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The Future of Customer Service

The Future of Customer Service

In a world of empowered consumers, companies no longer decide the level of customer service they want to offer; consumers demand the service they want. What’s more, pity the company that can’t deliver the near-flawless service that consumers now expect. According to Forrester Research, consumers have no qualms about complaining when service is subpar. Unhappy customers not only complain to friends and family, but they take to social media where their message of dismal service is amplified and can do serious damage to the brand.

Today, it’s little wonder that customer service has evolved into an all encompassing priority at companies. From answering questions and offering information prior to purchase, to getting the product into the customers’ hands and up and running, to helping a customer resolve any post-purchase issues, brands must be prepared at all points in the customer journey.

Good customer experiences not only mean satisfied customers, but they help control costs and have the potential to assist the company in achieving sustainable top-line growth and rewarding shareholders. A recent Forrester report on the Top 10 Customer Service Trends of 2016 revealed how much companies need to understand and deliver to improve their customers’ experiences. These trends fall under three fundamentals: ease, effectiveness, and emotion.


Customer Service Trends

In Forrester’s report, it’s particularly important for field service providers to pay attention to  what two of the ten trends fall within their domain. The ease with which a consumer embarks on their service experience starts with giving them a way to serve themselves, and also by allowing them to control their time. Customers demand that their time be valued by service providers, especially while waiting for a service technician to troubleshoot or fix their product. They want to be able to book service technicians visits online, within the time window they choose. They also want to be notified of delays ahead of time. They expect service technicians to be able to view all of their relevant past interactions to arrive on time with the right parts at the right location.

For field service providers, this  translates into three points of action for companies in 2016:

  1. Customer service organizations will be better at supporting customer journeys that start with an agent-assisted service interaction and end with a service call.
  2. Companies will look for “lighter-weight” field service management capabilities that give customers the ability to choose an appointment that fits their schedule and allows agents to efficiently dispatch technicians and optimize their work schedules.
  3. Companies will give their service technicians mobile devices that function offline and provide customer and product history, asset management. These devices will also streamline returns and customer paperwork.

The second trend that field service providers need to get to grips with is the rise of connected devices and how insights collected can trigger preemptive service. By 2020, analysts expect connected devices to proliferate to 30 billion. A number of companies are already predictive maintenance to proactively service their products. This includes Tesla Motors, which sends software patches to connected cars, and Nintendo, which monitors devices to understand customer actions just before the point of failure.

The biggest connected devices trend for 2016 is that the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to transform companies from being product-based to service-based. Rolls-Royce, a stalwart of manufacturing, already offers its jet engines along with hourly maintenance fees or “Power by the Hour.”

Transitioning into a Service-Based Business

Transforming to a service-based company takes much orchestration. To make the IoT business model  work, companies will need to know or monitor:

  1. The emerging interoperability standards of device-to-network connectivity;
  2. Data messaging formats that work under constrained network conditions;
  3. Data models that aggregate, connect with contact center solutions, and act on the data via triggers;
  4. Alerts to service personnel or automated actions.

2016 promises to be an eventful year as brands strive to hit customer service expectations of ease, effectiveness and emotion. Field service plays an important role in delivering easy and effective service, and arguably -- emotion. With a product that has been serviced incorrectly, whichever emotion a consumer feels toward a brand will not be a positive one.

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