People power: why 2022 will be the year of customer service

Society has become kinder in response to the pandemic, from weekly claps for the NHS to a growing appreciation of key workers as they kept the country moving. Many people became more accepting of everything from postponed or cancelled holidays, to long waits for the bus – and are even looking at ways to hang onto their newfound patience. Similarly, many customer service departments found customers more understanding about disruptions to the usual level of service.

On the whole, people were realistic about the challenges businesses faced – from lockdown closing call centres, to teething troubles ensuring customer support agents had all the technology and information they needed to work effectively from home.

However, almost two years down the line this patience is wearing thin, and expectations around customer experience are set to skyrocket in 2022. We are not portraying businesses as Ebeneezer Scrooge, but at this time of year many of us could take inspiration from A Christmas Carol: stopping to really think about actions in the past, present and future, and how they could be improved upon.

Specifically, here are three predictions for customer experience challenges in 2022, and how businesses can guard against them:

1. Reputable businesses will be blacklisted for spamming

Customer communication mistakes will prove increasingly costly to businesses in 2022. If the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shares a vision of a bleak future, for many reputable businesses it will show them being ‘blacklisted’ by their customers. Our research shows that the period of goodwill and forgiveness for mistakes businesses enjoyed during the pandemic is over. Almost three quarters (70%) of consumers will blacklist businesses for communication failures including sending spam, using the pandemic to excuse poor customer service, and getting basic information wrong.

Businesses can fight back and prevent this from coming to pass by eradicating siloes within their customer communications stack. If a channel is not plugged into the wider communications ecosystem, information shared by a customer through it, such as a change of address, will not be captured. Agents using a disconnected channel may also not have all the relevant key information they need about a customer in front of them. If a customer has asked for no phone calls during working hours, for instance, and the business ignores this, they risk being blacklisted.

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2. Customers will abandon businesses over lack of trust

In 2022, increasing numbers of customers are set to leave businesses they do not trust with their personal data. Our research shows that almost half (40%) of consumers share data with businesses they don’t trust. During the pandemic, they felt they had no choice if they wanted to continue receiving services. Now we are edging towards ‘normal life’, they will feel more confident in switching to businesses they feel will be more trustworthy with their data.

Any businesses taking trips with the Ghost of Christmas Past will look back to the days when customers truly trusted them, wishing they could get back to that state. The good news is that businesses can turn this vision into a reality – they just have to start demonstrating not only that data is being collected and stored responsibly, but that they are using data to add value. For example, any request customers have about their own data should be answered promptly and accurately. And if records show a customer spent five hours on hold to support services in the last six months, they could be automatically informed about the team’s ring back service, to cut that waiting time to a fraction.

3. Businesses that over-authenticate will be left behind in customers’ need for speed

While customers understood the need for more authentication on key areas such as confirming identity or processing payments during the pandemic, they are less and less prepared to wait. In adapting to this ‘need for speed’, time will be of the essence for customer communication in 2022 – if people think you are taking too long, they could switch to a competitor who promises a swifter service.

During the pandemic people understood that many agents would face additional challenges while working remotely, and that security was crucial to avoid getting caught out by COVID-related scams. As things edge back towards ‘normality’, however, the Ghost of Christmas Present would show businesses that this patience is wearing thin. To keep customers happy, businesses should be looking for the smoothest experience possible, with requests being handled by one agent and through one channel, rather than handing them off to another part of the business. They need to perform a balancing act as some customer friction will still be necessary for running crucial checks and authentication – the trick will be to justify the important role these extra steps play.

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Meeting customer demands

Most businesses won’t need to change their ways to quite the same extent as Ebeneezer Scrooge, but they can certainly channel the reflective nature of A Christmas Carol to ensure their customer experience gives people what they need in 2022. If they take steps to eradicate mistakes from communication, prove how they are using customer data to add value and find the right balance for customer friction and authentication, businesses can be confident they are giving customers what they want, and move forward confidently into the new year.

Written by Duncan Spanner, managing director, UK & Ireland at Quadient

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