What I Wish I Knew a Year Ago About Customer Service in 2020

Who could have predicted how much our industry would evolve this year? While there’s still uncertainty about what to expect in 2021, one thing is clear—customer service changed in 2020 in so many different ways. From how agents engage with each other to how customers interact with brands. 

If we could go back in time, these are the top things we wish we’d known a year ago.

Last year, I wish I’d known that…

#1: Remote customer service would become our new normal

This year, the work-from-home workforce has grown to 42%, nearly double the 26% of individuals who head to on-site jobs. 

That shift to remote working has meant CX team building, bonding, and 1:1s have moved to Slack, instant messenger, email, and video conferencing.

#2: The role of social media and other digital channels would become even more crucial for overall CX

This has been the year of digital and social customer service. Of the top ten preferred channels customers use to get help and make purchases, social messenger apps like WhatsApp and texting increased in popularity in 2020 compared to 2019, according to a global survey of 15,000 participants.

Not only that, for the first time ever—more customer support was offered via digital channels compared to offline or in-person interactions. Approximately 60% of these conversations took place via email, online chat, mobile apps, messenger apps, text, online portals, video chat, and social media in 2020, compared to 42% in 2019, according to the same survey. 

At the same time, in-person support fell from being the number two channel to the number three channel, and experts predict these trends will continue beyond the pandemic.

#3: Chatbots would grow into the dominant force they are—and that they’d be here to stay

It’s been predicted that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions with brands would be via artificial intelligence (AI), such as chatbots, and that percent is expected to grow to 95% by 2025. And, due to the pandemic, that moment of accelerated adoption has arrived. 

In April 2020 alone, companies saw a 426% increase in chatbot customer service use compared to 2019, reports PCMag.

As of 2020, more than 50% of companies today rely on some kind of chatbot technology, and the results of the use cases during the coronavirus crisis have been impressive. 

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, one healthcare company created a chatbot to triage patient inquiries, eventually helping the organization reduce its call volume by 90%, reports CustomerThink

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Labor, inundated with a spike in claims at the start of the pandemic, deployed a chatbot to guide website visitors to the most appropriate online resources and, within six weeks, the chatbot handled 475,000 interactions, according to CustomerThink. 

#4: Building customer loyalty would become even more important (and harder) than ever

The pandemic has taken its toll on companies across industries, with 25 to 36% of small businesses at risk of being forced to shut down permanently due to the losses they experienced during the first four months of the pandemic alone, according to a McKinsey & Company analysis. While consumer loyalty has long been a driver of business success, in these difficult times, companies are increasingly turning to repeat customers for survival.

The challenge is, loyalty is no longer a given. Most customers (73%) have tested out new brands and businesses during the pandemic, and up to 83% plan to keep doing so, according to a McKinsey & Company survey.

At the same time, nearly three-fourths of customers say believing in a brand is more important than in the past, according to Edelman’s “Brand Trust in 2020” report.

That’s where customer service team members have that chance to make a difference—by providing excellent customer service

Microsoft has found that 96% of respondents agree that customer service is a key factor influencing their brand loyalty and 77% say they’re more likely to favor brands that solicit customer feedback.

Here’s What the Experts Predict Will Happen in Customer Service in 2021

Our team reached out to leading CX professionals across industries for their take on what changes we can expect to see in the new year. Check out our Customer Service Trends for 2021 Report to request early access to these exclusive predictions along with even more insights about the top customer service trends of 2020 and expert advice on getting your customer service team ready for 2021.