As we continue to forge forward in 2021, we’re quickly beginning to understand that we actually understand very little! The coronavirus completely changed the way many companies did business in 2020, and even though we have effective and safe vaccines available to us, it still may take time for them to get distributed.
That means we don’t really know when it’s going to be safe to get back to business, and our customer service practices will likely continue to be affected. Here are five customer service predictions for 2021 so you can plan and prepare for the rest of the year.
Customer Service Will Be Increasingly Personalized
Personalization within the customer service world has been on the rise for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly assisted that surge. When dealing with your customers in 2021, it’s important to remember that they may be living very different lives. An elderly person in Los Angeles may have a completely different day-to-day than a 25-year-old college student in Bismarck. Personalizing your customer service as much as possible will help keep your brand down to earth and make sure your clients understand that you’re trying your best to support them.
Things like specific e-mail funnels, localized ad campaigns, and specialized follow-up contacts are going to continue to be important in this new year—more so now than ever. A one-size-fits-all customer service approach is not going to work in 2021. Thankfully, customer service technology has made it easier than ever to personalize your efforts without spending tons of time or resources.
The Role of the Call Center Will Continue to Increase
Your call center probably saw a significant increase in calls in 2020. That’s because when people panic about packages being delivered on time, services no longer being applicable to their lives, or any other issue, your contact center is the first place they will call. Even as we battle the pandemic with vaccines, the number of people who feel comfortable going into a brick-and-mortar store to talk to a customer service representative is probably going to remain smaller than ever before, which means your call center will continue to receive more and more calls.
Customer Service Agent Motivation and Support Will Be Paramount
Because your call center calls will continue to increase and your customer service agents will be answering more questions than ever, it’s important to keep your agents motivated and supported. If you can’t help your employees be successful, you’ll have a high turnover rate. The last thing you need is to be spending an incredible amount of energy and resources to continuously hire and train new agents.
Another problem? Burnt-out agents may have a much harder time staying calm with customers, which is already one of the most difficult aspects of the customer service industry. Of course, many of your employees may still be working from home. There are plenty of pieces of software available to help you track agents’ work hours, monitor their process, and ensure they’re giving you A+ effort from the comfort of home. But you also want to make sure you aren’t overdoing the surveillance.
Trust your people to do what you’ve trained them to do, and keep them encouraged so that they continue providing world-class service to your customers. Your agents are the face of your company, and prioritizing their well-being is going to pay off in the long run.
Empathy Will Be a Major Focus
COVID-19 continues to be a major factor in our daily lives, no matter where we’re located in the world. Thousands of people have lost loved ones, livelihoods, treasured plans, and more. Empathy has always been a foundational part of customer service—you always want your customers to know you care about them and are focused on serving them.
But when facing something like a global pandemic, your business has the chance to demonstrate true empathy. What does that mean? It will look different for every business, and it may even look different in different situations. Perhaps you extend your refund policy to give people a chance to try your products without a major financial commitment. Maybe you’re more willing to refund travel-related purchases. Maybe a member of your team could even reach out to some of your most loyal customers to check in and see how they’re making it through.
Empathy is never overrated, and a kind phone call can make a world of difference. If customers think you don’t care about them, they have plenty of other options to shop with—and they’ll be sure to go with a competitor.
Human-Augmented AI Will Become a Central Player
Artificial intelligence (AI) was already on the rise before COVID-19 hit, but in the past year, it’s become even more central to many companies’ customer service strategy. In 2021, it will move from a small sliver of the pie to a large part of your customer service effort makeup. Human-augmented AI has made the technology even easier to use, as keeping humans in the loop makes AI scalable for larger and more complex businesses.
Remote workforces in particular can benefit from AI, as it automates customer service without losing the personalization aspect. Forms can be more easily read, customers can be more easily communicated with, and processes can run even smoother when some form of human-augmented AI is utilized. If you’re looking for a way to make your customer service department thrive this year, check out some of the different types of software you can implement, and introduce a higher level of technology to your customer experience.
If you’re afraid that AI means losing the human touch in your service, don’t be—the entire point of human-augmented AI is that humans are still running the show, and your customers won’t feel anything less than prioritized.