Wouldn’t it be great if you could predict the future? You could pick the best stocks. You’d know in advance whether bangs would be a good choice. And you’d know exactly how to make your company’s customer experience best-in-class. That knowledge would be a huge competitive advantage. Because according to research by Gartner, 81% of companies surveyed said they compete primarily on CX.
Though there aren’t any crystal balls to know everything that’s yet to happen, we do have an astute eye for trends and have a few predictions for the upcoming year. If you want your company to provide a great customer experience in 2020, you’ll need to do these six things:
1. Focus On Conversational Customer Support
“Omnichannel” has been a buzzword for a long time, and it’s still relevant – you have to meet your customers where they are, whether it’s email, phone, chat, or social media. But you also have to offer them a human-to-human experience when you’re there. Customers want to have a real conversation, with a human who answers their question with urgency, accuracy, and empathy.
What does this mean in practice? First, you have to invest in conversational channels – online chat and social media. Studies show that customer satisfaction rates for chat are as high as 92% – greater than any other channel. That’s because live chat enables you to have a back-and-forth conversation, resolving multiple questions in real time.
Second, it’s not enough just to offer these channels – you have to follow best practices for live chat customer support. Most important: answer customers right away. If your average live chat wait time is over 20 minutes, you’re better off not offering it.
Third, you can use bots – but use good ones. A dynamic, conversational chatbot can help your customers and help your brand. A bad one will hurt it.
Fourth, begin to incorporate multimedia in smart ways. Humans like to learn and communicate in different ways, so give your customer support team a variety of tools. With live chat, you can easily share a Zoom link and hop on a video call with a customer to walk them through tech support instructions. You can also consider creating personalized how-to videos for customers.
2. Beware Of The All-Powerful Net Promoter Score (NPS), Especially In Customer Support
An NPS survey is a very basic survey to measure customer sentiment. It’s short and to the point, only asking whether the respondent – on a scale from 1-10 – would refer your company to someone else.
Anyone who chooses 9 or 10 is a promoter; 7s and 8s are passives, and anyone below 7 is a detractor. To get your NPS score, you subtract the detractors from the promoters, ignoring the passives.
There is something to be said about the brevity of an NPS survey. On the surface, it seems to get to the most important stuff and forgets the rest. But it’s become corporate dogma, and recently it has come under criticism.
For one, it only measures a customer’s intent, not their actual behavior. But the math of the NPS score is also a little wonky. The same NPS score can mean very different things. We won’t go through the math here, but this article on the weaknesses of NPS does a great job laying it out.
Furthermore, some companies actually use NPS instead of Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) to measure the performance of their customer service team. This is a mistake, as NPS reflects a customer’s experience with the company as a whole, and says nothing about their interaction with customer support.
This doesn’t mean you need to stop using NPS. But make sure to use it well. Instead of taking the score itself as gospel, actually break it down to understand your promoters, passives, and detractors. Engage each group in a different way. And track your performance over time.
And don’t neglect CSAT! When it comes to measuring your customer’s feelings about the support you receive, CSAT is better than NPS, hands down.
3. Connect The Dots Between Your Sales & Customer Support Teams
It’s a challenge for companies in many different industries: the handoff from sales to customer experience or customer support can be a rough one. A salesperson builds a relationship with the customer and then, once the customer signs on the dotted line…poof. The salesperson disappears and is replaced by a 1-800 number for contacting customer support.
This is particularly a challenge for startups, because off-the-shelf software programs often don’t make it easy to track customers from the lead stage to post-sale. Fortunately, that is starting to change. Zendesk, for example, which is primarily a helpdesk platform, recently added a CRM tool called Sunshine and a sales tool called Zendesk Sell. HubSpot, a marketing and CRM platform, has added a helpdesk called ServiceHub.
Modern companies need to focus on managing the entire customer lifecycle, rather than individual touchpoints. It makes sense. In order to give the best customer experience, you need to know what the experience has been thus far. When your teams are more able to connect and communicate, then everyone is better equipped to serve the customer.
4. Offer Stellar Self-Service Options For Customer Support
Waiting isn’t fun. That’s why for customer support, the first line of defense is Google. For example, I recently Googled How can I integrate Drift with HubSpot, and got a satisfactory answer, saving myself a significant amount of time and energy.
I’m not alone. According to research, 67% of customers said they prefer self-service options to talking with a live representative. Self-service options can come in a variety of different packages, but usually companies offer a help center, sometimes with help from an automated chatbot that shares relevant articles based on customer questions.
With self-service already being so popular, you may be wondering how you can differentiate yourself with self-service. First, the basics: make sure your help desk articles are up to date, optimized for search, and based on your customers’ actual common questions.
Second, focus on how you can best optimize the experience with AI. If the technology is slow, clunky, or if customers aren’t able to find what they need, it will cause a negative customer experience. AI can deliver automatic answers to customers in a more conversational way than a traditional searchable knowledge base.
There are a number of different product offerings make the process of implementing AI incredibly simple and user-friendly. Drift Help is a great example of an excellent tool for AI. It’s easy to set up and utilizes your current help center articles to assist customers.
5. Hire Remote Workers & Enable Them To Be Successful
Remote work is growing every year – particularly in customer support. CX and CS teams have been ahead of the curve in adopting remote staffing strategies. This is partly because they often need to offer 24/7 support, in multiple languages. In addition, it can be difficult to hire customer support professionals in major metro areas where a lot of tech companies are based.
According to a 2019 Support Driven survey, 27% of customer support professionals already work remotely. Outside of the flexibility offered with remote work, remote workers also tend to make more money, on average, than agents who are co-located.
So if you’re having trouble staffing your team, make sure remote work is part of your arsenal. But don’t just tack it on. You have to build a strong culture that enables remote workers to be successful. Among other things, you need to make sure that your remote workers feel like a full part of your team – not an afterthought.
6. Consider Adopting Virtual & Augmented Reality To Improve The Customer Experience
Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers anymore – companies are using VR and AR to make life easier for their customers. In 2019, Hyundai created a user manual for their cars using augmented reality. You open the app and when you point your camera at the dashboard it lists the functions of all the different buttons.
Telstra has created an app that helps customers set up their modem. Nespresso provides descaling instructions for their coffee machines to customers who scan a barcode. As reporter Jonathan Gitlin says, it’s “an extremely practical application of consumer technology that’s designed to make life just that little bit easier.”
Most organizations won’t have the resources to build out experiences like this. However, as with all technology, it will get less expensive and more accessible. So, with that in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye out for how different companies are utilizing these new technologies and how they could improve the customer connection. That way, when it finally makes it to your organization, you’ll be ready.
With AI and AR, it’s critical to balance technology with a personalized, human experience. One study found that 44% of people will become repeat buyers if they get a personalized experience. As new technology continues to emerge, business leaders will need to toe the line between automation and the human touch to deliver the experience customers are asking for.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flashiest examples, but try not to get seduced. Look for uses where it’s an actual benefit to the customer, not just something to brag about.
Predicting the future is an impossible task. VR and AR are new technology, so it’s hard to say exactly what will become of it. But the more you’re aware of what’s happening now, the better you’ll be prepared for the future. And if 2020 isn’t the year that you incorporate VR and AR into your business …well, you’ll be a little more prepared for 2021.
Here’s to predicting the future and having an awesome 2020.
Ready to level up your CX? Join us on Drift Insider. You’ll not only discover videos on using conversational marketing to create better CX, but additional certifications and courses for marketers looking to up their skills. You can visit Drift Insider here, or click the image below 👇
Hannah Steiman is Chief Operating Officer at Peak Support, which provides exceptional customer service and business process outsourcing services for high-growth companies.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.