What will be the top customer service challenges in 2023 and beyond? MyCustomer recently surveyed 150 senior customer experience professionals to find out.
Of course, economic recession is a top concern, but perhaps not as much as you’d expect. Many CX leaders anticipate rising budgets as customer service becomes more important for retaining customers.
Other than economic turbulence, what customer service challenges are CX leaders anticipating for the next 18 months? Let’s look at 5 of the top challenges.
1. Organizational silos
50% of respondents identified organizational silos as their top challenge in 2023. An organizational silo is when there are functional walls between an organization’s teams.
They’re not always bad, as Martin Hill-Wilson, founder of Brainfood Consulting, explains: “The abiding assumption is that overall productivity is greater when teams are focussed on a limited number of responsibilities. This is behaviourally reinforced through functional goals and incentives.”
Organizational silos let each team focus on their given responsibilities, but that can be a detriment to the entire organization. “CX is impacted when no-one has the attention or motivation to repair these responsibility gaps,” Martin Hill-Wilson explains.
At their worst, organizational silos can create a “not my problem” attitude. For example, say the product team at a software company rolls out an update with a bug that puts additional strain on the support team. If the product team is incentivized to develop new features at the expense of fixing bugs, it may be unresponsive to pleas for help from the support team or even customers, which in turn degrades the customer experience.
“The most common way out of this as seen to date is the trend for agile, diverse, cross functional teamwork. When it evolves from project based assignments to becoming a permanent way of managing performance, the cultural impact of silos is replaced by an expanded collective mindset,” Martin Hill-Wilson says.
2. Company culture customer service challenges
40% of respondents identified company culture as a key challenge in 2023.
To create a customer-centric culture, you have to orient the entire company around the customer experience. That can start by providing customer service training to your entire company.
Shep Hyken outlines 5 ways to develop a customer service culture:
- Hire for the culture.
- Train for the culture.
- Everyone must be on the same page.
- Allow people to experiment.
- Create a learning environment.
It all really comes down to point 3, “everyone must be on the same page,” which is a long way to say alignment. The entire company culture must be aligned toward the customer experience.
Jeff Toister, author of The Service Culture Handbook, explains alignment:
“If you’re driving and the wheels on your car are aligned, it’s really easy to keep going in the right direction. And if they’re not aligned, they keep swerving all around the road. Well, decision making is a lot like that. If I’m making decisions that are aligned with our definition of a great customer experience. It’s really easy for employees to do great work. But if I’m making decisions that are not aligned, or as a leader, I’m not modeling what a great experience should look like. Then I create conflicts for employees.”
If your organization isn’t oriented around the customer experience, even the best customer support team will struggle. Read Customer Service Burnout: How Leaders Can Spot and Prevent It for more ideas on reorienting your organization to your customers.
3. Customer service challenges in business processes
36% of surveyed CX leaders identified business processes as a major stumbling block in 2023. In simple terms: are your employees empowered to create a great customer experience for customers? Is it easy for your support teams to offer refunds and do other things to solve problems or do they have to navigate a byzantine process?
In essence, this is an extension of company culture, because for an organization with a customer-centric culture, customer-friendly business processes flow naturally.
A great example of this is Amazon. From its inception, Jeff Bezos oriented the company to customer service, even to the point of keeping an empty chair at executive meetings to represent the customer.
The Bezos philosophy was that the best customer service is no service. Under Bezos, returns were easy and almost automatic. Amazon sent replacements for lost packages with no questions asked. That dedication to customer service transformed Amazon from an online bookseller to a giant of retail.
4. Demonstrating ROI
Business leaders used to view customer experience as a cost center, but that is changing. Now, many have realized that customer experience has a direct impact on revenue by retaining and nurturing existing customer relationships.
In many ways, that’s good news for CX leaders, but the flip side is that they’re increasingly expected to demonstrate return on investment (ROI). 79% of respondents said that demonstrating ROI will be more important in 2023, but only about a quarter are measuring it.
One of the customer service challenges is that there isn’t a standardized way to measure ROI, as every organization has a different conception of it. That causes many CX leaders to throw up their hands and declare it impossible, which is a mistake.
“A great place to start is to uncover meaningful correlations between the way customers judge the organisation and how they then behave. Advocacy, regular purchasing over time are two key behaviours. As are their opposites: negative commentary on social platforms and diminishing purchases to the point of fully quitting in favour of better choice,” says Martin Hill-Wilson.
5. Employee engagement and motivation
28% of respondents identified employee engagement and motivation as one of the top customer service challenges of the next 18 months, double what it was from 2020 through 2022. In terms of priorities over the next year, employee engagement jumped from 7% in 2020 to 35% in 2023.
Keeping employees engaged and motivated is clearly a growing challenge.
“Back-to-back crises have left ‘little in the tank’ for many. So resilience is low and attention is often diverted to issues that erode wellness: the energy foundation of motivation and engagement,” says Martin Hill-Wilson.
Unfortunately, there are no simple answers, but the keys to preventing and treating customer service burnout are well-studied. See our series on reducing burnout and increasing engagement:
- Customer Service Burnout: How Leaders Can Spot and Prevent It
- Preventing Burnout: Self-Care for Customer Service Agents
- Employee Retention: Three Types of Customer Service Agents