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10 Trends Changing Customer Expectations

This article was updated on July 16, 2021

While the essential principles of customer service are timeless, consumer expectations are not. Customers have always wanted friendly, efficient, and reliable service, but new technology has raised their expectations even higher.

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They want more efficient service than before. They don't just want friendly; they want to feel like the service has been personalized for them.

The old adage of "know your customers" is also still as true today as it ever was. And with consumer behavior changing rapidly, businesses need to stay up to date with customer experience trends.

Here's a look at 10 trends changing (and often raising) consumer expectations.

1. Social Media Has Changed the Definition of "Fast"

We're each connected to an instant feed of live updates, breaking news, and messages. We can post something on social media and get instant feedback from friends. According to Datareportal's Digital 2020: July Global Snapshot, more than half the world now uses social media, and more than 4 in 10 internet users say that they're spending more time using social media.

Social networks are playing an increasingly important role in people's brand research behaviors, too — social channels are now second only to search engines. This has effectively sped up the time consumers expect it to take a brand (or anyone) to reply to a message. According to ReadWrite, 66% of millennials say their customer service expectations have risen in the last year, and they expect to get an immediate solution to their queries on social media.

2. Consumer Technology Has Heightened Expectations for Service

A quick Google search can tell you just about anything you need to know. As a result, consumers have little patience when companies simply don't know something.

Consumers expect data to be at companies' fingertips — from accurate stock information to delivery dates and customer records. And with this wealth of data and the technology to support it, consumers often feel like there's no excuse for getting it wrong.

3. Self-Service Options Have Created Self-Sufficient Consumers

From self-checkouts to FAQ pages and call center IVR, consumers are more willing than before to try to solve their problems themselves.

This doesn't mean that they no longer want to call and talk to a real person, but it does mean that through clever use of self-service tactics, contact centers can save time and money.

4. Our "Always On" Culture Runs on 24/7 Service

We live in an age where virtually everyone has a smartphone in their pockets, connecting them to just about every aspect of their lives.

This is a device that's always on and always connected. We've grown used to being able to find the information we need, contact whomever we want, and even listen to whatever music we'd like, whatever time of day.

Consumers don't expect to have to break this habit for a business. While 24/7 contact centers may not be possible, 24/7 chatbots are. Consumers expect longer opening hours and weekend support as well.

5. With E-commerce the Norm, Customers Now Expect Quick, Free Shipping

When e-commerce began, delivery costs were standard. It was part of the deal of online shopping.

Now that online service is mainstream, it seems wrong to pay for something like delivery — consumers now want free next-day delivery as standard.

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6. Channel-Hopping Customers Expect Omnichannel Service

Customers see a brand, not a department. They can't understand why a contact center agent can't remember a Twitter conversation they had with the brand the day before.

This is important because consumers are engaging brands on multiple channels. According to Vonage's Global Customer Engagement Report 2020, 70% of consumers prefer a variety of options, from video chat to chatbots to push notifications, when communicating with brands.

As consumers move between channels, they should receive a consistent service, and the omnichannel customer experience should feel like one big conversation.

7. Influencers Have Empowered Customers

Social media has made it easier than ever before for consumers to share their thoughts with a wide audience. There are even some shoppers who have a larger social following than brands.

Today, companies have to tackle an audience with audiences. Get it right and their message could spread like wildfire; get it wrong and it's a PR disaster.

All of this has led to many consumers feeling more empowered. They know if they complain publicly on social media, they're likely to get a better response than if they complain privately.

8. Consumers Demand Personalized Service

The whole online experience is now personalized, from social media to the way Google personalizes our search results. It only makes sense for customer service to be personalized, too.

Consumers expect you to remember them — they each expect to be treated as an individual and not as just another customer. Your agents need to have access to their whole communication history, their buying habits, and their preferences.

9. Customers Expect a Mobile-Friendly Experience

Mobile technology has changed the way we all live our lives. It connects us to people, brands, and information — all of the time.

All aspects of your customer experience should therefore be mobile-friendly, from your website to your customer service. Mobile shopping and service are no longer extras but necessities.

10. Customers Expect Businesses to Engage Them on Social Channels

With social media, everything is out there in the open. This "open book" approach to socializing has led to an expectation that brands should be monitoring any mentions on social media and responding accordingly.

Whether this is a direct complaint or message or whether it's just a mention, consumers expect brands to be listening and ready to respond.

Consumers may expect more from brands than they did before, but with the right technology, there's no reason why any business can't meet (and exceed) these rising customer expectations. If your business capitalizes on these customer experience trends, you stand to see huge rewards.

Vonage Staff

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