By: Ashley Verrill
“The times they are a-changin’”
Companies are currently experiencing a sea of change in the way that they communicate with their customers. Where interactions once exclusively happened over the phone, they now run the digital gamut from social media to live web chat.
One recent Forrester report shows just how quickly this evolution is occurring. In the last three years, customers have increased their use of self-service by 12%, live chat by 24% and communities by 25%.
This shift doesn’t just mean that organizations need to make these channels available to customers, but that they also need new talent to ensure customers have a seamless experience from one communication avenue to another. This will require new talent and a breadth of fresh job titles. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) will continue to be a mainstay, but executives should also prepare to add other positions to their ranks.
Technical trends: staffing in the customer service industry
1. Customer service employees, the new face of marketing?
In a recent online debate, “Is Customer Service the New Marketing?”, a sentiment resonated that traditional marketing is becoming less effective in today’s business world. Customers don’t listen to what companies say about themselves – they listen to what others are saying about them. As such, customer service is becoming an increasingly important avenue to impact brand perception.
In the future, organizations will likely employ full-time “Self-Service Content Strategists.” Individuals in this role will continually mine for popular topics in call center notes, as well as review web analytics to assess which articles in the self-service community garner the most traffic. At the same time, they will also moderate content created by the customer community and facilitate the sharing of this user-generated material. Their goal: to drive customer retention and return purchases by creating a loyal community of brand advocates.
2. Customer needs require instant answers
Content is meaningless if customers can’t find it. This is particularly important when you consider that 88 percent of people will spend more money with a given brand if they get their issues addressed online and immediately.
In order for the right content to appear when customers type or speak queries, companies must use Natural Language Processing. These sophisticated algorithms essentially interpret words so that the right answer or content is pulled no matter how the question is asked in search bars or in interactive voice systems.
Consider, for example, the difference between asking, “How do I turn on my Xbox?” and “Where is the power button on my gaming console?” Both questions are looking for the same answer, but are asked in very different ways.
NLP technology is needed to make such distinctions, so in the future companies will likely need developers specifically for refining this technology. While most companies will deploy off-the-shelf or open-source NLP technology, an in-house NLP Developer would need to make substantial configurations to apply it to their company’s specific use cases and content. They would also constantly analyze query success rates in order to identify subject areas that still need refining.
3. Automated, socialized responses
According to one report, about 47 percent of social media users have used Facebook, Twitter and other channels for customer service (59 percent for 18–24 year olds). That number is only going to continue to grow; and as a result, companies will need technology to automate that process.
In the future, companies will likely hire dedicated “Social Service Coordinators” to ensure that these technologies work efficiently for the company and its products. These coordinators will constantly be working to refine keyword identifiers that tell the systems what signals a customer service message. If the contact center suddenly gets an influx of calls about a particular product, for example, the coordinator would start listening for combinations of that product name and “help,” “broken,” “angry” and so on.
4. More for mobile devices
Very soon, the majority of interactions companies have with their customers will happen on a mobile device. Consider this, a recent TechCrunch report showed that mobile application usage surpassed desktop browsing for the first time, as far as minutes per day spent online goes.
Companies need to optimize the mobile service experience with support-specific apps. Instead of forcing customers to type out queries on tiny keyboards, these applications will leverage voice and simplified navigation. This will require a dedicated “Mobile Customer Service App Manager” in order to constantly analyze application utilization and performance.
New companies arise, new products get developed and therefore people will constantly have new needs to be fielded, diagnosed and resolved. The technical take to the ever-present needs of customers is an industry on the rise. There’s always more than one way to do things – and in today’s world, customer service is proving just that.
Ashley Verrill has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been published or cited in Inc., Forbes, CIO.com, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. She currently writes software reviews for www.softwareadvice.com/crm and is the Managing Editor for the Customer Service Investigator blog.