STATE OF GLOBAL CUSTOMER SERVICE REPORT

CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS CONTINUE THEIR STEADY CLIMB

As customer expectations continue to climb, it becomes more challenging for brands to set themselves apart from the competition. Markets are increasingly crowded, and both price and product are being steadily overtaken by customer experience as the number one brand differentiator.

Customer service organisations are often the face of a brand and play
a critical role in shaping the overall customer experience. But to have
a positive impact, service organisations first need a clear understandingof customer behaviour, preferences and expectations. That knowledge, combined with the right technology and a willingness to reimagine
the way they provide service, can empower them to offer the kinds of experiences that transform customers into brand ambassadors.

The Microsoft 2018 State of Global Customer Service survey polled 5,000 individuals across Brazil, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdomand the United States. Our results confirm that customer serviceremains a cornerstone of customer experience and can serve as a brand differentiator. In fact, 95% of our survey respondents indicated that customer service is important to their choice of, and loyalty to, a brand.

We hope you find the insights from this year’s report beneficial as you continue to find new ways to provide value through exceptional customerservice.

BUILD BRAND LOYALTY WITH EXCEPTIONAL
CUSTOMER SERVICE

In our real-time, always-on, digital world, customer expectations continue to rise.
As technology evolves at breakneck speed and brands leverage data to create personalised, value-added experiences that are available anytime and anywhere, customers carry increasingly elevated expectations to every interaction – including customer service. In fact, nearly two thirds (59%) of our survey respondents have higher expectations for customer service than they did just a year ago.

An overwhelming 95% of respondents cite customer service as important in their choice of and loyalty to a brand. And 61% of our respondents have switched brands due to poor customer service, with nearly half having done so in the past 12 months. Customer service is about more than simply solving customer inquiries – it should be an integral part of your customer acquisition and retention strategy.

Great customer service builds loyalty through personalised, value-added experiences and creates brand advocates by transforming negative experiences into positive outcomes. Our survey offers several insights – directly from customers – that will helpyou move beyond table stakes to redefine the customer service experience.

AVOID COMMON FRUSTRATIONS TO CREATE BETTER EXPERIENCES

The good news is that 66% of respondents feel the quality of customer service
is getting better. However, more than a third (34%) think customer service is actuallygetting worse and more than 60% don’t see it as getting any easier – which means there is plenty of room for growth for brands that want to stand out from the crowd.So, what’s working and what could be improved?

Providing support teams with a 360-degree view of the customer stands out as one
of the biggest opportunities to improve the service experience. More than 75%
of respondents expect customer service representatives to have visibility into previous interactions and purchases. Yet nearly half of those surveyed said agents almost neveror only occasionally have the context they need to most effectively and efficiently solve their issue. It’s no surprise customers ranked a representative’s lack of knowledge abouttheir issue and having to repeat themselves as the two most frustrating aspects of a poor service experience. By providing support teams with a 360-degree view, agents have the context and visibility they need to resolve inquiries during a single interaction, which our respondents rated as the single most important aspect of a good service experience.

A 360-degree view will also help you to create more meaningful engagement experiences, something our data indicates customers are looking for. For example, nearly all customers (90%) have a more favourable view of brands that give them the opportunity to provide feedback. Giving your customers a voice will not only help you create better experiences, it will build loyalty by giving your customers a stake in your brand.

DELIVER QUALITY SERVICE ANYTIME, ANYWHERE

Today’s customers expect to receive service across multiple channels and
on any device. In fact, 59% of our 2018 respondents have used three or more channels to get their questions answered. As those customers jump from channel to channel – particularly during a single enquiry – many customer service organisations are unable to transform multiple touchpoints into
a frictionless, personalised engagement experience. Regardless of the resolution path, customers should experience a smooth and effortless transition between channels and interactions.

With two-thirds of all customers preferring to first try solving issues on theirown, self-service should be a cornerstone of any omni-channel strategy.
But not every enquiry can be resolved through self-service. For complex issues, customers should also be offered a choice of assisted service channels to effectively address their needs.

Channel preferences vary from phone to chat to social media, so knowinghow your customers prefer to interact remains a key priority. And it’simportant to evolve with your customers. For instance, our study found that the percentage of customers aged 35+ using social channels for support doubled in the last year. No longer just an important option for millennials, social channels are fast becoming a standard for all demographics.

When it comes to channel options, you not only need to offer your customers choice and convenience – you need to deliver a consistent, effortless andunified customer service experience across every touchpoint.

PROVIDE THE RIGHT DIGITAL TOOLS FOR THE JOB

Our survey participants said getting their issue resolved in a single interaction is the most important aspect of a good service experience. As you evolve your service strategy, consider the types of enquiries you typically receive, and then create alignment by offering the channels best suited for quick resolution.

Video chat and co-browsing, for example, are incredibly effective for customers who require more hands-on, high-touch support. The proof is in the pudding: the vast majority of those we surveyed who had used video chat or co-browsing for support found those channels helpful.

AI-driven virtual agents are one of the hottest emerging channels. Capabilities
like natural language processing and machine learning can create an experience that is smart, conversational and fast – and available 24/7. Bots can automate resolution while reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction, freeing agents to work on more complex issues. Learn how HP transformed its customer support experience with virtual agents.

Your customers are looking for end-to-end effortless customer service on thechannel of their choice. Leveraging the right technology creates a significantopportunity to differentiate your brand.

Takeaways & Conclusion

Most organisations recognise customer experience as a major competitive differentiator, and customer service plays a key role in defining that experience.
To provide a differentiated experience, organisations must first understand what their customers are looking for, and then use the right technology to reimagine the customer service experience. Key learnings from The Microsoft 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report include:

  1. CUSTOMER SERVICE ORGANISATIONS PERSONIFY YOUR BRAND

    Customer service can make or break your brand. Every interaction provides an opportunity to transform negative experiences into positive outcomes and to create brand champions. Every touchpoint is meaningful.

  2. CUSTOMERS WANT TO BE ENGAGED AND KNOWN BY BRANDS

    Customers increasingly favour brands that recognise them and understand their needs. They want a two-way conversation, and to feel that brands are listening to them and taking what they say to heart. Customer service plays a strategic role in long-term customer engagement.

  3. CUSTOMERS BRING HIGH EXPECTATIONS ACROSS ALL SERVICE CHANNELS

    Regardless of which channel they choose, customer expectations for the quality and timeliness of service interactions are soaring. Smart alignment and applicationof digital tools like video chat and AI-enabled virtual agents as part of your omni-channel approach will help you achieve a level of support that’s sure to delight.