Five Transformative Customer Support Trends

Published: 11 Nov 2020

Intercom, the Conversational Relationship Platform that helps businesses drive faster growth, has realased its 2021 Customer Support Trends Report, which examines the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on support teams' budgets, plans, and technology investments in 2021. The report identifies five transformative trends that will become mainstay in 2021, as more companies turn to conversational support to efficiently manage high conversation volume and exceed customer expectations. The report is based on a survey of nearly 600 customer support leaders from B2B and B2C organizations.

Customer support is undergoing massive, irreversible change as the old "good enough" support is no longer good enough. Under the weight of the pandemic and outdated tools of the past, overworked support teams are struggling to scale customer support and meet modern customers' demands. According to the report, 73% of support leaders say customer expectations for personalized and fast support are rising, but only 42% are sure they're meeting those expectations.

To meet ever-rising expectations, support leaders plan to invest in conversational support capabilities, including proactive support, chatbots, and automation in 2021. The five transformative trends that will help teams deliver conversational support and bridge the gap between what customers want and what support teams can realistically deliver include:

● Proactive support is a top priority as customer support moves from reactive to proactive.

The study found 78% of support leaders want to move from a reactive to proactive approach, but only 26% are sure they have the knowledge and tools to do so. Traditionally, proactive support has been seen as the sole domain of marketing or product teams. But with rising conversation volumes, coupled with increased customer expectations, proactive support is now a top priority for many support leaders for the year ahead. 55% plan to increase their budget for support tools in the coming year.

● Chatbots are driving significant gains for support teams and customers alike.

Well-crafted customer service chatbots satisfy customers' need for speed by providing immediate resolutions at the right time, in the right place. The study found support leaders whose teams use chatbots are 60% more likely to report an improvement in resolution times and 30% more likely to report an increase in customer satisfaction than those who don't. Additionally, 68% of support leaders who already use chatbots plan to invest more in them in 2021.

● Team efficiency is both a top challenge and an area of investment.

Support leaders consider increasing workflow efficiencies to be one of the top three areas for investment in 2021. 50% plan to invest in automation, including automated workflows and chatbots, to increase team efficiency in the coming year. Taking mundane, repetitive tasks off teams' hands will allow them to have more time and headspace to manage critical queries that require a specialized human touch. Increasing workflow efficiencies is also one of the top three reported challenges. 61% of support leaders say their team hits roadblocks once a month because their support stack isn't integrated with technology from other teams.

● A gap exists between customer expectations and what support teams can deliver.

There is a huge gap between what customers want and what support teams can realistically deliver – 73% of support leaders say customer expectations are increasing, but only 42% believe they're meeting those expectations. Automation is helping bridge the gap as support teams turn to chatbots to deliver fast and personal support. Support teams who use chatbots are 27% more likely to say they're prepared to meet accelerating customer expectations than those who don't.

● Customer support is moving from a "cost center" to a value driver.

More and more businesses are realizing the true bottom-line value that incredible customer support brings, and support leaders are working toward a positive impact on revenue generation. 30% of support leaders plan to measure their team's impact on customer retention in the coming year. 25% plan to do the same for customer renewals. Conversational support helps elevate the support function so support teams can go from drowning in reactive conversations to carving out more time to become strategic, revenue-generating business partners.

"Even during turbulent times like the COVID-19 pandemic, conversational support is helping support teams enhance their customer relationships, increase their efficiency, and boost their CSAT scores," said Kaitlin Pettersen, Global Director, Customer Support at Intercom. "The five transformative trends point toward a new era of fast and personal customer support and it's no surprise that conversational support capabilities are a key area of strategic investment for support leaders in 2021."

Conversational support empowers teams to deliver efficient, personal support through a messenger-first experience. Powered by a modern business messenger, bots, and automation, conversational support scales support teams' ability to answer more questions from more customers without increasing headcount, budget, or hours logged. It combines proactive, self-serve, and human support, so teams can get ahead of known customer problems, resolve common or repetitive customer questions more quickly, and route complex or VIP customer questions to human agents. Intercom's Conversational Support Funnel, the first holistic framework for scaling and delivering conversational support, is a blueprint showing businesses how to increase support team efficiency and improve the customer experience and team morale.

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