Rocking the New Year: Customer Service Trends for 2015

Happy New Year Word Cloud Concept

The number of days left in the New Year are dwindling – as is the time remaining to OWN it! The New Year always brings a sense of limitless possibilities and opportunities for success. This is also the chance to set the tone and head out of the holiday season with amazing momentum.

‘Tis the season for prognostications, so I wanted to cut through the clutter and share with you what I believe to be the biggest trends for the coming year.  These are my thoughts based on a life time of service in the big box retail arena, study of what Customers are saying out there in the marketplace, and honed by a deep love of my Customers and their needs.

Each of you may have key drivers which are important in your individual businesses, but generally speaking the following trends and motifs are the lynchpins of making the grade with your Customers in 2015:

Mobile is Key: As the Millennials control a larger portion of the total spend in the marketplace, this is one key area where they demand a nod. The need for an online storefront has gone from a point of differentiation to price of entry. Today’s Customers are more comfortable with self-service than ever before, so don’t deprive them of the opportunity to make reservations, order, and pay online. They are even willing (and eager) to complete returns and fill out comment cards on the go. Just make sure that your online presence is as user friendly on mobile as it is on a desktop. I can tell you that there are still many organizations that haven’t moved to a format that does well on all platforms.

Quick Responses are the Expectation: Most organizations are pretty good at responding to Customer comments. Granted there are still some airlines and hotels that struggle here, but generally everyone has a Facebook or Twitter feed along with the standard email and web site. So with those in place, the way to get ahead is to make sure that someone is actually watching those feeds. Take the time to respond back quickly and not just with a “Please Call Us” response. If they wanted to call, they would have. Get comfortable with responding back right there in the feed or with a Direct Message (or DM). Many still struggle here, so this arena is ripe to be owned.

Consistency Continues to Win: The big WOWs are so much fun. They make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but those feelings fade quickly. Keep in mind that consistency builds loyalty in a way that a few huge interactions won’t. So this is where key scripting, great training, and tight processes will help you win. If you don’t take the time to be sure that your team understands the basics of great service along with having the tools to deliver, you’ll be way behind here. The good news is that if you can make the same cheeseburger or complete the same transaction with consistent success, you’ll see your Customers returning over and over again. The businesses that struggle are those that deliver an A+ product one day and a D- the next.

Personalized Service is the Norm: Folks love things that are just for them. The Have-It-Your-Way mentality is here to stay. This could mean shoes and clothing ordered and made on demand, it could be entrees customized by diners when they are ordered, or it could be getting just the features they want in their computers. This will continue to be an important service touch point for businesses and will only continue to become more prevalent. Hotels will continue to have different options available in their rooms, restaurants will have to be ready for dietary challenges and taste preferences, and retailers will continue to drive for personalized service. The key take-a-way here is that you must find a way to not be seen as cookie cutter. How can you make each service interaction feel as though it was just for that Customer and that you understand that they are a constituency of one who deserves special attention? Finding a way to answer that question and execute on those on values can certainly make you successful in the New Year.

Online Reviews Rule: Although comments on Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter are a way of life, some folks seem way too comfortable dismissing them. They matter. They are important. And they can impact your business. Take the time to read your own online press and take action to correct any miscues you may discover. Don’t let them run your life, but be aware that they are out there. This is also a great reason to keep your social media feed relevant and drive traffic there – better to have Customers reach out to you on a channel you control rather than one you don’t. So while this may not be earth shattering, no review of 2015 would be complete without acknowledging this reality.

Base Expectations = Delight: We are continuing to see a divergence in Customer Service. There really is no middle ground. . . Either businesses are rocking the house with amazing service that delights and surprises or they couldn’t care less. Believe it or not, as the year goes along those who can deliver on the base of a warm welcome and polite service will continue to be given credit for being amazing. Now those who knock it out of the yard will certainly be beloved beyond all others, but just hitting the base expectations will be rewarded as well. For a quick check up here, review The Six Canons of Customer Service to be sure you are on track.

When you think about it, the New Year is an amazing chance to retool, set the bar higher, and excel in areas you may have previously struggled. This is a great chance to make sure that your team is motivated and inspired to deliver on the promise of great service. The hopefulness of the holiday season and the untapped potential of the New Year create an environment that is ripe for change. Don’t squander this amazing chance to reinvent your service or expand upon those things which are already working.

You could wait until the next holiday season, but why would you. I can promise you that your competition won’t be waiting, so don’t lose ground during this time of promise and hope.

I wish you, your team, and your families the best during this Holiday Season. I tell you often to treat your Customers like cherished friends, but I want you to know that I value each and every one of you and hope for amazing things for you in the coming New Year.

Until Next Time,
Tony Johnson
-Customer Service Leader and Speaker-

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About The Author

Tony Johnson

I’m a 22 year veteran of delivering terrific Guest experiences. I believe in putting the Customer at the center of what we do everyday. . .Let’s face it, if we take great care of our Guests, the rest just falls into place.