No, this isn’t your typical year-end list — we aren’t counting down the “Top 5 Dog Accessories for the New Year,” or “5 Best Snapchat Filters of 2017” like other blogs. We are here to deliver an industry-relevant, actionable list of customer support trends for 2018.
The customer support industry is volatile, and many trends have the potential to boom or bust. Based off the trajectory of the industry today, here are the top five emerging trends that have the potential to make a lasting impact on customer support systems.
1. Gig Economy:
If the rise of services such as Lyft and Airbnb taught us anything this year it’s that both employers and employees stand to benefit from side hustles — the customer support world is no exception. The “Uberization” of the American workforce is making its way to customer support and customer support systems managers need to take notice.
This year we saw an influx of community-based agents — ad hoc experts willing to lend expertise for a price. Freelancers are drawn to customer support gigs for flexible working hours, to engage with a product they care about, and as a way to make a little extra cash on nights and weekends.
The gig economy represents an industry sea-change where support calls can evolve beyond a simple question and response, and actually become a way for customers to receive helpful, peer-to-peer feedback and comradery. Companies willing to trust the open-source process stand to benefit from the cheap labor and non-restrictive hours of gig workers. The community knowledge base is more effective than you might think.
Chatbots: the industry buzzword which, depending on who you ask, is either revolutionizing customer support or ruining it forever. Famously, Facebook transitioned its Messenger platform to chatbot support, and saw a shocking 70 percent fail rate. Despite this hiccup, many industry leaders are hopeful for the future of chatbots in 2018 — as long as they can learn to accommodate customer needs.
This contentious customer support asset is being favored as a cost-effective alternative to traditional support systems, but its lasting power depends on three key factors:
- Ability to connect with customers in a personalized way — No one wants to feel like they are being defaulted to a robot, so chatbots must evolve through natural language processing to adopt a more human, empathetic image.
- Meaningful content — Chatbots must be able to learn to navigate the nuance of human inquiry and offer quality response. Quality over quantity should definitely become the chatbot standard. It would be better for chatbots to offer limited, time-tested answers rather than their purpose today of addressing a large, generic swath of questions.
- Cost — The billion-dollar question: how can chatbots be built — and maintained — at an affordable price point? Chatbots need to become more intuitive through natural language processing to cut down on fail-rate and updating costs.
3. “The Silent Majority” Insights:
As an industry, we must start considering what we can learn from the close to 80 percent of customers that don’t call in for support. Is it possible we are adapting customer support systems based off a very vocal minority, and overlooking a “silent majority” much to the detriment of overall customer experience?
In 2018, customer support teams should look to gain insight from the considerable portion of customers who, for whatever reason, never call in for support. But how? Well, substantial advancements in Deep Learning technology make this possible.
With modern AI technologies, you can create feedback loops so you can learn from where customers are most likely to disengage or plateau when using your product. Naturally, this offers up valuable insight that can be used to make adjustments to customer support and success teams.
4. Vertical Content and Search Engine:
Last time your smartphone wouldn’t turn on, or your garbage disposal was making a noise, who did you turn to first? The manufacturer? Maybe the customer support line? No — whenever consumers experience a product issue, they are most likely consulting Google to solve the problem long before calling in for support.
Content is king, but how it is delivered matters even more. A vertical search engine would be able to make money through highly-granular search results with custom tailored content on specific how-to solutions. Through short snippet videos, knowledge articles, and chatbot answers a developer can find a way to make sense of vague online searches and return specific resolutions. It is possible that 2018 will be the year a third-party platform will perfect how-to solution curation.
In this scenario, YouTube channels and how-to websites would be able to significantly monetize expertise and content by offering answers to customer questions. Customers would have access to a trusted, global network of experts to get second opinions and product support.
Of course this is only possible if companies are willing to relinquish customer support control over to other customers. Believe it or not, consumers now trust other consumers for support — sometimes even more than the product developer. It might be time for customer support teams to evaluate their ego and hand over support control to other customers.
5. AI for Customer Support Agents:
A common thread among all the previous points is that customer support will, undoubtedly, continue to improve ticket efficiency with the help of emerging customer support system technology. In effect, you can expect customer support teams to begin replacing phone calls with electronic ticketing.
AI for customer support greatly streamlines customer support systems by mining previously resolved tickets for what made them successful, and passing that valuable knowledge over to agents. AI technology will first be used to augment agents with the right answers, and then eventually improve CSAT scores by reducing handle time. It’s a safe bet that AI will soon be as integral to customer support as the cloud is now to IT due to its accessibility and broad utility.
Are you ready to be an early adopter of the next breakout 2018 trend? Schedule an AnswerIQ demo to learn more about how AI/machine learning technology is changing the way customers interact with support and why AI is becoming the new standard for customer support systems.