Customer Experience in 2024: 4 Key Priorities for the Year Ahead

Luke Walker
February 7, 2024

It’s no secret that customer expectations have radically shifted over the last decade. Once upon a time, good customer service meant a friendly face in-store, or an understanding voice on the phone. Now, it could encompass anything from live chat to email, social media, and much more. 

Powering this shift in customer experience expectations is a new generation of buyers – the Gen Z and Millennial cohort. According to Forbes, this generation prefers brands that deliver on-demand customer service and offer multi-channel shopping experiences.

💭 So, what does this mean for customer support teams? 

It means more channels to manage, more workstreams to handle and more data to collect. 65% of customers now want to buy from companies that provide quick and easy online transactions. At the same time, 49% of organizations are investing in data and technology to streamline their customer service. 

On top of this, during these challenging economic times, customers have become more discerning about where and how they invest their money. As a result, brands must not only adapt to a changing environment but also stay focused on meeting rising customer needs. 

This is particularly the case when it comes to emerging technologies like AI. When used right, AI has significant potential to upgrade the customer experience through faster resolution times and greater self-service options for customers. But if used in the wrong place, it can create delays, confusion, and frustrated customers. It is crucial to strike a balance between embracing the possibilities of new technology and avoiding getting carried away by the hype. Getting this right is increasingly going to become a priority for customer experience teams in 2024. 

With these considerations in mind, here are our suggestions for the four customer service priorities to focus on in 2024:

1. ✅ Offer personal experiences throughout the customer journey

Customers today expect personalized interactions that cater to their unique needs and preferences. A staggering 73% of customers expect better personalization as technology advances. Additionally, 65% of customers expect companies to adapt to their changing needs and preferences, yet 61% feel treated as mere numbers. These findings highlight just how important a personalized service is in fostering strong brand loyalty.

But what does that mean in practice? In short, it requires a unique experience for each user, complete with personalized recommendations and a seamless customer journey from initial interest to purchase. 

By far the best example of this in action is Amazon. Over the last decade, they’ve defined what a leading digital customer experience looks like, including:

  • Personalized product suggestions for each user, based on purchase and browsing history 
  • Purchase reminders for items that customers regularly order
  • A friction-free buyer’s journey, with options like ‘one click’ purchase to eliminate unnecessary steps
  • Brand-specific suggestions for companies the customer has already purchased from

But effective personalization doesn’t stop when the customer clicks ‘buy’. Done right, it should also extend to customer support. If the customer has an issue with the order, they might get in touch via email, live chat, or phone. Whichever channel they use, they’ll expect the operative or AI chatbot they’re communicating with to have access to their full order history, as well as any other correspondences they may have already had - even those via different channels. 

In a world where customers engage across multiple touchpoints, companies must have a comprehensive understanding of the customer journey and identify pain points. By embracing an omnichannel approach and using messaging apps like email and live chat, companies can create a cohesive AND personalized experience that meets customer expectations. Done right, that leads to a better experience for the customer and more sales for the business - a win/win for all. 

To provide a personalized service, companies must collect customer data, order history, and interactions in one central place - usually a CRM. Then, you need to ensure that information can be securely, and compliantly, viewed by whichever customer service operative or chatbot the customer is likely to be interacting with. 

Key takeaway: Use personalization to suggest products based on your users’ browsing and purchase history. Then, eliminate as much friction from the customer’s journey as possible. 

2. 📈 Make quicker response times a key objective

According to a study by HubSpot, a staggering 90% of customers consider an instant response to be crucial or very important when they require customer service assistance. In fact, 60% of customers define "instant" as a response within 10 minutes or faster. At the same time, Zendesk research suggests that 62% of customer service leaders feel they are behind in providing the more instant experiences that customers expect. 

Here’s the issue: When customers get in touch with you, there’s a good chance they’re already frustrated about something. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to turn their back on your brand entirely. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review - customers who received good customer service were overwhelmingly more likely to buy from a brand in future. Interestingly, that remains the case even when it was a poor experience that led them to the customer service team in the first place. 

All this means that a customer interaction can be make or break for your customer relationship. By offering fast and adequate customer support, businesses can turn frustrated customers into loyal ones. But what does that involve? 

  • Fast response times
  • Multi-channel contact options, including live chat, website, social media, contact center
  • Robust processes to quickly handle refunds and returns
  • Support agents with full access to previous correspondences and order history

With these priorities in place, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to customer satisfaction and build stronger relationships with their customers.

Key takeaway: Ensure customers have quick responses to queries - regardless of the channel they use. Ideally, customers should have a response in fewer than 10 minutes. 

3. 🔄 Invest in a connected customer experience 

Today, customer interactions can occur within a dizzying array of media, including websites, live chat, AI chatbot, contact center operatives, email, social media… the list goes on. But the last thing your customers want is to have conflicting and confusing conversations with different agents in each of these channels. 

This creates a key challenge for organizations. How do you create a single experience for each customer, regardless of who they’ve already communicated with and which channels they’ve chosen to use? 

That, put simply, is what an omni-channel customer experience means. It is a customer experience strategy that aims to create connected and consistent interactions across different support channels. By consolidating these platforms into a single source of truth, businesses can eliminate conflicting and siloed conversations once and for all. This enables teams to access the customer information they need, whenever they need it, regardless of the channel.

Increasingly, creating this connected customer experience is a key priority for CX leaders. According to Zendesk, 54% are now actively exploring integrations between voice and digital channels.

“For those CX leaders who see significant ROI on their CX tools, 54% are more likely to be actively exploring integration opportunities between voice and digital channels, suggesting that seamless omnichannel experiences will be created for customers to move from channel to channel easily, without having to repeat themselves.”

Zendesk, CX Trends Report 2024

READ: Zendesk: CX Trends Report 2024

Maintaining context about customers - who they are, where they're coming from, and their past interactions - is crucial for delivering messaging experiences that customers have grown accustomed to in their personal lives.

 However, maintaining context can be challenging in a world of countless disconnected communication channels. From chat apps like Facebook Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp, to email, SMS, mobile, web chat, and voice assistants, businesses face the daunting task of ensuring a consistent experience across all these platforms. Many – especially companies in the e-commerce space – are already offering solid omnichannel support.

One great example is Shopify, which offers omnichannel support automation for its customers specifically for e-commerce companies. This allows customers to make purchases through channels beyond its website, such as inside the messaging thread of a social channel or mobile app. On the other hand, a SaaS company might provide technical support through various channels like email, phone, chatbots, and support forums.

Omni-channel communications also enable businesses to deliver personalized experiences, ensuring customers receive consistent support, regardless of the channel they choose. This helps strengthen customer relationships and gives your brand a competitive edge in a highly saturated industry.

Key takeaway: Invest in omnichannel customer support solutions that show all purchase history, communications, and details in one place - regardless of where the product was bought or how the customer gets in touch. 

4. 🤳Provide more self-service options

According to a study by Salesforce, a staggering 61% of customers prefer self-service for simple issues. This proactive approach to customer support empowers individuals to find their own solutions, enabling them to independently research and troubleshoot problems. By incorporating customer self-service as a feature in your company's customer support offering, you can provide fast and easily accessible solutions to your valued customers.

However, it's important to note that self-service options should be just one piece of the map that makes up your overall customer service strategy. While some customer issues can be handled through self-service, the rest will require customer service agents. By facilitating self-service for simpler queries, you can alleviate your agents' time and energy, allowing them to focus on more complex cases proactively.

READ: Revolutionizing Customer Service with Automation: Turning Tickets into Seamless Workflows

The benefits of self-service extend beyond reducing the workload of customer service agents though. By pre-qualifying customer queries through self-service, your agents will already have the necessary information to carry out swift and empathetic resolutions. This streamlines the process and enhances the overall customer experience.

For instance, self-service return processes have gained popularity in the retail industry. Customers can conveniently return items through a returns portal or webpage, selecting items from their order to return or exchange, providing reasons for the return, and generating labels or QR codes for the return process. This eliminates the need to contact customer service for assistance, simplifying the returns experience for customers.

SEE IT IN ACTION: Product Return or Replacement Automated Workflow (incl. Self-Service Portal)

The process often includes components such as pre-paid labels, step-by-step instructions, and a status overview for tracking the returns process. Some retailers even offer the option of dropping off the goods at physical stores or arranging pick-ups by logistics providers. This effortless returns process aims to make returns as simple, fast, and stress-free as possible for customers.

Furthermore, self-service options can handle more complex return processes, such as damage claims, warranty repairs, or replacements. Retailers can prompt customers to provide additional details and photos to expedite the processing of claims, resulting in a better customer experience while reducing customer service costs.

To fully leverage self-service options, businesses can implement customer service workflow automations. These automations can pull in the information provided through the self-service portion of the customer's journey and trigger the entire resolution process. By connecting teams, tasks, systems, and customers through automated workflows, businesses can streamline their operations while ensuring that agents can oversee the progress and communicate directly with customers when necessary.

Key takeaway: Automate as many simple customer support actions as possible. If it’s quick and easy for a customer to do on their own - they should have the tools to do so. 

💭 Closing Thoughts

Today, effective customer service is as much about the efficiency of your processes and workflows as it is about a friendly smile and an understanding tone. The nicest customer service agents in the world won’t help your brand if refunds take a month and replacement items keep getting lost in transit. 

One strategy for meeting the evolving expectations of your customers – without burning out your support team & resources – is to implement workflow automation for your most important and complex customer support processes. 

By turning customer service queries into seamless workflows, customer service teams in every industry can improve efficiency, minimize errors, and enhance customer satisfaction – touching on each of the points above. 

But where should you start? Which workflows should you automate? And what technology can you use to do it? To find out more, check out our recent guide to the 10 customer service workflows you should automate in 2024.

Read on: Our Top 3 Tech Learnings from the Customer Service Summit

About the author
Luke Walker is the Product Marketing Manager at Next Matter. He is a longtime process hacker, and writes about marketing, business digitization, leadership, and work-life balance. When he's not at work, you can find him listening to records or climbing rocks.

Start automating in Next Matter today