Got your remembering cap on? Good. Now use it to think way back – back to a time when customer service was the overlooked, underappreciated faction of a company. When it was the department we all needed, but one we didn’t get too excited about or pay much attention. If you think about it, it really wasn’t that long ago.
Thankfully, times have changed.
And with that change has been a boon for an entire industry.
The Growth of the Customer Service Professional
The job outlook for careers in customer service is hot. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of customer service representatives is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is fueled by the expansion of what it means to be a customer service professional and the new opportunities that exist to reach out and provide service to customers in unique ways.
This growth is attracting a varied set of professionals, all with different skills and areas of expertise. Below is just a snapshot of the new roles sprouting up:
These titles all tie back to providing rave-worthy service to clients.
Why Is It Growing?
As we’ve already mentioned, the customer service field is growing, in size and scope. But why? What’s fueling this?
The Always-On Marketplace
Anyone who has owned or worked for one knows that customer problems don’t fall neatly between Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They occur after-hours, on the weekends, and almost always on holidays or during your scheduled vacation. When service problems occur, customers don’t care what time it is. They expect you to be there to deliver a fast response or resolution to their problem. So what if it the sun hasn’t come up yet?
Snack on this:
- 42% of consumers complaining in social media expect a response within 60 minutes.
- 57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.
This always-on, 24/7 marketplace calls for near-constant customer service, representatives who are skilled in handling crises in real-time with finesse, ease and creative solutions. Bonus points if you don’t actually require sleep.
The Empowered Consumer
Why do customers expect around the clock care? Because marketing has told them they deserve it.
Consumers today are smarter, more empowered and more connected. They know the difference between good customer service and bad customer service because they’ve heard the range of stories, from Comcast (bad) to Zappos (wow!). We don’t want to do business with just anyone; we seek out businesses with a reputation for delivering delightful experiences.
Your customers are connected. Their buying choices are no longer confined by their own networks or the networks of their immediate family. Through social media and online review sites, they are able to tap into a global network of experiences and recommendations.
Even more, consumers can use social media to tie themselves directly to the brands they do business with. They are able to ask questions or demand resolution and they expect an almost-immediate response.
All of this has sparked a necessary reaction from business and service professionals. They are now required to meet consumers where they are naturally speaking, when the conversation is taking place. That means more customer service professionals, on more channels, having more conversations, at an alarming pace.
Technology as a Cause and Solution
The customer service industry is experiencing rapid growth due to a changing marketplace that puts customers more in control of their buying decisions and their ability to respond to both positive and negative experiences. We guess it’s only fair that those tasked with offering customer service benefit from the same tools.
How can you use today’s technology to provide more effective, more delightful customer service?
- Use your website as a portal to help customers help themselves, creating content they can use to answer their own questions.
- Use email marketing as customer support channel to retain customers with frequent outreach and helpful information.
- Tap into social media for customer insights and make your service team easily accessible.
- Use a customer service software program (like Helpspot) to manage and automate service-tasks to improve processes and give you back time in your day.
- Offer customer service wherever your customers are by creating an app where users can get on-the-go support.
With consumers demanding more support and the technology scaling to provide it, it’s easy to see why the customer support industry is one on the rise.
But while technology creates opportunities for automation, some things can’t, and shouldn’t, be automated in customer service. To fully take advantage of the technology solutions we outlined above, you need trained specialists to make them work.
- Website content needs to be written by people with a good grasp of storytelling and the product.
- Email marketing needs to be set up by a professional who can handle the technical set up and craft a quality response.
- Social media should NEVER be automated. Good judgment and an understanding of tone are essential. (If we’re being honest, not even all humans are capable of discerning tone. Hire wisely.)
May the Workforce Be With You
Those who take service seriously, who adapt their business to become the most helpful and the most responsive, will gain a clear competitive advantage over those that do not. . Smart businesses already know this and are evolving their hiring practices. They understand that customer service touches everyone, in every department, and understand that a few soft skills go a long way. They also know that their dedicated customer representatives must grow in proportion to their customer base.
Customer service quality has become critical in defining business quality. We operate in a landscape with ravenous competition that allows consumers to choose where, when and with whom they do business in a globally connected marketplace.
That’s why every forward thinking brand is staffing, training and planning accordingly. They are ramping up their technology integrations and preparing for maximum customer satisfaction even on the graveyard shift. Your customer has spoken – they want more service, better service, at their convenience. It’s going to take a bigger and better team of customer service professionals to make it happen. The brands who intend to survive are staffing up.