THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE

Five trends that will redefine great service in 2015 and beyond.

 

Receiving great customer service triggers the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved.

When 1,620 consumers were tested under laboratory conditions, 63% said they felt their heart rate increase when they thought about receiving great customer service.

For 53% of those tested, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved.*

The takeaway? When it comes to customer service, it's not about what consumers think. Great service is about feelings.

*American Express Service Study, September 2013

The future of customer service is more than just drone delivery.

 

Plenty of brands are mainlining the hype around new customer service technologies, concepts, and yes, even trends.

Trouble is, customers aren't feeling any better.

Our hunch? There are plenty of new technologies, clever concepts and even trends that could help brands offer better service to consumers. But too few brands understand that amid all this rapid change, the fundamentals of great service remain the same. It's about the feeling of being recognized. Listened to. Valued and cared for.

Smart brands will find new ways to serve those age-old imperatives. They could start by applying one (or all!) of the five trends below.

Of course, these trends offer just a glimpse of THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE, not the entire picture. But they're five manifestations of the shifting consumer expectation that will redefine great service in 2015 and beyond.

Globally in 2013, 66% of consumers switched brands or business due to poor customer service, a 4% increase on the previous year. Some 82% of those who switched said the brand could have done something to stop them.

Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, November 2013

Five trends helping to define THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE in 2015 and beyond.

1. PLAN B
Products that come with their own backup plan.
2. VIDEO VALETS
Face time, any time.
3. DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS
Delivery. And then some.
4. SIXTH SENSE
The customer-focused brand has a new sense: info-sense.
5. POLITENESS PAYS
Because good customer service is a two-way street.

1. PLAN B

Products that come with their own backup plan.

1. PLAN B

Plenty of brands are playing lip service to the 'every product a service' mantra.

One ongoing, powerful shift in consumer expectation:

"Why own a single product, when I can have access to the right product when (and only when) I need it?"

A host of forces are driving that expectation shift, from the rise of the sharing economy, to ever-busier, more itinerant urban living, to the relentless NEWISM that sees consumers thirst after a constant stream of new products.

 

1. PLAN B cont...

In 2015 truly customer-centric brands will offer a PLAN B.

One way inventive brands are reconciling ownership and access – and fueling NEWISM?

By selling products that come with a PLAN B: that is, access when needed to an alternative or backup product which overcomes limitations in the original, puts right an emergency (I've run out! It's broken! It's lost!), addresses a common pain point, and more.

One key benefit of some PLAN B innovations? By providing an alternative, they remove the risk associated with outright purchase of new/unfamiliar products – allowing consumers to indulge in carefree NEWISM! Want to see how BMW did just this? Scroll down!

 

 
PLAN B: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

BMW i3

Electric car owners get access to petrol vehicles to ease 'range anxiety'

When BMW launched the electric i3 vehicle in October 2013, they announced that i3 owners would also get reduced rate, on-demand access to a gas-powered car. BMW partnered with car rental service Sixt to offer i3 owners a 20% discount when hiring a BMW car through Sixt. The BMW i3 has an approximate driving range of 160km, and the Add-on Mobility service is intended for motorists planning a trip beyond that range.

 
PLAN B: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

EE Festival Power Bar

Telecoms company offers replacement battery service to festival-goers

Launched at the Glastonbury Music Festival in June 2014, the EE Festival Power Bar is a portable mini-charger for cellphones. Festival-goers who purchased the GBP 20 device prior to the event were able to trade in depleted bars at the official EE recharge tent, where it was replaced with another, fully-charged device. Unlimited swaps were available, and users could keep the power bar after the event.

 
PLAN B: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Forever 21

Costa Rican fashion retailer gives customers access to emergency clothes truck

May 2014 saw fashion retailer Forever 21 promote the opening of its third Costa Rican store with Closet S.O.S: a mobile fashion truck stocked with apparel and accessories. The first 100 customers received a voucher that entitled them to request a visit from the traveling closet during ‘fashion emergencies’: unexpected dates or duplicate party outfits, for example.

1. PLAN B

NEXT

Smart brands will be brave enough to be honest about product limitations, and to confront common customer pain points. For the bravest? Partner with another brand to offer alternatives you can't. See how eBay joined forces with UK retailer Argos to roll out 'click and collect'. PLAN A: your eBay purchase is delivered to your home. PLAN B: we'll deliver it to your nearest Argos store.

 

2. VIDEO VALETS

Face time, any time.

2. VIDEO VALETS

So I can Skype my elderly grandmother...

But the brands I buy from don't own webcams?

Millions of consumers worldwide have had enough of ineffective virtual 'assistance' by web or phone.

What's more, they've been enjoying on-demand face time with their friends for years now. The tech exists – why can't brands catch up?

Now, forward-thinking brands are finally doing just that: by providing webcam-enabled face-to-face interaction with their customer service representatives – as and when consumers need it.

The Amazon Mayday button connects Kindle Fire HDX tablet owners to an Amazon customer service representative via webcam. Among tablet owners, 75% of customer service interactions now come via the button.

Amazon, June 2014
 
VIDEO VALETS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Amazon Fire Phone

Mayday button for instant webcam-enabled chat with Amazon staff

In June 2014 online retailer Amazon launched its first smartphone, the Fire Phone. Fire Phones come pre-loaded with the Mayday button, a one-tap application that instantly allows the user webcam-enabled face time with an Amazon customer services representative. The Mayday button first appeared on the Kindle Fire HDX tablet, launched in September 2013. Average response time is 9.75 seconds

 
VIDEO VALETS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Induslnd Bank, Bank of America & mBank

Banks offer webcam-enabled live chat

June 2014 saw Mumbai-based IndusInd Bank launch Video Branch: a service that provides video conferencing with branch managers. Via a free desktop or cellphone app, customers can schedule and participate in video calls, complete transactions and access a contact center. Meanwhile, in August 2013 Bank of America launched its Express Branch in New York, featuring ATM's that allow live video chat with bank staff, and in June 2013 Poland-based mBank launched a new online banking system that allows customers to webcam with bank representatives.

 
VIDEO VALETS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

ASOS & Nike

Brands collaborate on shoppable Google hangout

In March 2014, online retailer ASOS and Nike co-hosted a shoppable Google + Hangout to celebrate 27 years of Nike's Air Max trainer. The Hangout was hosted by MTV freelance stylist Natasha Wray and ASOS fashion editor Zeba Lowe, who offered styling tips. Meanwhile, viewers could buy Nike products via a specially generated ad within the Google Display Network.

 
VIDEO VALETS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Fiat Live Store

Brazilian online platform for webcam-enabled car browsing

In June 2014 the Fiat Live Store won a Bronze Lion in the Media category and a Lion in the Innovation category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Launched in Brazil and accessed via the Fiat website, the Live Store allows customers to connect with Fiat staff at showrooms. Via head-mounted cameras worn by the staff, customers can then virtually explore vehicles while asking questions and discussing purchasing options.

2. VIDEO VALETS

NEXT

VIDEO VALETS don't have to be about dealing with customer questions or complaints. Can you offer new experiences, trials and tests via webcam? Or even undertake key processes via webcam: see how US insurance company Esurance now allows webcam-enabled accident appraisal via smartphone.

 

3. DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS

Delivery. And then some.

3. DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS

Delivery startups are hot again (thanks Uber ;)

But truly customer-centric brands – established or new – will understand that delivery is just the start.

Tap to summon a taxi – done. Now, rising numbers of consumers will expect to tap to order just about anything. And this time (unlike in the early 2000's, when the first crop of internet delivery businesses crashed) the logistics are viable. Get ready for a smartphone-fueled rush of delivery innovations.

Meanwhile, for countless etailers big and small, delivery is already the key touch point they have with customers.

One consequence? In 2015, smart brands will see delivery as so much more than functional.

Whether that means cramming additional services and added extras into their delivery, delivering to unusual (and mobile) locations, or turning a standard delivery service into a force for broader good in the world, they'll DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS.

Global B2C e-commerce sales are expected to total USD 1.5 trillion in 2014.

eMarketer, February 2014
 
DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

JeansOnline & Lamoda

Courier will wait 15 minutes and take back unwanted items

January 2014 saw Dutch etailer JeansOnline launch a home delivery option that allows shoppers to give any unwanted items straight back to the courier. With the Easy Fit & Return service, customers have 15 minutes to try on garments, after which the courier will return to collect any purchases they do not want to keep. Meanwhile, couriers from Russian online fashion store Lamoda will wait 15 minutes for returns and offer fashion advice if asked.

 
DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Volvo

App lets users designate car as delivery location

March 2014 saw Volvo demonstrate the Roam Delivery mobile app at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona. The service allows customers to use their vehicle as a delivery location. Via the free service, drivers can opt to have shopping or groceries delivered to their car when ordering online. Customers are informed when a delivery is scheduled via the app, and can then provide a digital key. Volvo owners can use the app to track when their car is opened and locked again, with the digital key being destroyed once the delivery is completed.

 
DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Pizza Hut Panamá

Delivered pizzas cooked in transit to ensure freshness

In May 2014, Pizza Hut Panamá launched Oven Delivery: a delivery service that cooks pizzas whilst they are in transit. Electric ovens were installed on the back of motorcycles to reduce delivery time and improve the quality of the pizza.

 
DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

L.

Get a packet of condoms delivered, give one to the developing world

May 2014 saw US condom company L. launch a one-hour delivery service in New York City after successfully trialing the scheme in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The service is available via L’s website, priced at USD 8 per package in NYC. For each purchase, one packet of condoms is donated to people in developing countries.

DELIVER (MORE THAN) THE GOODS

NEXT

The delivery ecosystem is blooming, thanks to a host of startups and one or two billion-dollar megaliths. Can you find a way for your brand to hitch along for the ride? See how chips brand Lay's partnered with Uber to offer picnic delivery for two days in New York.

 

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4. SIXTH SENSE

The customer-focused brand has a new sense: info-sense.

4. SIXTH SENSE

Even stupid brands are collecting consumer data.

Only smart brands have a SIXTH SENSE for it.

Smart sensors, face and object recognition technologies and wearable devices mean it's possible to gather and analyze information about consumers – their location, preferences, purchasing histories and much more – in real-time as never before.

Not to mention that consumers have been creating and trailing data online now forever. Online, they're long accustomed to seeing that data used to personalize the products they buy and the experiences they enjoy.

Now, consumers in physical spaces will increasingly expect the use of real-time data to shape and enhance the service they receive. In 2015, it's time for brands to develop and use a SIXTH SENSE for information.

In 2014, 36% of global consumers are willing to share their current location with retailers via GPS – that's almost double the number who were in 2013.

IBM, January 2014
 
SIXTH SENSE: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Klépierre

Touchscreen corridor offers personalized product suggestions

March 2014 saw French shopping center specialist Klépierre unveil the Inspiration Corridor: a booth that uses facial and body recognition to make shopping recommendations. The corridor is equipped with sensors that analyze a shopper’s age, gender and apparel. Touchscreens are then populated with personalized purchase suggestions. Shoppers can also scan the barcodes of items they’ve already purchased to view accessory suggestions. They can receive directions on their cellphone to items they like by tapping on the touchscreen.

 
SIXTH SENSE: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Prorail & NS

Train station LED display gives real-time data on carriages

In July 2014, Dutch train operators Prorail and NS announced plans to roll out platform-length LED displays that provide real-time information to passengers. The 180-meter LED strips show information on carriage crowdedness, as well as information on where carriage doors will open, which carriages are best for bikes and buggies, and where quiet carriages are located. The system utilizes infrared sensors in carriages that detect how full carriages have become. The announcement followed a successful 2013 trial.

 
SIXTH SENSE: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Ulybka Radugi

Russian cosmetics retailer uses emotion recognition software to offer customized discounts

June 2013 saw Russian cosmetics retail chain Ulybka Radugi introduce cameras and emotion recognition software at checkout counters. The cameras can read consumers’ facial expressions and register emotions. Information is stored alongside the consumer’s loyalty card number and purchase details to create a personalized profile with targeted campaigns and promotions.

 
SIXTH SENSE: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

Virgin Atlantic & Copenhagen Airport

Airline and airport trial Google Glass for passenger-facing staff

February 2014 saw Virgin Atlantic equip concierge staff at the Upper Class lounge in London’s Heathrow airport with Google Glass. Staff used Glass to identify passengers, initiate check-in automatically and provide updates on weather and local events at flight destinations. Virgin say the service may alert staff to passengers’ personal preferences, such as dietary requirements, in future. Meanwhile, June 2014 saw Copenhagen Airport become the first airport to trial Google Glass; passenger services staff used Glass to access to gate, baggage and flight information and benefit from real-time language translation.

4. SIXTH SENSE

NEXT

We know what you're thinking. Privacy! Brands with a SIXTH SENSE must be cool and not creepy when it comes to seamless data use and collection. Rising numbers of aware consumers will want to know where you're storing their data, and how you plan to use it. Transparency and common sense are key.

 

5. POLITENESS PAYS

Because good customer service is a two-way street.

5. POLITENESS PAYS

The worst part about a whole range of consumer experiences?

The other consumers, of course ;)

Yes, the brand/consumer relationship is democratized as never before. But – as we've discussed with trends such as DEMANDING BRANDS – that has led to some counterintuitive results.

In a relationship of equals, demands can go both ways. And that's why rising numbers of consumers are willing to let brands demand something of them – a little contribution, effort, even pain – in the name of some broader good.

The implications for customer service? In 2015, smart brands will realize that it's often other consumers who have the greatest impact on customer experience – good or bad. So they'll encourage – or even force – every consumer to do their bit when it comes to creating a positive atmosphere and ensuring processes run smoothly.

54% of New York consumers say it is rude and inappropriate to text, tweet, email or talk on a cellphone during a restaurant meal.

Zagat, October 2013
 
POLITENESS PAYS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

La Petite Syrah

Café rewards polite patrons with discounts

In October 2013, a café in the South of France implemented a pricing policy based on patron’s politeness. Patrons who greeted the barista at La Petite Syrah and used ‘please’ were charged EUR 1.40 for a cup of coffee; those who failed to use any pleasantries were ‘penalized’ with a EUR 7 price. The prices (with greeting) were clearly displayed on a board inside the café.

 
POLITENESS PAYS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

McDonald's and Coca-Cola

Philippine restaurants reward diners for not using their phones

In May 2014, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola partnered in the Philippines to launch BFF Timeout: a free app that rewards diners for not using their phones. Once individuals in a group have all opened the mobile app, the timeout begins and points are earned for every moment that cellphones are left alone. As soon as anyone uses their phone, the timeout ends. Participants’ scores were ranked on a public leaderboard, and prizes included trips to Japan and Singapore.

 
POLITENESS PAYS: FEATURED INNOVATIONS

MTS India

Trash-clearing festival goers rewarded with free wifi

In Q4 2013, MTS India unveiled special trash cans at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender festivals in Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. Designed to help minimize trash at the events, for each item deposited in the cans, people were rewarded with a code giving them free wifi access. When festival-goers entered their unique code, an automated message was sent across their social networks, telling their connections about the Indian telco’s special bins.

5. POLITENESS PAYS

NEXT

Yes, we've noticed too: right now restaurants and cafés are all over the POLITENESS PAYS trend. But expect it to spread anywhere consumers impact on each other's experiences. Flights? Cinemas? Shopping malls? Swimming pools? The list of potential applications is endless.

 

In conclusion...

It's not about the trends.

Ultimately, trends are only a means to an end. That is: delighting, surprising, and serving consumers. So GET GOING!

 

Want to apply these trends? Use our free CONSUMER TREND CANVAS!

This free tool will help you and your team unpack a trend, adapt it for your own context and apply it. And remember, THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE is (forever) about making consumers feel loved!

 

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