Customer Service; Past, Present, Future

Many years ago, I sat in an education lecture and a very forward thinking professor said “More than half of the information our children will need to survive and thrive in their lifetime has not even been invented yet”. Scary, but how true have those words proven to be.

Given the saturation of digital platforms, it is very hard to anticipate what technologies will exist to enhance our purchase power in 2020 but one thing is crystal clear; to increase revenue and custom, every business will be striving to position themselves very overtly as customer-centric.

We live in an age of immediacy; the Centennials or Gen Z will never understand the concept of ‘waiting’ as we knew it. If they want it, they want it NOW.

The customer experience has evolved beyond recognition to meet the needs of the digital savvy Gen Z in the past decade but what will the customer experience be like in another decade?

So let’s take a closer look at customers’ expectations then, today and in the future and how it will affect your own business.

A little tongue in cheek at times, but I’d be interested to get your feedback on how you see the 2020 market place in terms of the customer.

The Prediction The 2017 Reality The 2020 Possibility
Google, Safari, Bing and other search engines will have the answer to everything; from where to buy a 1890 gramophone to where to go for a vegan meal in Paris. That’s a big YES. Last year Google announced ‘It’s official, there are now more searches on mobile devices than on desktops’. Is your business mobile device compatible? PCs may be a thing of the past. High speed internet and improved telecommunications will mean your customer profile will be in the ‘cloud’ and will remind you of your preferences each time you step into a purchasing environment.
Customer loyalty to one brand will diminish as customers realise there are many different options and offers available to them. They will not hesitate to change brand if they are unhappy with service. Online reviews will become popular. They do and they will continue to. And if customers change brand they often tell their hundreds of social networking friends about what compelled them to do so! Excellent service is a priority and is sometimes worth more than a reliable product. Brands will be defined by more than price, product and historical reputation; customer experience will be the key brand differentiator. Reviews, case studies and customer testimonials will be sprinkled about with the value of gold dust.
Customers will use social media to find the service or product they require. In 2015, there are over 2.5 billion social network users world-wide. That’s over 30% of the world population; a staggering amount of Instagram snaps or tweets or posts and an incredibly large advertising playground. Advertising agencies won’t be finding print very profitable. Will the Centennials even know what a magazine is?
Customers will want a relationship. And they will want ‘pain free’. Customers expect more than a receipt. A loyalty program, a follow up call/email or a chance to get to know their choice of business. Customers will expect businesses to pre-empt their purchase. A fridge magnet will cause immediate disappointment and guaranteed defection.
BUT the relationship won’t necessarily be face to face…. More than 50% of customers now prefer to communicate via text or email for an immediate response. Virtual agents make frequent appearances on many websites. Those online, ‘speak-to-an-agent NOW’ pop-ups will be a bad memory. It’ll be face to face communication via the web. Wearing jeans and no makeup to the office will not be an option; you’ll be on display. That’s assuming there is an ‘office’.
Customers will want more than a product or service – content will be a key feature of every business image; ‘how to’ guides, ‘did you know?’ posts, blogs and newsletters will enhance the reach of most businesses. Clever, forward thinking businesses have employed content managers who are working hard to create their businesses as a ‘thought leader’. Most businesses do not limit themselves by offering just products; they offer solutions. Honesty, integrity and approachability will key. Your customer will base their relationship with you on so much more than your last transaction. Depth of expertise and knowledge, speed of response and excellent resolutions to any queries or issues will define a successful business.
The marketing budget for retaining customers and encouraging loyalty will more than double. Not yet, but most businesses KNOW they should do it and many are starting to prioritise it. The first item on every agenda in every meeting will be ‘are we doing the right thing by our customer?’
Customer intelligence will be key (not their IQ scores; information ABOUT the customer such as their age, shopping habits, preferences etc.) Intelligence, statistics, feedback and real time information will be imperative in key decision making. Big data is BIG business. It’s everywhere you look at the moment; analytics, statistics, metrics, KPIs,…’s there for the taking.
Are You Over-Analysing and Under-Thinking Your Business?
Data and feedback will become even more ‘real time’ responsive. Smartphones will be enabled with technology that provides location and preference information to both the business and the customer. Think big brother and his extended family.
The CEO of every business will make SERVICE a priority. Not many CEOs are flying the customer service priority flag yet but many are starting to recognise that excellent customer service may differentiate their business from their competitor. The CEO of every business will BE a customer service expert. Universities will offer degrees in ‘The Complexities Of The Customer’ – that’s a step up from ‘Love Your Customer 101’.
Customers will want an immediate response. Those days of ordering something and waiting over a week for delivery are gone. A phone call, email or web enquiry come with a silent expectation of a response within the same working day. Think Kindle Fire Mayday button, Spotify or Apple live streaming music, track your delivery etc. The forward-thinking industries are already offering immediate solutions. Same day delivery and anticipatory shipping will be standard. Yoga retreats and technology free holidays will be the only way to remind yourself you are a human. Counsellors will offer Digital Detox sessions and exercise will still be a thing – but with a larger focus on vocal chords.


The digital economy changes so rapidly that we are not yet fully aware of the options we may have in 2020, so predicting the future of the face of customer relationships is almost impossible.

One thing is certain, however, whether you like it not you will have to embrace the technology on offer if you wish to maintain any sort of connection with your customer. Add in your own personal style and touches of course, but don’t keep your head in the sand in relation to new developments, your business will simply not survive.

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