31st Dec 2015
This year saw customer satisfaction in the UK stabilise after two years of decline, as more organisations increased their efforts to understand and meet customers’ needs. As we approach 2016, the Institute of Customer Service has identified seven trends that could shape the future of customer service at this pivotal juncture.
As the year unfolds, customers will become increasingly frustrated with organisations that fail to create an omnichannel customer experience. The companies with the highest success rates will be the ones that fine-tune their customer service strategies to operate seamlessly across social, digital, telecoms and personal platforms.
Following the series of high-profile data breaches that made headlines in 2015, the next 12 months will see data security take centre stage, as organisations recognise the importance of building trust and establishing strong customer relationships.
Data will also come on in another ‘big’ way, as organisations focus on gaining insight from customer data, rather than simply collecting it, with the aim of creating a more personalised customer experience. In 2016, big data will move from being a useful tool to a crucial differentiator.
The New Year will also give rise to a series of businesses looking to challenge established brands by taking customer service in a new direction. “In 2016, the polarisation of customer satisfaction – and its impact on market share – will become starker as new entrants challenge established brands, and the evidence of the financial benefits of a sustained focus on customer service becomes more apparent,” the Institute’s chief executive Jo Causon explains.
In addition to this polarisation, a greater focus on service by new brands will create an increasingly competitive customer service environment. As a result, 2016 will be the year in which companies old and new pay greater attention to improving the customer experience.
As customers become more discerning about where they shop and what they purchase, leadership and employee competence will become increasingly significant in the battle for customer loyalty. Organisations that lead from the top, and prioritise skills development and employee engagement, will be the ones that see market share improve.
These high-performing organisations will also focus on forecasting, tracking and measuring customer satisfaction levels, as boards, non-executive directors and investors increasingly see customer service as a valuable asset, rather than a cost centre.
Regulators will place greater emphasis on incentivising better customer service, while defining the minimum service levels required in order to meet customer expectations, and penalising poor performance. The question is: will regulatory action stimulate improvement in sectors where there is limited competitive pressure? We may have to wait and see…