When it comes to improving customer service to help increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, there are several key trends that are likely to shape the near future, according to the top nine list of New Year's resolutions from Richard McCrossan, strategic business director for Genesys. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

While 'the cloud' is probably a 'must have' that will become increasingly important to marketers over the next few years, 2013 is actually more likely to be all about the mobile device everyone carries everywhere they go, and about something called omnichannel, and about reversing workforce management to help the customer to help you - among other things. The trends foreseen by Genesys for the coming year include:

  1. Reduce the churn, and focus on brand promise and execution
    Companies across the globe spend billions of dollars capturing new customers every year with exciting promises which may not be fulfilled. By focusing on your brand promise and executing that promise to customers, companies can reduce churn, reduce customer effort and improve customer loyalty in 2013 and beyond.
  2. Deliver omnichannel
    'Omnichannel' is fast replacing multichannel as a requirement for customer service. In 2013, we'll see an increased shift to an omnichannel approach, with companies tracking customers across all channels and retaining the customer interaction history at the same time. With this increased knowledge, companies will certainly provide superior, customer-centric service, regardless of the channel used.
  3. Mobile: the centre of our digital existence
    The one device the consumer has with them all the time - even by their bedside - is their mobile phone. It's becoming the centre of our digital life. So it's important for companies to remember that all of these cross-channel elements happen on just one device: buy, query, research, socialise, chat, and even talk! If companies embrace this device as the centre of consumers' digital existence, there's huge potential to add value to their customer service.
  4. Make mobile work
    Mobile has already played a huge part in marketing and customer service during 2012, but with the massive rise in the use of mobile, companies will have to integrate mobile apps into existing marketing strategies and into the overall customer experience. But companies must beware that the low effort which is provided through a mobile app is completely wasted if this doesn't form part of a seamless strategy, and if the customer has to move to another channel in order to resolve an issue.
  5. Will video finally take off?
    Video has always been a bit of an 'old chestnut'. Despite the advent of applications such as Apple's FaceTime, there hasn't been a huge take up in mobile video customer service. Maybe as investment in mobile customer service apps continues to increase, video will take off as it's further enabled in mobile in 2013. But it's in web customer service that we've seen video being used more and more to great effect, and we're receiving more requests for video as it begins to form a greater part of our customers' overall strategy. So now you need to consider video as part of your web solution.
  6. Social media - the fear is gone
    In 2012, research by Genesys and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) showed that fear of customer criticism across social media was a huge concern for senior executives: 40% of respondents were primarily concerned with the potential effect this criticism could have on their company. But no more: in 2013, organisations will embrace social media as part of their customer service strategy, engaging with customers rather than simply monitoring social media out of fear. In 2013, organisations will start to reply to customers in-media, so if a customer Tweets a query, they will Tweet them back and not simply provide them with a number to call.
  7. Unlock the power of your data
    The commoditisation of inexpensive data storage has made it easy for enterprises to retain and maintain massive amounts of data from various internal departments such as customer service, marketing, and others. During 2012, the volume of digital content grew to 2.7 zetabytes, up 48% from the previous year. As a result, new computing frameworks - called 'big data' and aligned with Web 3.0 and cloud computing - are emerging to extract high-value insights from this mountain of data to provide business context and other meaningful outputs. In 2013, big data will continue as a strategic initiative as companies strive to unlock business value from multiple data sources. Specifically, companies will begin to change from an inwardly focused view to a customer or employee engagement approach that leverages social networks and mobile.
  8. Make web-chat work
    Web chat will form a huge part of any digital customer service strategy in 2013. Interestingly, it is as much used by older consumers as younger ones, but it's often siloed within the organisation. Contact centres sometimes use specialist organisations for this communication channel which means they become siloed services rather than integrated into customer service, and this actually damages the customer experience. By not opting for a single holistic platform to manage all channels together, agents lose that single view of the customer.
  9. Reverse workforce management
    It has always been important to plan agent workloads and optimise call centre resources based on staffing, but this is expected to go one step further in terms of customer forecasting, rather than just employee forecasting. Customer service agents are able to engage customers on their smartphone and offer them a choice of options for contacting the customer service department, based on availability. So, if the voice side of the contact centre is busy, the customer can be given the option to make use of a web chat agent, or even ask for a call back from their preferred agent. This intelligence gives customers a choice, reduces frustration levels at busy times, and most importantly increases efficiency within the contact centre.

Despite a lacklustre economy in 2012, customer service has been seen to dominate business initiatives and is expected to continue to do so in 2013 and beyond. Technologies such as social media and mobile have pushed innovation, and many companies have already begun to realise that customer service is an enterprise-wide issue, not just something limited to the four walls of the contact centre.