Global trends in customer service during 2021/22
Elena Tsysar, partner at 4Service Group, consultant and CX researcher
Trend Personnel 1. Hybrid working systems
The Institute of customer service in the United Kingdom has announced 2021 to be a year of hybrid office systems. Everybody is searching solutions: how to find the form of collaboration that would be convenient for employers, customers and employees. Many offices are getting transformed into meeting places and innovation labs, companies renege on the idea of renting costly upscale offices. Some employees value the advantages of remote work (less to zero time for commuting, comfortable atmosphere). Others, on the contrary, value personal presence in the office (social connections, personal communications). Customers face new online-interaction requirements, technologies and processes, and they are not always satisfied with the result.
From this point of view, it is interesting to analyse examples of the best solutions. For example, starting since 2014 Dell has saved US$39.5 million by using flexible working solutions. In 2016 25% of the staff worked from home all the time or several days a week.
In 2020 Dell increased this indicator to 60%. The employees came to office only for 1-2 days a week, a system for shared working places and booking them was installed. Flexible solutions for remote cooperation, part-time working solutions and short weeks were used.
Success is possible thanks to Connected Workplace, the program allowing staff to watch their work-life balance. Besides, collective remote work saves 136 million commuter miles per year.
Conclusion. The year 2021 is becoming a year of hybrid office systems, when the interests of customers, management and staff need to be taken into account, and the work processes reformatted.
Trend Personnel 2. Care and communications
Wide spread of home office use creates a deficit of care and communications among people working remotely. During the pandemics the majority of the people have faced with growing levels of anxiety and uncertainty due to the changed reality. The best employers have decided to compensate the psychological and material damage. Thus, for example:
Problems with communications are also acute in case of remote work. Insufficient amounts of time for personal communication with colleagues and management, lack of understanding due to overuse of written correspondence, no chances for meeting up in the corridor and resolving issues here and now – all this results in chains of mistakes, delays, and decay of business relations. That is why many companies have started to introduce special lines of communications and to stimulated informal communication online. For example:
Conclusion. Wide use of remote offices has become a reason for lack of communication and deficit of care on the side of the employer. But the last year brought dozens of solutions to compensate for these deficits.
Trend Personnel 3. New ethics
Ethical standards of business are being changed in front of our own eyes. The employment market is witnessing the birth of a new profession – business ethics manager. One of its major tasks is to protect clients’ personal data, as well as to find and keep the balance on the line of “too personal and not too personal” information.
How close can you approach a client? Dare you recognize his emotions, so that you can sell a service to him? May you offer your bar’s standing customer his personal drink, or is it better not to let him know that you are aware of his alcoholic passions? Is it ethical to mention age, weight and solvency of a customer, even if you already know all these data?
Besides, the issues of confidentiality, defense against spread of personal information, online negotiations also require for attention. Is the customer prepared to discuss financial issues over the phone, send important documents to email? Answers to these questions are yet to be found.
Not less important are the ethical issues concerning the staff. For example, working from home calls for employer’s loyalty to an employer’s children, family and pets. If the manager is disgruntled about a child’s or a cat’s appearance on screen, employee loyalty will suffer. Employers, however, should follow ethical rules as well: minimize the sounds of personal life, take care of screen background (instead of participating in a conference with the background of an unmade bed).
The issues of ethics and social responsibility undergo change in a usual point of sales as well: handshakes are gone, wearing masks, social distancing and regular testing became required. Are employees and clients ready to follow the new rules?
Conclusion. Changes in communication models between employees, clients and management result in creation of new ethics. This presupposes careful use of information related to customers, loyal attitude to personal things (family, house) on the screen, performing upon new social requirements (distance, masks, etc.). There are more questions in this field than there are answers.
Trend Personnel 4. Service with respect
Jo Causon from The Institute of Customer Service (UK) in her recent address mentioned that according to the research she had been engaged in there are worrying cases of customer aggression starting with shouts and arguments and on to extreme physical assault.
We can expect that the employees will have to take on responsibility for safety in their offices (wearing masks, keeping the distance, etc.), and the employers will have to defend the employees from the impermissible cases of hostility and cruelty.
The British government will introduce legislative changes (!) in order to defend employees from potential customer aggression.
In parallel with that they are introducing the “Service with Respect” program, and 130 companies throughout the country have already agreed to participate in it. A part of the program deals with teaching employees how to manage customer aggression, prevent it or react timely and call the police or another special service.
A good example of defending employers during everyday service activities is placement of notices at the service desks (of cashiers, administrators, executives). The notices clearly say that verbal attacks, threats, foul language will be treated as an assault. In this case the customer will not obtain any service, he can be made to leave the premises and the police can be called.
In our realities respect towards the service personnel is rarely shown. The employees are often afraid to push the red button in case of aggression or other forms of abnormal behaviour. The reason is that the employees are simply afraid of being fined. There are no standards and regulations for such cases, whereas the society is calling for them.
Conclusion. Customer aggression has become a feature of service during the pandemics and many companies and even states are looking for instruments able to defend the staff and to normalize the customers. The main way for supporting the staff is by law and the police, as well as by teaching them how to deal with an aggressive client.
Service is a system
Knowing the trends does not automatically result in good service. This just helps to know customer expectations, adapt and rebuild service procedures.
But the quality of service depends on many factors. Service standards, regular qualitative evaluation and service controls with the help of various metrics (Mystery Shopping, NPS, CSAT), forming a service-oriented team starting with hiring up to systemic education and motivation for outstanding service, comprehensive service propaganda, service management with the help of goal-setting and planning, calculation of benefit and return on investment into service, wholistic work with customer grievances – all these are components of a successful company’s service system.
Comprehensive service work always results in loyal customers and stable bills irrespective of fashion for particular service instruments, pandemics or crises.