By Thomas Griffin, co-founder and president of OptinMonster

If you want to grow your business, your customer service constantly needs to be evolving and improving. As you likely already know, outstanding customer service is the key to a successful business. A Microsoft survey in 2017 revealed that 54 percent of customers had higher expectations for customer service compared to the year before, and that percentage was even higher for the 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed.

With a new decade here, it’s the perfect time to give your customer service strategy a boost. But, how do you know what customers want this year in regards to customer support, and how can you keep up with your competition? Well, you have to keep up with the trends. 

Check out these customer service trends you need to know for 2020. 

Real-Time Customer Support

The fact that customers expect lightning fast, 24/7 customer support is nothing new. But, it is important to remember going into 2020. According to HubSpot Research, 90 percent of customers rate an "immediate" response as important or very important when they have a question, and 60 percent of customers define "immediate" as 10 minutes or less. So, if your business isn’t offering 24/7, real-time customer support, I recommend fixing that in 2020 by implementing live chat. 

Offering 24/7 live chat might seem impossible for some business owners, especially if you have a small team. Luckily, you have options such as outsourcing your live chat or hiring more remote customer support representatives. More and more businesses are realizing that with remote customer support reps, they can hire employees in different time zones in order to provide comprehensive 24/7/365 customer support. You can also implement chatbots -- I’ll share more on that in the next section. 

AI-Powered Customer Service

One-on-one, personal conversations are necessary if you want to increase your customer base, build customer loyalty, increase engagement and boost revenue. And with AI-powered chatbots, your customers can have real-time conversations and get answers to their questions even if you aren’t available. 

For instance, if a consumer has some concerns that need to be addressed before they decide to purchase a product, they can speak to your chatbot about it. Or, if a customer doesn’t know how to use a particular feature, your chatbot can teach them how. 

Chatbots are getting easier to build every day, and you can implement them on multiple different channels, such as your own website, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Slack and more. Plus, thanks to machine learning, the more conversations your chatbot has with customers, the more effective it will become. 

More Self-Help Options

Aside from being able to get 24/7 customer support, many consumers are also looking for more self-help options in 2020. Zendesk studied customer feedback and reported that 67 percent of survey respondents said they preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative. 

Because of this, businesses should create more self-help options for their customers, such as resource libraries and tutorials to empower customers to solve issues on their own. Businesses should especially focus on creating video tutorials, webinars and livestream Q&As to deliver self-help content and tutorials in an engaging way.

Video content is not only popular with consumers, but it’s a great way to connect with your audience “face to face.” At my company, we recently started doing more Facebook Live Q&As and revamped our YouTube video tutorials -- the response from our audience has been great. 

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Integrating virtual and augmented reality into your customer service strategy isn’t right for every type of business, but I predict that it will become even more popular in 2020. Many companies are already offering virtual and augmented reality experiences to their customers. For instance, IKEA has an augmented reality (AR) app called IKEA Place, which allows users to view how IKEA furniture and products will look in their homes via smartphone camera. 

With AR and VR, businesses can give their customers a firsthand experience, even through their screens. With this lifelike experience, customers get the opportunity to “see” and “feel” a product and better understand a concept, which can eliminate buying hesitations.

By implementing just a few of these customer service trends into your customer service strategy in 2020, you can delight your customers, increase customer loyalty and generate more sales for your business.

Thomas Griffin is co-founder and president of OptinMonster. He is an entrepreneur, investor and software expert helping you be a better leader in your organization.

Published on: Jan 17, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.