Customer service
December 23, 2020

The most important customer service trends for e-commerce teams in 2021

Liselot Hofman
Liselot Hofman

If there’s one thing this past year has taught us, it’s that it’s tough to predict the future. This also means it’s more important than ever for e-commerce customer service teams to prepare thoroughly.

Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and the need for efficiency is increasing. And without the right preparation, those two elements don’t mesh well. Stay stagnant, and you will have to choose from either of the two. Stay ahead of the game, and you can very well manage both. Even now.

To prepare you and your team for what’s to come, we gathered the most valuable customer service trends for e-commerce teams in 2021.

Table of contents

  • Customer experience will be more important than ever
  • Customer service is shifting from reactive to proactive
  • Companies that turn in technology more than headcount
  • Remote work is here to stay
  • Conversational commerce is key
  • Self-service is becoming the customer’s first choice
  • Customers prefer a personal touch

7 customer service trends to look out for in 2021

Customer experience will be more important than ever

The bar for the customer experience was already high in 2020, and it’s going to continue rising in the coming year.

“Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.”

Support should already be fast, personal, and always available. In a Walker study from 2013, it was predicted that customer experience would overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

To get the most out of the customer experience, we have to make sure that our customer support is at least an 8/10.

You have to make sure that your customer service offers:

  • Quick solutions: It’s all about speed. If it’s taking more time than usual to answer a question, communicate this with your customer. Don’t lose sight of the conversation while your customer is waiting.
  • Personal support: offer your customer more than a simple solution. Immerse yourself in the customer’s situation and not only in the customer’s question. Show empathy and humanity towards your customers.
  • A good pair of ears: ensure that your entire team gets access to the context of each customer inquiry. This way, a customer never has to repeat themselves.
  • 24/7 service: we know your team probably won’t be able to work around the clock. You can use a help center or chatbot to fill the gap.
  • Proactive support: don’t wait for your customer to make the first move but take the initiative. Ask your customers about their experiences, instead of waiting till an issue appears. More on this one in the next trend.

Customer service is shifting from reactive to proactive

To truly make a difference, switching from reactive to proactive customer service is becoming a must.

Reactive customer support is the most-used method we all know. It’s simple: your customer asks a question and your support team tries to answer it the best way possible.

With proactive support, your support team makes the first move instead of waiting for your customers to do it. Your business will get ahead of known customer questions before they arise, which saves your team a lot of stress.

proactive versus reactive customer service

Reactive customer service solves a customer’s problem and assumes everything is fine until your customer asks another question. Proactive customer service solves a problem and takes the initiative to check again a week later. According to Statista, customers have a more favorable view of brands that offer proactive customer service notifications than brands that don’t.

A more favorable view of brand that offer proactive customer service

Companies are turning to technology more than headcount

Technology is a big part of our everyday life. Our ‘smart’ phones, our ‘smart’ homes, and even our TVs are becoming ‘smart’. People are embracing technology more with each passing day.

To match the high customer expectations, companies need a lot of manpower. However, instead of hiring more people, more and more teams opt for a more efficient option: technology

Instead of emailing back-and-forth, companies use built-in team inboxes, and using chatbots to respond to basic questions are just a few examples of efficient options.

With the use of these technologies, companies are available 24/7 and the customer success team can prioritize helping customers without worrying about repetitive tasks as these can be easily automated.

Not only is it time-efficient, but the use of AI-driven technologies is also cost-efficient, reducing customer service costs by 30%.

Technology saves up to 30% in customer support services

There are also the minor tasks that technology can help the CS team with:

  • Automated rules: e.g. it’s possible to create a rule that automatically sends a ticket to the right department.
  • Automated replies: both quick– and auto replies are automated responses that benefits the CS team by removing the need to write out responses to every message.

Remote work is here to stay

In 2020, we saw the revolution of remote work. Whether we were ready or not, we had to adapt ourselves to this new way of working. We don’t know what 2021 holds, but one thing is for sure: even if everything goes back to normal, many of us have grown to enjoy remote work. We have reaped some of its benefits: less commuting, better focus, and more grip on work-life balance.

According to Statista, over 75% of businesses are currently working fully remote or hybrid-remotely (part of the team works remotely).

Company policy on remote work in 2020

For some of us, experiencing remote work led to working more efficiently than ever. These businesses will probably switch to fully remote in 2021, and hire new employees from all over the world. If that business is not you, I’m afraid you still have to count on another year of working remotely. It’s hard to predict the future, but you can better prepare for the worse.

So, if we continue working remotely, we better do it right. You can, for example, optimize your workflow by combining internal and external communication. According to this harmon.ie study, 67% of respondents believe it would be easier to focus on work if important information from all their apps appeared in a single window.

Tapping your colleague on the shoulder for a quick question is no longer an option. To give your colleagues a better context of customer problems, you can use customer profiles and collect all customer messages in one thread. My last tips will be to use analytics and get insights into your team’s productivity and result even while working remotely.

Conversational commerce is key

The amount of channels that people use to communicate has grown immensely over the last decade. There’s a communication channel to suit anyone’s needs. With that conversational commerce has grown in importance too.

Customers prefer to contact businesses through channels that they frequently use, be it on public social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook & Instagram) or through private messaging channels (e.g. Twitter DMs, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp). Customers often first jump on social media when they have a question or an issue. This makes it important for a company to be accessible online.

However, merely being accessible isn’t enough. Customers expect a consistent experience across all different channels and don’t want to be treated differently on Twitter than over a phone call. Also, customers expect seamless transitions between channels. When they start a conversation on Twitter but then continue the ough WhatsApp they expect a similar experience.

So where does conversational commerce come into the picture? Well, conversational commerce comes through providing your customers with a top-notch experience. Nowadays, customers don’t only pay for the product, they also wish to pay for the service around it.

Having a widespread customer journey is not only good for customer satisfaction, it’s also important for customer retention. With a strong omnichannel approach you will retain a large part of your customers. Conversational commerce is a thing of the present and its importance will only grow in the coming years.

Self-service is becoming the customer’s first choice

Gone are the days where a phone call was considered the quickest way to find answers to your questions. As customers, we’re getting used to search for answers ourselves. With Google, the largest library in the world, right at our fingertips, people are finding answers to questions they didn’t know they had in a matter of seconds now.

Customers are starting to expect the same from your business. No more listening to the same hold music you’ve heard a thousand times before. No more hours of waiting for the response to your question on social media. Customers want a quick fix and doing it themselves is the fastest and most accurate way.

There are different ways in which you can offer self-service. One of the most popular ones is a help center. Here, you can add informative articles addressing frequently asked questions, troubleshooting guides, and even how to’s. But you could also provide support videos on the second largest search engine tool: YouTube. This can be by creating tutorial videos or webinars to name a few.

With a good self-service solution, you can hit two birds with one stone:

  1. Your customers are able to find answers at their own pace.
  2. It can save your customer service precious time which they can use to prioritize broader and more complex problems.

Customers prefer a personal touch

Personalization is a broad term, but there are many small touches a company can add to give their customers a more ‘personal’ experience.

A quick example to make this a bit more clear:

Which of these two order confirmation emails speak to you more?

Personal email versus automated email

Both emails give the same information, whilst the email on the left is more direct and straight to the point. The email on the right gives a more human and personal interaction. Similar to what you would get if you bought the shoes at the physical store.

With the increase in conversation through channels that don’t put you in direct contact with customers (e.g live chats, social media, emails). The personalized touch is sometimes forgotten.

A good way of dealing with this is by creating customer profiles. With these profiles, you will always have the context at hand and you can base your recommendations on previous encounters. It also lets you prioritize your involvement with your customer, listening to their story, and complaints instead of asking for personal information.

What about automation?

With companies becoming more reliant on technology it is important that they don’t lose the personal touch with customers. It’s important to balance the use of automatization and a personalized customer experience.

Simple things like asking the customer’s name and using emojis can make a chatbot feel more personal.

Prepare your team for what’s to come

With customer service being an integral part of e-commerce, it’s important to prepare your team for what’s to come. The ever-changing technological developments will keep on surprising us with trends to adapt to.

Hopefully, these 7 most valuable customer service trends will help your team prepare for 2021 and ensure that your CS team doesn’t get surprised.

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