Customer service trends and predictions for 2018

5th Jan 2018

1. Brexit will highlight the importance of customer service skills across the UK economy

The complexity of the Brexit negotiations means that the UK’s trading relationships with the EU and the rest of the world, the status of EU citizens residing in the UK and long-term prospects for economic growth may still be uncertain. Organisations will need to prioritise training, developing and engaging their employees and as supply chain arrangements change, some companies will need to develop a wider set of UK-based relationships with suppliers and partners. These trends will highlight the central importance of customer experience and service skills to the UK economy.   

2. Inflation, exchange rates and rising prices will make customers more demanding

In 2018, customers will find themselves paying more for goods and services across a range of sectors, but incomes may remain flat for many people. This will affect customer attitudes and increase diversity in these attitudes based on relative affluence, rate of income growth and customer experience.Where organisations serve a wide variety of customers, they will be under pressure to demonstrate that they are delivering better value in terms of quality of products and service; easy, seamless experiences; competitive pricing; and proactive help and advice.  

3. Employee engagement

This year will see a heightened awareness of the contribution of employee engagement not just to customer satisfaction, but also to improved productivity and business performance. Organisations with higher satisfaction than others in their sector have performed significantly better on key measures of employee productivity, including revenue per employee and human capital value add. This suggests that there is an essential thread linking employee engagement, customer satisfaction, productivity and business performance.

4. An appetite for more government and regulatory intervention

There appears to be a new interest in greater government and regulatory intervention across many sectors of the economy thanks to perceived market blockages and concerns over social, geographical and generational imbalances. It seems likely that where there are significant gaps in supply, or competition is perceived as not delivering sufficient benefit for customers, there will be increasing pressure on both government and regulators to act.

5. The sharing economy will become subject to the pressures of the mainstream economy

The sharing economy is defined as “platforms enabling people to get more from their under-used assets and skills”. For some, it is an innovative development enabling better customer experiences, more efficient use of resources, flexible working and a healthy challenge to established business models.

This year there will be growing pressure to guarantee improved standards of pay and employment while growing productivity and profitability. Public, media and political scrutiny will grow. Companies and collectives in the sharing economy, like those in the mainstream economy, will recognise and seek to develop trust, reputation and employee engagement as vital assets and differentiators.

6. Greater transparency and accountability

Across society there is recognition that, in the past, many people have been let down by institutions and organisations. In a highly uncertain business environment, organisations that are guided by consistent values and integrity will be well placed to navigate and adapt to challenging conditions.

7. Customer experience leaders will offer a compelling blend of automation and the human touch

Many organisations are deploying automation and robotics to make customer experiences quicker and more efficient. Customer experience design needs to consider when a functional or transactional experience might evolve into one that requires empathy and advice, to what extent these qualities can be projected through technology, and when human intervention needs to be activated.

8. The challenge of artificial intelligence will be organisational and reputational as much as technological

In the coming year we expect more organisations to expand their deployment of technology from robotics and automation to cognitive applications. These are capable of improving processes and resource allocation, diagnosing and fixing problems, predicting customer needs and behaviours, identifying training needs and creating new services.

9. Integration of channels and experiences will be key to lowering customer effort

Evidence from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) suggests that many customers have to invest more, not less effort in dealing with organisations. In some cases, customers will be relatively happy to make the trade-off to expend more effort to access products and services they enjoy. However, increasingly, organisations will focus on easing customer effort as a differentiator that builds trusted, ongoing relationships.

To read The Institute's full report on customer service trends in 2018, click here.

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