Experts from business technology and marketing research firm Gartner, Inc. have released their insights and recommendations on customer service trends through 2025 and 2026. Some results are stunning at first glance, though they make absolute sense.
Here are four of their predictions that are particularly important to customer service and hospitality leaders.
By 2025, 75% of companies will ditch customers they deem to be poorly fitting.
By 2025, instead of incurring the high cost of retaining customers and clients, 75% of companies would rather cut ties with those they identify as being ill-fitting to their organizational goals. These include customers and clients who consistently demand custom services or over-customization. The rationale for ditching poorly fit customers is that they only figure in boosting short-term revenue but are detrimental to long-term profitability and efficiency.
Photo courtesy Petronella Photography | IG: @petronellaphotography
This is because this set of customers and clients tends to be emotionally damaging to the frontline sales team, customer service reps, or those doing most of the client interface. These critical talent pools are almost always under pressure and have higher turnover rates. To break up with customers and clients under this category, always be professional and candid; even the most challenging clients should understand that a great relationship is about creating a win-win situation and transparency.
Don't place blame. Listen, be empathetic, respectful, and thoughtful. And lastly, send them off with a beautiful bottle of wine! After all this, you might need one too.
In all seriousness, though, as professionals, we deserve to be aligned with our company's priorities. And sometimes, some clients don't meet those criteria.
By 2025, 60% of companies will run sophisticated analytics on their customers' voice and text interactions.
By 2025, aside from the regular surveys to gauge customer experience, a more enhanced version of natural language processing (NLP) will be used by 60%t of business organizations to analyze their customers' voice and text communications with the company. This means sophisticated NLP is poised to turn into data the emotion and context derived from the emails and other messages sent by a customer to the company. The "processed" data can then be pulled up for use in real-time by customer service reps trying to address customer concerns.
By 2025, 60% of customers will source their product or service information from social media and other third-party sites.
A large fraction of customers shortly will not rely on information put out by your company, according to a Gartner study. Instead, they will turn to YouTube, Reddit, Insta, and other popular sites. Additionally, 58% of younger people–such as Gen Z and millennials–view third-party information on products and services as less biased and more accessible than official information provided by the company that made the product.
Gartner experts offer the following three suggestions to minimize the effect of this looming trend:
Incorporate third-party sources in your self-service menu. This can be done, for instance, through SEO optimization. Preempt your customer concerns, and ensure that the company webpage dealing with those specific issues is on the first page of search results.
Ensure your customer service reps know the customers' likeliest third-party sources and the content available on those sites. That way, they can address those head-on–and perhaps proactively–when responding to customer queries.
Consider regularly partnering with specific third-party sources that your customers use. Two ways to do this are to find a way to integrate outside content into your official platform or to hyperlink to the webpage hosting the third-party content (one that you've already vetted, of course).
By 2026, 75% of customers will contact customer service just because they are lonely.
Gartner says this will tax your customer service people and force them to do extra emotional labor, likely driving the attrition rate for this critical talent pool. The overwhelming 75% of customers are not concerned about product issues, so a self-service menu will not appeal to them.
The Gartner study offers several strategies to address this upcoming customer service trend. By then, sophisticated NLP can be used to run speech analytics to identify those calling out of loneliness. Train reps to empathetically drive the conversation toward issue resolution and to end it. Most importantly, always provide mental health support to employees.
But, what is NLP?
Natural language processing is a set of tools that allow machines to extract information from text or speech, but for small companies, like Pinch, who aren't investing in NLP processing machines to read client emails, it's our job as managers to help our sales team to develop the understanding and skills to derive what your client wants and needs.
Below is the basis of what most, if not all, clients want.
Relationships over interactions: The right customer strategy needs to achieve a balance between interactions and collaboration—and define what mutual success looks like.
Results over process: Mutual success means an investment in your customers' business outcomes that will, in turn, enrich your own business goals.
Engagement over deals: There's nothing wrong with deals or transactions. They equate to revenue, and that is the bottom line of every business. Our challenge is again one of finding a middle ground—between keeping the blood flowing and establishing capabilities and measurements for customer engagement across every segment of the departments that make up your business.
Flexibility over policy: This balance protects the business from risk and gives your sales team the autonomy to choose harmonious problem-solving techniques. It comes down to ease of doing business and eliminating the agitation that customers may feel (and react to) when working with us that could become a potential barrier.
So what will clients want in 2025 and beyond?
They want agility: Customer journeys are horizontal, spanning multiple different departments. Customers don't discern between these teams–they see you as one company and want a cohesive experience. That requires a collaborative, transparent culture that breaks down departmental walls and brings together teams to work together to solve customer problems.
They want accurate estimates; no elaboration is needed here - enough said.
They want attention: Clients wish to have their phone calls taken and returned, their emails and questions answered, and their concerns put to rest. And they want it done ASAP. Your team can do outstanding work and have the most original ideas, but if you don't take that call when your client needs to talk to you, your product or service almost doesn't matter.
They want to be understood: they want to know we understand and appreciate their business, understand their industry, understand their challenges, and get what they want to achieve. in short, your team must understand your client's business objectives.
They want a solution: no surprise here. Clients want you to solve their problems. They want a big idea, outstanding creativity, and seamless execution.
With the help of sophisticated speech and text analytics, customer service reps can address client concerns in companies that can afford this high-tech solution. But for those whose budgets don't stretch that far, soft skills never go out of style, and it's just a matter of training your customer service team to incorporate the ideas mentioned above to help better understand your clients at every step of the sales journey.