Feb 02 2018 Top 3 Customer Service Trends For 2017


Frustratedwoman.jpgI just did a quick Google search and realized that I could read or watch about 10 million blogs, whitepapers, and webinars on the infamous “top 5” or “top 10” trends related to customer service. I estimate that it will actually take until 2019 to get through all the material so perhaps I will miss out on 2018 altogether. Bad humor aside, I thought I would list 3 customer service experiences that need to end in 2017. I could do 5, 10, or probably 20 but here is the top 3:

1: Canned Up Front IVR Messages

I just called my cable provider and after the initial “blah blah blah” introduction I was forced to listen to the following canned message: “You can also visit us on the web at”

I understand that 10 years ago (maybe 20) we all raced against time to create a service website that allowed our customers to pay a bill, check the status of a ticket, change a phone number on the account, and search through a million frequently asked questions. I believe the time has come that we no longer need to waste time informing callers that you have a website. After all, valuing your customer’s time is the way to their heart, wallet, and loyalty.

And when you do finally update that old, annoying touchtone or keyword speech menu system with a modern personalized IVR or natural language, your customers never care to hear this: “Please note that our menu options have changed.”

Unless the message is personalized to a customer that drives that 1 to 1 relationship, stop wasting your customers’ time with canned, upfront IVR messages.

2: Service Channel Silo Game

I understand the desire to race toward adoption of every new shiny object that software vendors shove down our throats. After all, if we believed the hype and the sales pitches, you would reduce service costs by 100%, double every SLA metric and be a rock star, or finally convince the powers that you are a mission critical asset and not a cost center. That said the new shiny object needs to integrate with all your legacy systems or it will not provide the ROI or anywhere near it.

I use customer service all the time. In fact, I use it way too often. My wife, 4 kids, and even my dog, Iggy, complain how much I “sample the service” of companies in which I do business with or might in the future. But it is a passion, a career, and an obsession to “Make Customer Service Great Again” if I can steal the current President’s campaign slogan. So, it is part of my continued learning.

What is the problem? Virtually every company I engage forces me to start over from scratch when I begin a transaction on one channel but finish it on another. I will start a web chat with an agent to question an item on a bill and not bring it to closure. I pick up the conversation on my drive home but have to start from scratch with the agent. I even ask them “do you not see that I just chatted back and forth with an agent online for 10 minutes one hour ago” but the response is typically no.

If you want to give your customers a reason to remain loyal, stop forcing them to restart a transaction when they move from the web to the phone or from a text to an agent. Silos are for corn, grain but not customer service.

3: Infamous Agent Queues

I think I can speak for a lot of people in stating that we live in a cultural that has little patience for waiting. Yet I understand that to run a business, it is not practical to have 100,000 agents waiting for the phone to ring so that you could personally answer every phone call. Our customers are changing and how we use the agent queues must adapt as well. Today, most of your customers that call you likely started the transaction somewhere else. Perhaps the reason for the call is that via mobile, texting, chat, or your website they could not resolve a problem.

Now, in this scenario I would first like is to review items #1 and #2 above. I likely tried to self-serve online or via chat with an agent. Now when I am forced to call, I hear the annoying upfront messages. Furthermore, if the phone channel does not understand that I was on the website or chatting with an agent, I have to start from scratch with the menu driven IVR by selecting some menu.

We cannot continue to use the traditional queue design and need to evolve how we treat customers that need to wait in a queue. First, we need to value our customers’ time and guide them to utilize an effective callback solution. Sure, I want my problem to go away right now but at least I did not have to wait 10 minutes to speak to an agent if you make it painless for me to receive a callback.

Second, the next issue with agent queues involves agent to agent transfers. We know our customers and likely could predict why they are calling. If that applies to your company then why am I forced to go to a general queue, talk to an agent, and then get transferred to another agent that can fix my problem? We need intelligent routing to get customers to the right agent the first time and we need to understand what our customers were doing on the previous channel.

Third, we need to toss out the old “FIFO” accounting methodology used to treat customers. First in, first out is not valid anymore. If I was chatting with an agent or trying to use your mobile app but still need to call, I am already engaging your company. If a caller is waiting in line, they are not going to be any more angry at waiting 3 minutes or 4 minutes to speak to an agent. But if I am in the middle of a transaction, then call you, why not put me in front of the line?

How do we “Make Customer Service Great Again”

In summary, we need to focus on whether our legacy solutions really provide the intended value to our customers. The IVR has been around for decades but why continue to use a design methodology from the 1990s? You might as well place your competitor’s ad slogan on the upfront message because you are frustrating your customers and driving them away.

New channels to engage customers can improve loyalty and reduce costs but why do your force customers to start over when they move from one to another channel? They need continuity – meaning they need to speak to each other and know when a customer switches from web to IVR.

Agent queues are likely thought of as a commodity and we race to find the cheapest cloud flavor of the month. Why are we not intelligently routing a customer to the right agent? Must I still wait on hold to speak to an agent?