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“If you wonder what getting and keeping the right employees has to do with getting and keeping the right customers, the answer is everything.” – Fred Reichheld, Author, Business Strategist

A new year brings resolutions to change or improve in ways that matter, and for brands and organizations, customer service is always a key focus.

To inspire customer service improvement in 2016, Microsoft has published ten customer service trends to watch this year. For The Service Council’s Chief Customer Officer, Sumair Dutta, a top trend is the hiring, development and retention of service talent: employees with the ability to make service and the customer experience a differentiator for the brand or organization.

As contact centers continue to add new positions (U.S. contact centers added 22,265 jobs in Q3 of 2015 alone), it’s important to note that more employees don’t necessarily equate to better service.

As customer service and customer experience become competitive battlegrounds, hiring the right people and engaging them with the right culture, training, knowledge, tools and incentives will mean everything in either coming from behind, retaining a top spot or taking the lead in customer acquisition, satisfaction, retention and profitability.

Here’s Dutta’s thoughts on this important 2016 trend to watch:

“I sincerely believe that leaders of organizations who are serious about service are going to start focusing on developing talent plans for service and support in 2016. I don’t think that this endeavor will be completed in 2016, but those who have bought in to the importance of service will look to:

1.  Understand the shortcomings of the current service workforce.

2.  Identify training strategies and tools to better support the current workforce.

3.  Develop knowledge strategies to retain the insight and information of the top performing workforce.

4.  Build recruitment and training plans to develop the next service workforce.

 

Even in a world of increased automation and outsourcing, service talent is vital to success. The organizations that understand this are effectively blending service models (remote, self-service, assisted service) models to ensure that customers have to expend the least amount of effort when there is no human contact required, and subsequently, receive the best amount of guidance when human interaction is needed.”

 

Why Will This Have an Impact in 2016?

 

“A focus on service talent in 2016 will be impactful because the demands for service and support continue to increase. Most organizations The Service Council poll see a greater strain on their current service resources as businesses continue to diversify and expand to uncover new revenue streams. In addition to ensuring coverage for service requests, organizations would also like to differentiate via the service experience that is delivered, which is substantially impacted by talent.”

 

What Can Organizations Do Today to Begin Improving Service?

 

“In addition to focusing on talent strategy in 2016, organizations can start improving service today by developing a clearer understanding of what customers value and what priority customers place on different value outcomes. A clearer understanding of value will provide a map as to where organizations need to be excellent and where they can afford to be simply okay. As Harvard Business School professor and bestselling Uncommon Service author Frances Frei notes, ‘Service excellence can be defined as what a business chooses not to do well.'"

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Read 10 Customer Service Trends to Watch in 2016

 
We’ve asked 10 customer service thought leaders including Chief Customer Officer author and Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) co-founder Jeanne Bliss and New York Times bestselling author and customer service keynote speaker Shep Hyken to give their thoughts on the top customer service trends brands and organizations should be following and acting on in 2016.

We’ve also asked what organizations can do immediately to improve customer service. What were their answers? Download this new eBook today to get expert suggestions on where your attention and budget should be focused in 2016.

With 89% of companies expected to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience in 2016 (compared to just 36% in 2010)*, this eBook is a must-read for any customer service or customer experience professional. Click on the link below to download this complimentary resource:

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