April 1, 2013
What is customer service if it isn’t based on your customers’ expectations? According to Micah Solomon, author of the award-winning book High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service, there are six major trends transforming the way customers expect to be treated. Is your business ready for the new customer-centric world?
The six trends affecting customer service are:
1. Customers Expect Instant Gratification. In the tech world this is called “Anticipatory Technological Behavior and Aggregated Information”. For the consumer it means they aren’t willing to search for information, or to wait too long in line to get answers from a human. Today’s customers expect technology to bring an experience that is easy, instantaneous, and intuitive. Customers want to type or thumb a few keystrokes on their smartphones or tablets and have the information they need served up for them concierge-style based on their IP address or satellite location and other useful clues.
2. A Shift Toward Values-Based Buying. Today’s consumers tend to be shy about consuming too conspicuously, unless the object of their splurge has “attached meaning” to a cause or charity. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 87 percent of consumers in the United States believe that companies should value the interests of society at least as much as strict business interests.
3. The Greening of the Customer. The younger the customer, the more “hooked on green,” so this trend isn’t likely to abate for awhile. It’s wise to operate from the assumption that customers will have concerns relating to the environmental impact of your operation and their purchase.
4. Looking for Timelessness. In these uncertain times, customers are searching for authenticity and a backstory in the products and services they buy. Examples are everywhere, from the suburban rage for raising hens to the surge in popularity of classic Hunter boots. Thanks to the recession, customers are looking for old standbys that can become hip again.
5. Customer Empowerment. With an array of choices at their fingertips, customers expect companies to respect them, to make it easy to contact them, and to respond to their comments, promptly and thoughtfully.
6. The Desire for Self-Service. Fueled by our round-the-clock, tech-savvy lifestyle, the desire for self-service options, from online shopping to concierge-like touchscreen menus in public spaces, is only growing. Rather than ignore it, Solomon urges companies to tap the potential of self-service to provide anticipatory service.
How do you keep up with these trends? Technology has some great solutions offering you the ability to anticipate, customize, and help suggest choices to customers based on their behaviors and stated preferences. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you always refer them to your site. When customers call on the phone, they shouldn’t be told to go to your website. “A choice means they choose, and you respect their decision,” Solomon stresses. But an excellent website with the ability to adapt to the customer is a critical customer service tool.
Adapted with permission from HIGH-TECH, HIGH-TOUCH CUSTOMER SERVICE: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in the Demanding New World of Social Commerce by Micah Solomon (AMACOM, 2012).