Each year, we put together the CRM Service Awards issue to reveal the most impressive efforts by customer service industry heavyweights, emerging companies, and practitioners. In doing so, we also highlight some of the most significant trends in the customer service market. While there are a variety of interesting developments this year, the top three are listed below:
1) Customer service is becoming more social. It's not new that customers expect their companies of choice to meet them on their preferred interaction channel. What is new, though, is how companies are meeting them. In the early stages of social media, companies generally used the channel to send outbound marketing messages to prospects and customers. However, as more customers turn to social media to solve their customer service issues, it makes sense to bring in customer service representatives to handle these issues, as they are the ones best suited to respond. In fact, one of this year's Rising Star recipients is so convinced of this that it is focusing all of its attention on social customer service.
As more companies leverage social media for support, they will have to integrate the emerging support channel with traditional ones to get a more complete picture of customer behavior. According to one industry report mentioned in our Customer Case Management Service Leader category, a third of companies already create incidents for issues reported via social media. Moving forward, it makes sense that more case management applications will include a consolidated view of multiple interaction channels, including social media.
2) More customer service departments are relying on cloud technology. Until recently, customer service trends have been slow moving, because the technology has historically been expensive and cumbersome to upgrade. However, hosted solutions mitigate both of these concerns. Therefore, expect to see more contact centers rely on cloud-based technology. One research and consulting company in the Contact Center Infrastructure category estimates that only 10 percent of U.S. call center agent seats are currently supported by hosted service providers. However, because of the benefits of cloud-based customer service technology, the company expects this number to jump to 23 percent in only four years.
Similarly, interactive voice response (IVR) systems are not immune to this trend. One analyst in the IVR Service Leader category states, "It is clear that companies that offer a hosting option, either exclusively or as a hybrid, are growing more rapidly than vendors that primarily sell on-premises IVR solutions."
Additionally, we could see small and medium-sized companies become more sophisticated with their customer service efforts as cloud-based customer service technologies trickle down to these companies. The same analyst adds that "the fastest-growing companies are broadening their market reach by using the cloud to move down market, by reducing initial costs and speeding implementation, and by developing function-specific modules that can be sold as turnkey installations."
3) Mobile devices will add a new dimension to customer service. One Rising Star recently released its visual IVR technology, which enables companies and customers to leverage the graphical user interfaces on mobile devices to enhance customer support. Additionally, our profile states, the technology "provides a seamless transition to the voice channel. Once the call is connected to the agent, all of the steps already taken by the customer, as well as any data entered, are visible to the agent." Now, that's a good example of integrated customer service, and it should appeal to those interested in broadening their omnichannel customer service initiatives.
To find out more about these and other customer service trends, read our 2014 CRM Service Awards package.