Top 10 Customer Service Trends for 2011

2010 certainly was a watershed year for custo- wait. 2010? That’s so last year!  Next! What we want to know is what’s going to happen in 2011. And since the new year is already three days old, there’s no time to waste! Here are some of the top customer service trends for 2011, according to some people who get paid to figure this stuff out:

  1. Social media will play a bigger role. There’s a shocker (not). Barry Moltz, who compiles these lists each year, notes that tweeting or posting on Facebook often gets consumers quicker resolutions to their issues than calling the customer service number. And, uh, this isn’t going to revert back in the other direction.
  2. “Pricing pandemonium.” With consumers able to whip out their cell phones, scan a bar code and price shop (as an example), businesses will continue to look for innovative sales techniques. According to trendwatching.com (and with that name, they’d better know), stores will increasingly use flash sales (short-timed discounts), group buying (one-day ‘buy-ins’ on Groupon, and others), and point-of-sale discounts via social media like Twitter.
  3. Company cultures will become more distinctive. Some of the most successful retailers have a distinct image and identity. Companies will work to align all their employees with the vision, mission, and brand of the company, so that that image and experience will be consistent to consumers, according to Bruce Temkin.
  4. In-sourcing will grow. Yes, all those service calls routed to India might be decreasing soon, according to Customer 1, as companies realize that customers like having their problems solved by people who aren’t halfway around the world and whose accents they can readily understand.
  5. Customers helping customers. Customer 1 also predicts that “customer communities,” the kind where you ask a question about a product online and other consumers answer it, will grow, and that companies will encourage them because it makes their job easier, and it costs them nothing.
  6. More self-service. You can now check yourself in at an airline and out at a supermarket. Also you can do-it-yourself at some auto-rental companies and buy electronics at vending machines. Look for more and more self-service kiosks and the like in 2011, says Barry Moltz.
  7. Customer service organizations are going to get way more personal. “Organizations will investigate methods to recommend agent ‘next-best actions’ during the service resolution process which include if and when to offer cross-sell and upsell products or service,” according to Kate Leggett at Forrester. Leggett also predicts an increase in real-time analytics to help with organization’s match-making skills, in order to better pair agents with customers.
  8. They know when you’ve been sleeping… Companies will continue to expand and analyze the data they collect on you (yes, you) in their ongoing attempts to cater to and anticipate, your every need.  So proclaimeth Bruce Temkin, who works with some of these companies, so he’s in a position to know.
  9. Customer Service Will Continue to Grow In the Cloud. William Band over at CustomerThink predicts that 2011 will better recognize the significance and advantages of offering a cloud-based customer support solution. “SaaS has unique characteristics that require new ways of thinking about vendor selection, contracting, risk tolerance, and organizational skill set requirements,” Band says.
  10. Support Agents Will Learn From Customers. Looking at voice of the customer trends, Jeffrey Henning says that more companies will be publishing personalized customer feedback and hierarchical reports individualized to a particular agent-customer interaction so that they can learn from specific customers.