If 2014 was the year of epic customer service disasters (i.e. The Comcast call heard 'round the world), 2015 might be known as a turning point for businesses rehabbing their customer relationships. All eyes were on Facebook at F8 when they announced their ambitions to help consumers communicate directly to brands, via messaging. And Facebook wasn't alone. Other leading companies are looking to improve their customer connection strategy as a way to win back the hearts of consumers and differentiate their brands from competition. Let's take a look back at the strides made this year and the issues still lurking in 2016.
1. "There's an app for that" became "there's a human for that."
Despite all the automation and innovation driving business apps, there are times that you just need a live person. Brands are starting to realize that the most successful apps are not just smart, but connection based--like Whatsapp and Slack, which boast 1 billion monthly active users and 30 million, respectively. The Four Seasons launched a new app that seamlessly integrates intelligent tech with their award-winning human touch. The Home Depot enables Pro account holders to message with a customer care professional directly from the app- no searching for an 800 number, no hold music.
2. Facebook changes the game with M
Facebook made an important shift in its strategy by doubling down on its messaging capabilities, recognizing that today, more consumers are connecting through messaging apps versus social media platforms. In fact, here at LivePerson we've been observing a huge shift in the way consumers want to reach brands over the past decade, with over 7 million people messaging brands through our platform this past Cyber Week. So Facebook's move to provide an easier way for users to contact businesses is an important step in the way of bringing customer service out of the Ice Age.
3. Time Warner launches a "no more hold" strategy
Cable companies are notorious for lackluster service and for some reason, we have accepted long hold times, delayed installations, and frustrating calls as part of the status quo. So naturally, customers were happily surprised when Time Warner launched a new campaign promising no more hold times through live chat and call back services in this hilarious commercial. We can't wait for other companies to catch onto the trend.
4. Customer service agents get some well deserved R-E-S-P-E-C-T
A look at trends one and two will tell you that customers don't like calling customer service, waiting on hold, speaking to poor IVR systems. And often that frustration gets taken out on the wrong people: those who are trying to help. One of our favorite trends this year is brands highlighting the professionals behind their brands. We all know Flo from Progressive. And if you google "Toyota Jan," her 45 million hits will tell you just how much people are responding to these personalities. The Association of Customer Care Professionals International was also launched in 2015, to empower the helping hands behind our customer services woes, and even held a competition to select and reward the best of the best in the industry.
Unfortunately, there's still a long way to go when it comes to perfecting customer service. Here are the worst incidents of 2015:
1. The IRS Hit a New Low in Customer Service
This year, the Taxpayer Advocate Service reported that only 37% of the calls made to IRS customer service were actually answered and for those that made it through had to wait on hold for 28 minutes on average. What's worse, the IRS hung up on more people than ever before, calling it a "courtesy disconnect." When your best move is to hang up on your customers, something has gone very, very wrong. Maybe by implementing modern technology, the IRS could actually help more citizens, while also reducing their costs.
Did you know that consumers waste about 13 hours a year on hold? Well, this poor guy nearly broke a new record, waiting on hold for 8 hours trying to get a hold of a human at Tiger Direct customer service, only to be disconnected. How is this still acceptable behavior from companies? In the age of digital, always-on connection, there's no excuse for putting your customer in 1-800 purgatory.
3. Asshole Brown and Super b*tch
Comcast customer Ricardo Brown unfortunately discovered a rude surprise in the mail. After trying to cancel a portion of his cable service, he found that his name had been changed on his bill to Asshole Brown. Although the cable company apologized profusely for the mistake, only a month later, another customer found that her name had been changed to "Superb*tch" on her statement -- this after experiencing continued faulty service that required 39 technician visits. We're hoping these incidents have inspired all companies to re-examine their corporate culture programs to make sure agents feel like the empowered and happy brand ambassadors they have the potential to be.
Here's hoping that businesses have learned from their 2015 blunders, and that 2016 will be a transformative year for customer service. What were some of your best and worst customer service moments of 2015? Please share in the comments.