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2018 In Review: 3 Fundamental Shifts in the Customer Care Industry

celebrating end of 2018 looking back on customer care trends

As another year winds down, we're looking back at 2018 to consider the top trends and themes that have been changing the game for our customers – and therefore, for us. In the keynote address at this year's customer conference, Astute CEO Ray Carey explored three main themes he's seen in the market and highlighted what they mean for customer care teams.

1. More companies are engaging in direct e-commerce

It seems everyone's getting into the e-commerce and m-commerce game, even companies that haven't traditionally sold anything through those channels. For example, CPGs are beginning to sell direct to consumers via the web, and more and more restaurants are enabling mobile ordering.

What does this mean for customer care?

Consumer expectations for digital experience expectations have been built up by companies that have lived and breathed e-commerce for years. It can be challenging for "newbies" to compete. You can differentiate by making the customer journey as smooth and seamless as possible, allowing customers to resolve issues and find answers to questions right as they're in that shopping mode.

Speaking of, when e-commerce or online ordering comes into play, consumers will be asking different questions and seeking different resolutions than before. They won't see the distinction between your "sales site" and the customer service or consumer affairs team – they'll just want an instant answer in their channel of choice. And they'll be frustrated if the help options available don't address their issue.

This trend also means that customer care options can no longer be sequestered 17 clicks away in some dark corner of the website or app. Instead, help needs to be front and center, offering assistance for a wide variety of common questions and interactions. One way to accomplish this is with a live chat option, whether it's driven by a chatbot or by live agents.

Customer care contact information and self-service options need to be available front-and-center across all your online properties.

Lastly, this theme means it's time to get cozier with the web and marketing teams at your organization to ensure CX is taken seriously and your team's voice is being heard when it comes to decisions about the customer's online journey.

2. Consumers are changing channels

Many companies are seeing traditional customer contact channels like phone and email level off or decrease, while contact volume from newer channels like web chat, social, and SMS increase. For example, one leading consumer brand has seen phone calls drop by 18% and emails by 4%, while social media contacts have increased more than 200% over the past two years alone.

What does this mean for customer care?

You need to be where your customers are. But this is easier said than done. When many teams think about opening up a new contact channel, they first seek a point solution to tack onto their current case management process. In our experience, a more holistic approach is more effective. Make sure your agents have a single desktop application that allows them to manage all contact channels efficiently and consistently.

One leading consumer brand has seen social media contacts increase by more than 200% in the past two years alone.

You also need to consider scale when adopting a new channel, or even just offering support beyond standard business hours. Nobody has unlimited resources, and adding more headcount isn't always a feasible choice. Again, a chatbot allows customers to self-serve in the context of a back-and-forth conversation, delivering the convenience and speed they want while letting you support a new channel without the need for more staff. 2019 is the time to get on the customer self-service train, if you haven't already; Astute's technology already handles for than 4 million self-service interactions on behalf our clients every month.

The last thing to consider as you think about supporting new channels is how to enable your existing agents to resolve cases more quickly. Look to robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) embedded within agent tools to help automate the most routine tasks and processes, allowing agents to work quickly and effectively to solve cases across all channels.

3. Customer Care teams are increasingly reporting to Marketing

As CX becomes a key priority for executive teams, customer care departments are more likely to report to Marketing, instead of Operations or Risk. These transitions bring fundamental shifts in team objectives.

57% of executive teams want to position their company as a CX leader in their industry.

What does this mean for customer care?

Customer care teams are still expected to provide quick, effective service, but you're also going to be asked to increase engagement with customers, build brand loyalty, enhance customer lifetime value, and so on. Ask yourself, do your agents have the right tools and training for the job? And are they collecting the kind of customer data you'll need for meaningful metrics and insights?

Reporting to Marketing gives you a great opportunity to claim your seat at the boardroom table. You can do this by showing how the customer data your team collects can be used to improve the business in a meaningful way. For example, you could use the data to detect a potential product defect by monitoring case codes instead of waiting for inspection of returns, or contribute insight to product packaging and labeling decisions based on concerns you're hearing from customers.

A change in reporting structure also gives you a chance to tap into new budgetary resources. Marketing budgets have steadily grown over the past several years. In fact, one in 9 budget dollars goes to Marketing on average, and more resources are increasingly going to digital marketing initiatives. This presents an excellent opportunity to build your case for digital CX improvements and get the funding you need.

How are these trends affecting you? With our 25+ years of experience working to drive outcomes for customer care teams and the businesses they serve, the experts at Astute are here to help prepare you to meet these challenges. Get in touch with us today.

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