7 Customer Service Trends That Impact Expectations

7 Trends in Customer Service Expectations

7 Customer Service Trends That Impact Expectations

Due to the rapidly changing world in which we live, customer expectations continue to shift dramatically in the 21st century. In many instances, trends in customer service expectations are being driven by the pervasiveness of technology, especially social media.  The following are some of the customer service trends that I have identified by talking to workshop attendees, customers, friends, and conducting a survey of available research and publications. These trends have a powerful impact on customer expectations.

  1. 24/7/365 mentality. Today’s customers expect that they can get what they want, how they want it and when they want if twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred and sixty-five days a year. When service and product providers are not available or cannot meet this expectation, customers simply go to a competitor who can.
  2.  Efficiency in service. With the advances of technology, customers do not expect to have to repeat steps or be inconvenienced when receiving service. For example, some organizations require that credit card and personal information be entered on a computer screen or through an automated phone system when ordering or calling with questions or problems. When the customer is then connected to an agent, they are often asked to repeat their information.
  3.  Prompt response. Another one of the trends in customer service crucial in satisfying today’s customers is prompt service. The days of accepting “Someone will get back to you within twenty-four hours” are over. Customers see progressive companies using multichannel service response systems (e.g. online FAQ, customer care center 24/7/365, access through mobile technology, automated voice response systems, email, and chats) to ensure availability and response to customer needs, wants and expectations. They expect all companies to follow a similar model.
  4.  Human interaction. The automated response might be acceptable in some situations if it provides the information or satisfies customer needs. However, efficient human contact is typically the preferred means of response for most customers. The key is that the humans involved need to be well-trained, competent and knowledgeable, not scripted. They also need to be fluent in the native language of the majority of the company’s customers.
  5.  Service effectiveness over fluff. Incentive programs are nice, but what typically keeps customers coming back is that timely, effective and friendly customer service. This helps organizational efficiency and enhances customer loyalty. Meeting the needs wants and expectations of a diverse customer base will often win out over a free refill, discount off next purchase or a “buy 10; get one free” loyalty program offer.
  6. Low tolerance for errors. In a world where companies like FedEx promised “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight,” computers have spellcheck to help catch errors, and many companies have unconditional guarantees to make it right when something goes wrong, customers are not as likely to accept excuses.  They expect companies to live up to their promises and what they put on their websites. They also expect that all employees are empowered to make decisions and fix problems without having to get their supervisor.
  7. Free shipping.  For years, leading companies like Zappos, Amazon, L.L. Bean, Lands End have been offering free shipping, and in some cases free return shipping. This can result in big savings if someone regularly orders from a company or places large orders.

There are many other customer service trends of which you and your organization should be aware of in order to meet the needs, wants and expectations of your customers. Take time to search the Internet for additional articles, read books on customer service trends, and attend customer service conferences and training sessions on the topic. Do whatever it takes to better prepare to meet changing customer expectations and help ensure customer satisfaction.

What customer service trends have you identified in dealing with your own customers or talking to others? Share them with other readers.

Impact of Demographics on Consumer Spending

The Impact of Demographics on Consumer Spending

Impact of Demographics on Consumer Spending

The world is shrinking as millions of consumers from various cultures and demographic backgrounds come together. In an age of lightning-fast technology and the ability to get onto a plane in the morning and be in another country within twenty-four hours, the likelihood that a customer service representative will deal with someone from a different background who looks, sounds and thinks differently from them is almost a given. With these encounters comes huge revenue generation opportunities, but also big challenges in how to effectively provide service to individuals from various backgrounds.

Like many parts of the developed world, consumer behavior and the overall buying power of various ethnic groups in the United States has grown. According to one study done by The University of Georgia’s Selig Center shows that “…Over the 19-year period (1990-2008), the percentage gains in minority buying power vary consider­ably by race, from a gain of 337 percent for Asians to 213 percent for American Indians to 187 percent for blacks. All of these target markets will grow much faster than the white market, where buying power will increase by 139 percent.”

Other sources contend that women are also a force to be reckoned with in the retail environment. Female consumers account for a majority of buying decisions on consumer products and services in many areas, including everything from automobiles to healthcare. Many of the increases described are due to more representation of these groups in the workplace and at higher levels (e.g. management), higher education levels and better access to workplace opportunities for minorities (e.g. training, promotions, and transfers).

Various diverse groups are also having a major impact on global markets, especially in the United States where a report on http://www.marketingresearch.com “…estimated the buying power of gays and lesbians exceed $835 billion and projected the gay and lesbian population to exceed 16.3 million people by 2011.” In addition, people with disabilities spend billions of dollars on goods and services. Some estimates for online spending by this group alone top $10 billion dollars a year.

Add to the numbers you just read the demographic of the newest generation of shoppers – Generation Y (also known as Millennials, teens, Tweeners, and Twenty-Somethings) born between 1978 and 2000 with nearly eighty-four million members in the United States alone. According to Kit Yarrow and Jayne O’Donnell in their eye-opening book Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail, this demographic group spends over $200 billion dollars a year and it is estimated that in their lifetime, their consumption will top $10 trillion dollars.

Obviously the recession slowed the number of sales being made worldwide.  Even so, with the types of economic power being wielded by various ethnic, age and other diverse groups, service providers should plan accordingly and be prepared to meet the needs of each group of customers.

What this means is that by gaining knowledge about values, beliefs, motivators, history and other factors that can influence someone’s behavior and perceptions, especially related to those of different diverse categories, you can better prepare to serve them. For example, there is a potential for distrust when some people of different cultures or groups with a history of negative relations (e.g. Caucasian and African-American or North American Indian, Chinese and Japanese, Israeli and Palestinian, Christian and Muslim) come together. As a service provider, if you are aware of potential negative perceptions, you might modify your approach to providing service in a given situation.

For more information and suggested strategies for serving a global customer base, get a copy of Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

Who is Robert C. Lucas?

Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

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The key to successfully making money as an author and/or self-publisher is to brand yourself and your company and to make yourself and your book(s) a household name. Part of this is face-to-face interaction with people at trade shows, library events, book readings, book store signings, blogging or guest blogging on a topic related to their book(s). Another strategy involves writing articles and other materials that show up online and are found when people search for a given topic related to a topic about which the author has written.

If you need help building an author platform, branding yourself and your book(s) or generating recognition for what you do, Make Money Writing Books will help. Bob’s popular book addresses a multitude of ideas and strategies that you can use to help sell more books and create residual and passive income streams. The tips outlined in the book are focused to help authors but apply to virtually any professional trying to increase personal and product recognition and visibility.

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