean a cold and impersonal experience for the customer. By analysing customer data, preferences, and behaviour, AI can personalise the customer experience to offer tailored recommendations, solutions, and incentives. And most often, if the AI service can’t find a solution to the customer’s needs, then it will redirect to the next available human resource.
It is highly likely that AI will play a significant role in the future of customer service. It can provide many benefits to both customers and businesses, such as faster and more accurate responses, reduced operational costs, and increased revenue. However, importantly, AI is not a silver bullet, and it cannot solve all customer service challenges. Crucial to the success of an AI service is its design. It must be designed, implemented, and monitored carefully to ensure ethical, legal, and technical standards are met, and to complement human skills and capabilities. Unlike chatbots, which are often seen as frustrating, limited, and impersonal, AI is a powerful tool that can enhance customer service in a human-centric way.
Customer service as a profession
As businesses realise the importance of providing great customer experience (CX), especially in competitive markets such as the technology industry, the customer experience profession has continued to evolve to keep pace. Increasingly customers want to have an experience with businesses that is not 100% transactional – they want to be made to feel like they are seen and valued as individuals. To address this demand, businesses are building out their CX experience to deliver what has now been coined “immersive customer experience” – a multisensory experience that includes storytelling, integrating the right technologies, and customising the customer experience throughout the entire customer journey. And it is gaining in popularity. In the next year 80% of leaders plan to increase their customer service budgets, with 71% planning to revitalise their customer journey and 61% eagerly awaiting immersive CX.
Customer service is not, however, the role of just a few people within an organisation. Although most organisations now have a dedicated CX team whose role is to create and maintain positive touchpoints for every customer, everyone within the organisation is responsible for delivering good customer service. Whether they are speaking directly to the customers or working behind the scenes, providing the best possible service should be everyone’s main goal.
Service with respect
Respect should always be front of mind. This is customer service 101. And not just when speaking to customers – although crucial. There must be mutual respect throughout the entire organisation. Teams that have respect for each other work better together and will be able to provide exceptional levels of service to customers across the board.
The foundation for providing exceptional service as a standard, adopting a ‘service-with-respect’ culture will secure customer loyalty and establish a long-standing relationship between business and customer. Recognising and rewarding employees that go above and beyond to provide exceptional service will help engrain service with respect in an organisation’s culture for the long run.
Driving sustainable growth
Increasingly the customer service sector is seeing the demand for green initiatives. Customers no longer only want quality products and services – they are looking for partners that align with their values and contribute positively to society and the environment. Last year 93% of consumers maintained or increased their sustainability purchases in 2022. And customers continue to demand ESG practises from the businesses they engage with. In fact, 46% of customers look to brands to take the lead on creating sustainable change.
By integrating sustainability practices into operations, and being open about their carbon footprint and emissions, organisations can enhance customer satisfaction, build trust, and foster long-term loyalty. Joining groups such as Tech Zero – a climate action group for tech companies committed to fighting the climate crisis – or taking part in initiatives like EcoVadis’s sustainability ratings, shows transparency and commitment to such practices. Even simple measures, such as implementing digital tools and platforms to streamline processes, reduce paperwork, and minimise environmental impact, can make a big difference.
In turn this all supports sustainable growth by retaining and attracting customers who appreciate and value socially and environmentally responsible companies.
While National Customer Service Week is a great opportunity to reflect on the important changes of an ever-evolving industry, the focus is to recognise the great service around us and show our appreciation for those who work tirelessly to provide it. That is why the week ends with Service Recognition Day. So, whether it’s rewarding someone within your organisation for their hard work or taking the time to thank someone who has shown you service with respect, end the week on a high and pass your recognition on.
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