The Gist

  • Rising expectations. Customers demand quick, efficient and personalized service, expecting seamless interactions across all channels.
  • Human connection. Despite the usefulness of AI-based chatbots, customers still value having the option to speak with human agents for assistance.
  • Eliminating pain point. Proactively identifying and addressing customer pain points ensures an exceptional customer experience, increasing satisfaction and loyalty.

Customers today have more choices than ever before. They can easily find the products and services they need from a variety of different sources. As such, being able to provide excellent customer service has become a priority in order to stand out from the competition and build customer loyalty.

This article will explore what customers expect from world-class customer service today, how brands are meeting those expectations, the challenges in providing top-notch service and the importance of investing in customer service for long-term success.

What Do Customers Expect Today

Customers today have high expectations when it comes to customer service. They want to be able to get help quickly and easily, no matter what channel they use to contact a business. Whether it's through phone, email, chat or social media, customers expect prompt responses and efficient resolutions to their issues.

The importance of providing excellent customer service can’t be overstated. A May 2022 Statista survey revealed that 94% of respondents said that a positive customer service experience made them more likely to purchase from a business again, and 82% would recommend a brand based specifically on excellent customer service. 

Consumers today expect to interact with customer service representatives (and customer service chatbots) who are knowledgeable, helpful and empathetic. By exceeding customers' expectations and treating them as individuals, businesses can build brand loyalty and create a positive reputation that attracts new customers.

Additionally, customers expect seamless and hassle-free interactions with brands across all channels, emphasizing the importance of minimizing customer friction and pain points in marketing strategies. To determine the ease with which customers can interact with a brand, businesses often rely on the customer effort score (CES), a critical metric that directly influences the chances that a customer will be continuing their relationship with a brand. For customer service, the CES question could be phrased like this:

[The brand’s name] made it easy for me to solve my problem.

The customer responds by using a standard 1–7 scale that is reflective of the difficulty of interacting with customer service, or if they agree or disagree. 

Customers expect to have the same level of service when dealing with customer service as they did when they used a brand’s mobile app, browsed its website and placed their orders. Struggling to talk to a live agent, being transferred multiple times and having to repeat their information all can lead to a poor, annoying, irritating customer experience. If customers have to make more of an effort to be satisfied during their customer service experience, the CES score goes down, as do the customers' inclinations to do business with the brand.

Corey Donovan, president of Alta Technologies, an online retailer of used servers, told CMSWire that world-class customer service is all about making the process of getting to a resolution as easy and painless as possible for customers, which includes allowing them to control the narrative by choosing the customer service channel of their choice. "This means providing them with multiple customer service options such as a chatbot to help them search for solutions, a live chat option, an email option, and of course the traditional phone call option. This allows customers to be able to choose the method they’re most comfortable with."

Related Article: How Have Customer Expectations Changed Over the Past 2 Years?

Chatbots Are Great, But Customers Still Want a Human Option

Although generative AI-based chatbots have absolutely made a mark in customer service and are highly useful, a 2023 Statista report indicated that 86% of respondents in the United States said that it was important or very important that they had the option of speaking with a human agent for customer service. World-class customer service focuses on people, not problems, and requires a personal approach to each problem, no matter its scale or urgency. 

Maria Pardee, chief commercial officer at TELUS International, a CX and digital solutions provider, told CMSWire that one obstacle that brands can face in implementing customer service chatbots is mitigating bias within these AI-based tools. Pardee suggested that the best way to mitigate bias in AI is to use a trusted, diverse training data set to ensure many diverse views and perspectives are incorporated and represented in the design and deployment of algorithms and the data that feeds them. 

"A large community of diverse data annotators can help combat this challenge by ensuring the data is labeled (annotated) by individuals with a variety of world views for the training datasets and during testing of the machine learning algorithms," said Pardee. "Prioritizing a 'human-in-the-loop' approach, meaning that humans are actively involved in the training and ongoing analysis of the data, ensures increased accuracy and efficiency of the chatbots."

Related Article: Call Centers: What You Can Do to Meet Customer Expectations

Customers Demand to Be Heard

Customers in 2023 expect to be listened to and heard at any point in the customer journey, through any of a brand’s channels, at any time and on any day. Michael Maximoff, co-founder and managing partner at Belkins, a B2B lead generation business, told CMSWire that his business views customer service as a fully functional multichannel operation that is expertly available to all of his customers 24/7. "This kind of customer service is always up to the task, available on multiple channels, and suited to each customer's needs, with senior representatives always around to help." 

Learning Opportunities

“We put in a lot of effort in recent years to enable this kind of customer service to all of our users and customers, and while costly at times, the technology and incredibly skilled personnel help us deliver extraordinary service across multiple channels at a relatively low cost,” said Maximoff, who believes that for businesses, it's always going to be a matter of cost efficiency, especially in today's climate. “We are always betting on customer satisfaction to make up for the costs in the long term.”

This also means that brands must investigate and proactively eliminate the pain points that customers may run into as they interact with a brand. Holly Schweitzer, director of customer experience at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, told CMSWire that providing a world-class customer experience involves eliminating “hassle factors” that negatively affect a guest’s experience and enhancing elements that guests won’t find anywhere else. "Our success is determined by direct feedback we receive from guests — collected via surveys, guest feedback calls and emails, secret shoppers, and focus groups. We’re consistently looking for new ways to engage guests, to make them feel welcome, as well as anticipate and solve problems."

Additionally, it’s not enough to simply listen to customer feedback — brands must take action based on that feedback. For most customers who have taken the time to provide feedback, it’s a slap in the face when brands are disingenuous and listen to feedback but take no action to resolve the problem. 

Eliminate Customer Pain Points

According to a recent Gartner report, 63% of service and support leaders indicated that improving their operations is one of their top goals for 2023. Because of high customer expectations, customer service leaders are proactively working to ensure that their service and support functions are flexible and responsive to customer needs.

Similarly, Schweitzer said that she proactively works to ensure that the pain points in the customer journey do not adversely impact the positive experience that she is creating for guests. “To be successful, we must continuously minimize and eliminate hassles so guests can enjoy the positive emotional experience they seek when attending our annual event,” said Schweitzer. “Our organization focuses on several aspects each year, including arrival and departure, safety and security, pricing, cleanliness, customer service, and technology.”

Being proactive when it comes to determining and eliminating customer pain points reduces costs and increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. Many brands use Voice of Customer campaigns to discover pain points in the customer journey while others rely on social listening, reviews, surveys or interviews.

The Challenges of Customer Service

There are several challenges that businesses face when it comes to providing world-class customer service. One challenge is that customer expectations are constantly changing, and businesses must adapt quickly to stay competitive. This requires ongoing training and development for customer service representatives.

A significant obstacle, particularly for small businesses with limited resources, is the expenses that are involved in providing exceptional customer service. While the initial investment in customer experience software, onboarding and training service representatives, AI-based chatbots, and sustaining exceptional service levels may be considerable, the advantages, such as enhanced customer loyalty and organic marketing through word-of-mouth, social media and reviews, can often justify these costs.

Finally, customer service can be time-consuming, particularly when businesses experience high volumes of customer inquiries. This can lead to longer response times and decreased customer satisfaction. To address this challenge, businesses can invest in automated workflow and generative AI technologies to help manage the influx of customer inquiries and improve response times.

Final Thoughts on World-Class Customer Service

Despite the challenges, providing world-class customer service is essential for businesses that want to stand out from competitors. By investing in customer service, businesses can enhance customer loyalty, increase sales and improve their bottom line.

Brands that prioritize world-class customer service will be well-positioned to thrive even during an economic downturn.