A 2020 Vision of Customer Service

As 2019 draws to a close, so too does the window for 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner becoming a prophecy.  There are no flying cars, no android war and things still happen during daylight. That being said, Acquire’s forecast for customer service trends in 2020[1]suggests artificial intelligence is making significant, but thankfully less dystopian, strides.

Of the statistics they have highlighted, one is particularly striking: 85% of consumer interactions will be non-human.  This is a staggering figure, when one considers how integral the personal element has been to customer care for near enough the history of commercial trade.  Although technological advances have been creating alternatives in recent years, this automated approach represents a game-changing swing in favour of artificial intelligence.  Acquire continues to explain that these systems will be built upon automated and self-learning platforms, which could conceivably lead to consumers not knowing whether they are speaking to a human or a chatbot.

Market researcher Gartner also predicts that 20 billion‘things’ will be connected to the internet in 2020, including vending machines,cars and jet engines.  The interconnectivity this builds is inevitably forming the foundation of customer service, in response to customer expectations.

Smartphones and social media are expected to continue to grow in influence, with regards to how consumers interact with companies.  Google even claimed that not offering a mobile optimised website is like closing your store one day a week.  Furthermore, Outerboxdesign.com found that 80% of shoppers use mobile phones in-store to check product reviews, compare prices or find other store locations. This suggests that smartphones are making it more difficult to secure sales, by creating more discerning consumers. Maximising mobile presence is therefore more important than ever for developers in 2020.

This feeds into the growing trend of consumers using social media to contact customer care teams. Aberdeen found that social customer service programmes can increase annual customer satisfaction scores by nearly 20%, while Nielsen reported that 33% of customers prefer social media interactions with companies to phone calls.  Combined with the fact that these services can be accessed on-the-go, developers need to be aware of their social media set-up.

Further trends that are predicted by Acquire focus on the source of the customer service, namely, the emphasis on artificial intelligence tools and chatbots, home-based freelance customer service representatives and messaging apps.  The thinking behind most of these trends is to streamline processes, maximise convenience for consumers and quickly refer to an individual’s history when dealing with queries.

As a new generation of consumers become increasingly vital to companies, it is important to remember that they have grown up in the digital age and are likely to be more demanding in the availability of technology in customer care processes. One area highlighted by Acquire as particularly popular with this generation is live streaming.  Developers keen to bolster their penetration among this demographic may, therefore,consider incorporating live streaming in their customer service.  This could be in the form of a video tour of the development or properties, a how-to guide in response to reported defects,Q&A sessions or even AGMs.

Another trend recognised by Acquire is something of a double edged sword.  Consumers expect greater personalisation in the service offered to them. 56% of buyers are more likely to return to a site that recommends products and 59% of marketers benefit from a good rate of interest following personalisation of their online store. On the flip side, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about how their data is used.  In fact,according to a 2017 survey by PWC,only 25% of consumers believe most companies handle their sensitive personal data responsibly.  This forces companies into a delicate balancing act, as they look to personalise their customer service offering, while demonstrating to the consumer that their data is being used responsibly.  Acquire underline this point by noting that 77% of consumers would trust businesses more if the yexplained how they use personal information. By the very nature of the transaction, developers provide a highly personalised service from the point of reservation.  The emphasis should therefore be on personalising the process for potential buyers, by recommending properties, and reassuring buyers exactly how their data will be used.

It will be fascinating to see if these trends play out as expected, or whether new innovations cause unexpected changes to the market.  One thing’s for sure, though:with the rate at which technology is influencing consumerism, developers – like any commercial entity – need to keep their finger on the pulse at all times and react to any changing patterns.

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