Years of unprecedented changes have reshaped the world of customer service. We’re beginning to see the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and generative AI.
Staying up to date with these trends is crucial. Information from as recently as two years ago has become not just irrelevant but wildly misleading.
Our 20+ customer service trends give you the complete picture and a look at what’s coming next.
1. Immersive Experiences
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to online services. As more and more consumers experience the benefits of advanced digital solutions, and understand what these tools are capable of, their expectations for support have grown.
Although 72% of consumers want immediate assistance, their expectations go beyond efficiency. Around three-quarters look for an immersive experience with seamless service, natural conversations, and no interruptions.
73% of business leaders have also noticed a measurable increase in customer service requests and predict this trend will continue into 2024.
Consumers are aware of how much information companies collect and 59% of them think retailers should use it to personalize services.
Businesses and consumers agree that personalization improves the customer experience. 62% of people say they can tell when recommendations are tailored to them and find this added feature valuable.
Meanwhile, 77% of leaders believe there’s a link between personalization and higher customer retention.
Many brands are jumping on the bandwagon. Grammarly sends users a weekly report with their biggest achievements and most common mistakes.
Similarly, Netflix analyzes their customer’s most watched movies and shows to give them personalized recommendations.
Personalization can also help businesses earn their customers’ forgiveness. One in three people said they’d overlook a bad experience if they felt a brand understood them.
3. Alignment on Business Goals
Corporate customers expect companies to go a step further than personalization and act as “trusted business advisors”.
In fact, 86% of business buyers are more likely to choose a product if they believe the support team understands their objectives.
Leading brands like Bosch and Siemens capitalize on this trend by not just selling products but showing organizations how to use them most effectively.
Winning over businesses can be challenging even with goal alignment. 76% of corporate customers say they want the maximum value from every purchase.
4. Data Management
Although customers crave personalization, they’re getting more protective of their information. 79% of consumers say they’re reluctant to share personal data.
71% say they feel more comfortable when companies explain how they’re going to use it.
Considering cybercrime has almost doubled since 2019, this fact is hardly surprising. Organizations store millions of consumers’ personal and financial records so they’re among the biggest targets.
The largest known customer data breach was in 2013 when hackers exposed 3 billion Yahoo accounts.
Businesses may also be surprised by what data customers are willing to share. 49% of executives thought consumers would be happy to share their phone numbers but the real figure is only 35%.
Similarly, 39% of companies believe customers don’t mind sharing how they use products when it’s actually 22%.
5. First-time Solutions
Consumers’ number one priority is efficiency. 45% of customers prioritize finding a resolution when they first make contact over speed and self-service options.
When we compare sectors, retail has the highest first-time resolution rate at 78% followed by 76% for insurance and 71% for financial services.
Successful major brands Amazon, Walmart, and Apple have reputations for their quick resolutions. While finding a first-time resolution is important, it’s not the biggest driver of great customer experiences.
People give companies with personalized service the highest scores in that category.
6. One Second Chance
Nowadays consumers can easily discover new brands via the Internet. That’s probably why they only allow for one negative customer service interaction before they give up.
Indeed, 60% of respondents said they’ve already changed companies once due to poor experiences.
What counts as a negative experience? Half of consumers expect recognition across different communication channels and two-thirds say they don’t want to repeat themselves.
7. A Focus on Customer Service
In response to increased consumer expectations, 81% of leaders have made customer service a priority. 79% say it’s a necessity if they want their business to stay competitive in the turbulent economy.
80% of businesses intend to invest more into customer service and 71% will use the extra budget to overhaul the support they offer.
For example, chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut just launched a $560 million initiative to innovate its services.
It’s worth noting that a great customer experience still doesn’t top high-quality products and services. Only 11% of consumers are loyal to a brand for its service compared with 46% who stay for the high standard of its wares.
8. Business Growth
28% of customer service teams say their main objective is growing the business. Even when it’s not their number one goal, 58% rank growth among their top three priorities.
Businesses say that data analytics, employee performance, and customer experience design are key to achieving their goals.
However, they’re most likely to say their self-service and digital channels are their most effective initiatives.
9. Small Customer Service Teams
Small companies with less than fifty people get the highest customer experience scores. That’s despite having the lowest operational efficiency of all the sizes.
They even beat large corporations with over 500 employees which suggests consumers prefer close collaboration over extensive tools and resources.
On the other hand, mid-sized companies with between 100 and 500 employees score lowest. They also have below-average levels of employee satisfaction and operational efficiency.
10. Multiple Disciplines
Single, multi-skilled teams get the highest scores from both customers and employees. They’re significantly above teams that organize themselves by line, need, or service channels.
Now business leaders are beginning to see the need for agents with more comprehensive roles, responsibilities, and skill sets.
70% of companies say they plan to expand what their customer service teams manage over the coming year.
Zappos’ customer support for ‘anything’ is an interesting case study—the clothes company supported employees in handling any problem, not just ones concerning their products.
11. Artificial Intelligence
Only 46% of businesses have adopted generative AI since it entered the market in late 2022. However, that’s the average—the percentages range between 19% and 60% across different industries.
Many of the companies that introduced AI have noticed widespread benefits. 68% say the tool has reduced resolution time and 65% say it’s decreased operational costs.
The tradeoff is 37% say it’s had a negative impact on customer experience. In response to this issue, Hamilton Devices says they’re upskilling employees to use AI.
“Integrating AI into our customer service operations has streamlined processes. By implementing chatbots and AI-driven support tools, we’ve observed a reduction in response times. However, this has also highlighted the need for continuous training of our staff to work alongside AI effectively. Customers are not satisfied with the AI responses at times so that is an ongoing experiment for us.”– Jerry Thurman, Customer Service Manager at Hamilton Devices
Consumers aren’t against AI—around three-quarters think the technology will improve efficiency and get better over time.
The issue is that 78% of customers who connect with bots end up requiring human assistance. Perhaps AI isn’t ready for complex tasks when 77% say it’s best for simple issues.
When it comes to simple requests, 61% of consumers prefer the DIY approach with resources like FAQs and knowledge bases.
72% report having used self-service portals at least once. Perhaps that’s why self-ordering kiosks at restaurants like McDonalds and Subway have become so popular in 2023.
85% of companies offer self-service tools with websites being the most popular option. However, 34% of leaders think their current offerings don’t line up with consumer needs.
Although more and more companies use chatbots, just 8% of consumers interacted with one the last time they contacted customer service.
A quarter of those people wouldn’t use the tool again. The low usage could be down to inconsistent results.
For example, 58% of customers would use bots for a return, but less than a fifth would use them to get information or solve a billing dispute.
Generative AI is relatively new so we’re still learning what’s possible. Future updates could improve its capabilities and allow it to handle more customer interactions alone.
When 40% of leaders want to invest more in AI as well, perhaps we could see more self-service tools in 2024 and beyond.
14. Video Chat
Consumers prefer a face-to-face approach. The use of video calls in customer service interactions has increased by 70% since the COVID-19 pandemic and many said they’d switch brands if another company offered this channel.
The same survey discovered video was most popular for specific use cases: insurance claims, technical support, and high-value sales.
You can find video chat in other industries, though—athletic apparel retailer, Lululemon, uses it to offer remote styling consultations.
15. Omnichannel Services
If people aren’t using chatbots, how are they interacting with customer service? A survey by Salesforce has discovered that consumers engage with agents over a wide range of channels.
Traditional methods—email, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations—take the top spots. 71% of customers say the channel they use depends on the context.
The social media they use also varies according to region.
16. Contact Centers
Traditional communication isn’t just the most popular way for people to contact dedicated customer service teams.
57% of people say phone calls shape how they see a brand. Emails and messengers aren’t far behind at 43% and 37% respectively.
The same survey also discovered contact centers tend to underestimate the importance of these interactions.
However, customers and businesses agree on one thing: training. 70% of people say agents should receive more job development and 96% of center managers say it’s a priority.
17. ‘Retailtainment’ in Physical Stores
48% of customer service interactions happen offline. After the pandemic subsided in 2022, this number briefly rose to 51% before dropping as the novelty wore off for consumers.
Many companies have plans to renew interest in physical stores by investing in ‘retailtainment’—experiences that are a combination of shopping and entertainment.
40% say they want to set aside space for events and 36% say they’re looking into appointment scheduling. Some brands have taken their efforts a step further like shoe retailer, Vans, which built a skate park in their flagship store’s basement.
18. Virtual & Augmented Reality
Many consumers are excited to get the certainty of the store experience from the convenience of their homes. 56% agree that augmented reality helps them make purchases and avoid returns.
Retailers are also keen to jump on this trend with 50% of stores offering augmented reality and 45% virtual stylists.
For instance, Amazon has introduced an AR view tool that allows you to see what furniture will look like in your home. Dulux has a similar app that virtually paints your walls in different colors.
The environment is still on customer’s minds—eight out of ten consumers would pay up to 5% more for sustainable goods.
However, 73% of online shoppers say they need more information about whether products are eco-friendly.
When companies make environmental claims, they enjoy the highest rates of customer loyalty. They also experience 1.7% more annual growth than competitors who don’t.
20. Data Analytics
While 79% of companies said that service data is valuable, 57% think they’re not collecting enough. Only 22% think they share information well across departments.
To make better use of data, over 77% of businesses plan to break down silos. 82% want to integrate service data with customer feedback to understand their target market better.
Companies that already collect and use data are getting results. Although only 7% of retailers measure customer satisfaction in real-time, they have the highest customer experience scores.
For example, the Australian cleaning service, Maid2Match, has used data insights to overhaul employee management.
“Our focus on measuring and analyzing customer service data has grown a lot in 2023 and will continue to be prioritized in the year to come. Two significant metrics are the answer rate for phone calls and response time for emails. The biggest takeaway we’ve had has been reorganizing how our customer service team focuses their time each day. Rather than keeping teams stationed on the phones and responding to emails, we rostered each employee to a specific channel.”
– Toby Shulz, CEO and Co-founder of Maid2Match
21. Search Engines
Customers turn to browsers like Google and Bing to get the information they need about products.
54% of respondents said search engines were their go-to place for research compared with 35% for Amazon and 33% for the brand’s own websites.
So, having a high-ranking website should still be a top concern for retailers going into 2024.
However, businesses shouldn’t discount the importance of customer reviews on their websites—31% of consumers still read them when making a purchase.
Expert Insights on Customer Service Trends
“Having deep customer insight equips businesses to provide the service today’s consumers deserve and demand. It is the future of customer engagement that delivers truly individualized personalization.”
– Natalia Pericchi Paga, Behavioral Scientist-Customer Strategist @ Symend
“The secret to successful customer service lies in the synergy between AI and human capabilities, leveraging each for its strengths while continually adapting to emerging technologies and customer expectations.”
– Smitha Baliga, CEO @ Teledirect Communications
As we head into 2024, customer service has become central to business strategy. Retailers can no longer rely on face-to-face interactions in physical stores to establish connections and have to be intentional about the experience they offer.
Meanwhile, companies must also decide how new technologies like AI and analytics fit into their strategies.
If 2023 was a year of change, we think the major customer service trend in 2024 will be striking a balance. The standout brands will leverage AI and analytics to become more efficient while getting to know consumers better than ever before.