Customer service is a key strategy element for all companies. It has become even more important in the past few years due to the growth of e-commerce and increased competition in the industry. In 2023, certain key trends emerged in the area of customer service. It is important for brands to take them into account in order to maintain high satisfaction levels.
In addition, the emergence of Generation Z and the buying power of millennials have reversed trends. Different channels, different intentions, different messages: brand communication must be reviewed.
What trends and innovations will influence the way in which brands interact with their customers? How can they adapt to offer an exceptional customer experience in a constantly shifting world? In this article, we are going to explore the forecasts that will impact the customer experience of tomorrow and see how companies can prepare for these changes.
Today, brands must absolutely take Generation Z and millennials into consideration. These two groups, who are more and more influential on the market, have expectations and behaviors that are different from older customers.
Millennials, or people born between 1980 and 1995, are passionate about new technologies and constantly look for new experiences. They are also very sensitive to social and environmental challenges and expect their brands to be responsible and transparent.
Generation Z is even more conscious of social and environmental challenges. Super connected, Gen Z are also very sensitive to the reviews and criticisms of other customers (of the same generation) and listen to online influencers.
To win over these two generations, brands must be present on social media channels and be able to create relevant and engaging content. They must also be transparent and communicate in an authentic and honest way.
In addition, they expect their brands to be responsible and even irreproachable and that they engage with society. Brands that showcase their engagement and positive impact therefore have all the chances to win over these demanding customers. Thierry Spencer, a consultant, conference speaker, and author of “le sens du client” blog, speaks about this issue with LVMH, Blablacar, and SNCF during the conference, RSE; customers challenge companies. This is a challenge which, according to Hélène Valade, Director of Environmental Development of the LVMH Group, began during the Covid era: “I think that the Covid era allowed us to understand this and also make us understand the total interdependence we have with regard to nature, and the fact that we cannot do anything, we cannot produce if we do not have the natural resources available in an important way. I think that this time generated very strong expectations towards brands, from which we expect more engagement to work on the challenges they face. What does a company do for the climate? What does a company do for biodiversity?”
A need for more transparency, dialogue, and ethics which, if respected by brands, will give them all the chances to win over these two generations which are more and more influential on the market.
It is undeniable that consumption and customer mentality have evolved considerably these past few years. It is an evolution which Thierry Spencer highlights during his annual recap of customer trends. According to Spencer, six trends are strong this year:
Tired because he lives in a society of over-solicitation, explains Bruno Patino, author of the book, Storm in the Jar: “Hyperconnected society is a society of fatigue: decisional fatigue due to constant solicitation, fatigue from not being able to manage one’s time, psychological fatigue when faced with constant emotional surcharge.” Customers suffer particularly from digital fatigue: online purchases, marketing emails, digitalized communications with brands…this is why many implement avoidance and protection practices: 80% of customers do so, according to a Keyrus study. Brands must therefore adapt their offers to their customers to create effortless and less stressful experiences: engaging customers on the right channel, at the right time, and with the right message.
Sensible because he is more and more conscious of the impact of his purchases on the environment and society. Customers are ready to pay a little more for more ethical and durable products and prioritize brands that respect these values. 6 French customers out of 10 (61%) feel that the circular economy today is not developed enough. So, how can one respond to this challenge? By evolving one’s brand. Decathlon, for example, has engaged in recycling and buying used. The brand does this particularly by offering product repair workshops, a website dedicated to customer service and product repairs, to selling used items and taking them back. In Belgium, a testing phase was carried out for a year. The result: 26,000 items were bought back by the brand. So, it’s not shocking that Decathlon is among the top 3 preferred customer brands for several years now.
Competent since the customer uses more and more channels but also knows how to be autonomous. We are witnessing an increase in chatbot use in the landscape of customer service channels. According to the observatory of customer service BVA 2022, chatbots are now the third most used contact channel by customers. In spite of an increase of 7 points in one year, only 54% of users are happy with chatbots since the digitalization of our society has led to a change in buying habits. Customers are more and more likely to do their shopping online and compare prices and reviews of products before buying them. They are also more and more impatient and demanding. 68% of customers think furthermore that companies must improve the training of agents in contact with customers. Among them, many believe that these agents are not trained enough.
Excessive since he is more and more demanding when it comes to the quality of his buying and customer experience. Customers expect brands to offer them a seamless and personalized experience and will not hesitate to share their dissatisfaction. For 87%, making contact with customer service is synonymous with confrontation. They are more and more sensitive to the intensity of interactions. According to BVA, while 36% of customers remember magical moments, 45% of them remember negative moments. 55% feel irritation, and 48% feel anger. Customer service departments must therefore invest in moderation, protect and train agents to master the codes of new conversations, and avoid impacting the mental health of contact center agents too much.
Informal since customers search for greater closeness. These past few years, the main investment of companies has been on remote customer service. For a short while now, customers are asking for a return to reality, with a stronger social bond. It is necessary to develop the culture of the company, ask for customer comments, give a face to agents…in short, humanize brands and recreate a bond.
Heroic since the customer wants to be responsible about his consumption and show others that he is just that. This new consumption mentality has led to the emergence of new trends such as responsible consumption and zero waste. Customers are more and more sensitive to the use of premium durable materials and to the reduction of waste generated by their purchases. They also want to purchase more locally in order to support the economy of their region and reduce transportation costs. How can you give customers the means of having an impact? Some brands opt for nudge marketing, a marketing strategy that incites customers to make a decision or adopt a specific behavior in a subtle or indirect manner. Nudge marketing is based on the theory of rational choice, which says that individuals make decisions according to their preferences and interests but can also be influenced by the environment they are in. A concrete example is Faguo, which, for every purchase, plants trees.
Faced with these mentality changes, brand must react by offering more value, societal engagement, and transparence—especially with the use of data. Very involved on their end, customers wish to feel equal to brands.
Customer service in 2023 is strongly influenced by increases in technology. Chatbots and vocal assistants are used more and more to offer fast and efficient customer service, while the use of augmented reality and virtual reality are beginning to develop to offer a more immersive buying experience. According to BVA, the use of chatbots multiplied by 3 these past five years and represent today 25% of French customers who make contact with customer service, 34% in Italy, and 30% in the UK and Germany. Messaging is also progressing: 16% of French customers use mobile messaging to contact brands, while 33% do so in Italy and 34% in Spain.
Despite a quick adoption of new channels, « classic » channels are still popular. The voice channel remains the top channel for contacting customer service at 55%, and email is in second position at 49%.
It’s not new: customers are more and more demanding when it comes to customer service. They expect not only a quick and efficient response to their questions or problems but also a customer experience that is personalized and adapted to their individual needs. For 91% of French customers, the quality of customer service influences their purchase or re-purchase decision from a brand. This statistic is a little lower in neighboring European countries, as the quality of customer experience impacts purchase and re-purchase for 73% of UK nationals and 64% of Spanish customers.
Nonetheless, they all expect one thing from brands: quick responses. When they contact customer service by phone, 59% expect to be connected in less than a minute, according to BVA. In reality, this takes on average 1 minute and 9 seconds. When they contact customer service by email, 78% expect a response during the day, according to BVA. In reality, this takes on average 4 hours and 35 minutes. We can therefore conclude that the challenge of being connected quickly on classic channels has been well-understood by brands. Nonetheless, on digital channels, reality is very different. According to BVA, 65% of customers expect to receive a response within the hour of contacting a brand via social media channels. In reality, this takes on average 3 hours and 40 minutes.
The customer experience of tomorrow will be heavily influenced by technological advances and customer mentality. Companies will have to adapt to these changes to offer a seamless, personalized, and engaging experience. In other words, the customer experience of tomorrow will be based on the creation of durable relations with customers thanks to clear communication and product and service offers of superior quality.
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