To find out what 2023 might bring, we’ve been busy gazing into the crystal ball of customer support. Oh, and we also surveyed 200+ business leaders, support managers, and CX experts to hear their insights. After validating these findings with facts and figures from our valued customers, we’ve distilled this data into tangible takeaways for optimizing your CX — and wrapped up all of this goodness in a Customer Service Trends 2023 guide.
If you want an exclusive look at what's inside: Here are 3 ways to improve the customer experience, to help you succeed in 2023 and beyond.
1. Refocus on retention
Since the 1980s it’s been generally accepted that attracting new customers is 5 times more expensive than retaining your existing base. While this conventional wisdom is up for debate, retaining customers is always important for businesses to thrive. And just a 5% increase in customer retention can generate 25% higher profits.
With an economic downturn on the horizon, companies are looking for ways to scale back costs and do more with less. One of the ways they’re going about this is by shifting from an aggressive acquisition mindset to a recession-proof retention strategy. And this is coming through in the data: The majority of respondents to the Ultimate Trends 2023 survey said the number one thing they want to do differently next year is focus on retention.
“Customers that spend more time with your brand also spend more money on your brand.”
- Maneesha Bhusal, CX Leader of the Year 2022
Hear more insights from Maneesha in our interview with 2022's CX Leader of the Year.
So how do you provide CX that turns consumers into loyal fans of your business? By giving your customers what they want: speedy, personalized, predictable support.
When it comes to optimizing your customer experience, speed reigns supreme. Today, 75% of customers expect support within 5 minutes of sending a request — whatever the time of day (or night). The most CX-obsessed companies are turning to intelligent automation solutions to provide customers with the instant support they expect.
80% of customers are more likely to buy from companies that offer personalized experiences. And one of the benefits of an ongoing relationship is that you already know your customers — so you can meet them in the channels they use, serve them in their preferred language, offer relevant product recommendations, and really tailor each experience to their needs.
Consistent quality of service
As the economy slows, customers are not only questioning each purchase — they’re becoming more cautious about trying new things. Why look somewhere else when you know the experience you’ll have with a trusted brand?
“Customer retention is a low-risk, high reward way of generating profit. And the best part is: Great CX doesn’t have to be a grand, expensive gesture — it can just mean offering support that’s quick, consistent, and personalized.”
- Reetu Kainulainen, CEO and Co-founder, Ultimate
As with any long-term relationship, flashy displays of affection will only get you so far. What customers are looking for in these challenging economic times is an experience they can rely on. And that means providing the same, consistent quality of service, every single time.
Find out more about how you can control costs and retain customers with automation.
Get your support recession ready
2. Embrace asynchronous support channels
For customers today, convenience is queen. That’s why asynchronous support is the fashion darling of CS strategy in 2023. Support used to mean waiting around to have your question answered in a single, continuous live chat session or phone call. But async support is when a customer service issue is resolved via messages that customers can choose to respond to whenever it’s convenient for them: while brushing their teeth, between meetings, or waiting in line to buy groceries.
As our lives shift to asynchronous communication styles (do you respond to every text or email the second you get a notification?) the channels that accommodate this are becoming increasingly important to support strategies. Before the pandemic, messaging was the fifth most common CS channel — now it’s ranked second. And our Ultimate Trends 2023 Survey found that, for 68% of respondents, asynchronous channels like email and WhatsApp have grown most rapidly in popularity with their customers over the past year.
“Businesses need to wake up. Everybody's expecting to communicate with you asynchronously.”
- Tim Sheard, Director of Tech Alliances, Zendesk
Sustainable banking app Tomorrow invested in their async support channels and are now reaping the rewards. With Ultimate’s ticket automation solution, Tomorrow could automatically triage and respond to emails. This drives CSAT up by delivering faster support and frees their agents to work on high-value tasks. Now, a 33% one-touch resolution rate leaves their customers satisfied after one single (asynchronous) interaction.
Find out how to deliver no-touch support with Ultimate and Zendesk in this free digital event.
But don’t get ahead of yourself. Start opening up async channels slowly to avoid overwhelming your team with high volumes and other problems like duplicate tickets — because if customers can't find the answers they need on one channel, they often raise the same issue elsewhere. Take some time to understand how customers engage with social messaging before launching this channel, so you can build trust with your base through flawless implementation.
Psst… automation can help here. With a deeply integrated virtual agent solution you can get a holistic overview of each customer and their history with your brand, as well as manage all of your channels from one place.
3. Trust in AI-powered automation
Previously, companies didn’t believe that an AI-powered virtual agent could enhance their support. But AI has come a long way in the past few years — and leading brands are realizing that automation can deliver faster support without sacrificing CX. Just ask ChatGPT:
Trust in AI-powered automation for customer service has grown significantly in recent years. This is due to the many advancements that have been made in the field of AI, which have allowed these systems to become more sophisticated and effective at providing quick and efficient customer service. Additionally, as more and more people have experienced the benefits of AI-powered automation, they have become more confident in its abilities.
This increased trust has also been fueled by the successful implementation of AI-powered automation in various industries, such as retail and finance, which have demonstrated its potential to improve the customer experience. As a result, trust in AI-powered automation for customer service has grown significantly in the past few years, and it is likely to continue to grow in the future.
But enough fun and games — here are the cold hard stats that back this trend: 92% of business leaders say their trust in AI has increased in the previous 12 months; and 88% report that their customers’ attitudes toward automation have improved over the past year (source: Ultimate Trends 2023 survey).
“A few years ago bots had a really bad name. People would try and circumnavigate the bot to get to an agent as quickly as possible. But the world has moved on and customers are recognizing that bots can actually be really helpful, if they’re implemented well.”
- Jon Ross, VP of Product, Messaging at Zendesk
So it’s official: Anxiety around AI is falling and customers are more willing than ever to engage with automated self-service support. That’s why now is the perfect moment for leading businesses to start automating their customer service. If you create AI-powered digital support experiences that are faster, easier, and more convenient for your customers, they’ll meet you there.
Bonus tip: prioritize agents’ career progression
‘Tis the season of goodwill after all. So here’s an extra piece of advice for transforming your customer experience in 2023: Invest in your support team and build fulfilling career paths for agents within your organization.
Happy agents lead to satisfied customers. By creating opportunities for training and development — and using automation to take care of rote work — you’ll see a double win of lower churn rates and higher CSAT. Not only does automation reduce the pressure of repetitive, manual tasks, but automating your support opens up broader and more strategic roles for agents. According to our Ultimate 2023 Trends survey, 48% of respondents are creating new automation-related roles within their support departments.
As leading brands implement support automation, they’re looking for skilled bot builders, automation managers, and conversation designers to make sure these automated experiences are human-centered and joyful.
To round it all up
As the recession looms large, companies are looking for ways to reduce costs, streamline their support, and drive efficiency. The emerging customer service trends we’ve identified reflect these concerns. But these tips won’t just improve the customer experience in 2023 — they’ll help you to develop a robust contact center that is set up for success for years to come.