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A look at current developments: Eight trends and their influence on customer behavior

A look at current developments: Eight trends and their influence on customer behavior

How are current socioeconomic trends affecting consumer behavior? And what does this mean for customer service? The team at Arvato CRM Solutions regularly analyzes these very questions. The results show what will have a crucial impact on the market in the coming years and what this means for customer dialog.

The team at Arvato CRM Solutions evaluates various data sources at regular intervals: industry and trend studies, scientific articles, conference contributions, news articles, and expert knowledge from their own organization.  Among other things, the focus is on changes in consumer behavior, for example social developments such as the increasing spread of technology in the private sphere through voice assistants.

Now, the team has identified eight trends that will have a concrete impact on customer service and that companies must respond to if they plan to continue offering optimal customer service in the future.

1) The increasing use of technology in private life.

In particular, millennials and the generations of customers following them are using more and more devices, resulting in an increasingly complex network of connected devices. Statista estimates that more than 20 billion devices will be networked worldwide by 2020, almost 13 billion of them in the consumer sector. On the one hand, consumers are better informed and can act more efficiently. On the other hand, this naturally leads to questions about the best use and proper orchestration of all these devices.

In any case, this increases the demand for customer service to provide expert technical support.In addition, the number of channels through which companies can be contacted will continue to increase, including contacts through consumers’ digital assistants. At the same time, companies will gain better insight into consumer behavior patterns and better understand customer needs.

2) Comprehensive connectivity.

Society and the economy are both becoming characterized by an “always on” mentality, which leads to new communication structures and models. There are changes, for example, to the length and form of messages, the exchange of content, reachable target groups, and the way they can be reached.

Customers expect companies to be just as networked as they are, and will demand even faster response times than today – and on whichever channel they choose. A representative survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Facebook shows how quickly users want to receive an answer: people in large cities, for example, want a reaction time of less than 15 minutes. In order to keep pace with these requirements and provide consistent customer service across all relevant channels, companies need to get to grips with increasing technical complexity.

3) The further empowerment of customers.

Digital technologies have given customers access to more knowledge and made it possible for them to make more informed decisions. They can compare in more detail than before, exchange experiences online, and even take an active part in product development. This is also leading to expectations of a higher quality of service.

Consumers have increasingly less tolerance for poor service. Together with their greater assertiveness, this represents a growing threat to a brand’s reputation. Quality control and customer feedback therefore play an increasingly important role. Brand loyalty will be more valuable – but also more difficult to achieve.

4) The exchange and monetization of private data.

As the number of devices and touchpoints between companies and customers increases, more personal information is being collected. Consumers are increasingly aware of the economic value of this information, and insist on being compensated for the use of their data. They will also exchange data for other products and services on data marketplaces.

The growing awareness of the performance of their data further increases the demands placed on customer service, as consumers expect service centers to act on this data. Customer service must also meet the requirements for transparency in data processing and use.

5) Changes in work structure.

Daily work will be increasingly project-related. One of the consequences of this is that working people are increasingly providing their services as freelancers on fixed-term contracts.

This can lead to a potentially higher employee turnover and more temporary contracts. Customer service tasks are becoming increasingly complex. This means that more demand is being placed on service center employees.There needs to be a rethinking of the relevance and significance of this activity in order to find and retain motivated, well-trained employees in the long term. Continuous and lifelong learning will become increasingly relevant for employee development, and thus for the quality of customer service, and will be conveyed in the form of micro-learning and individualized training.

6) Aging society.

In 2030, more than half of the people in Europe will be older than 50 – and then have a life expectancy of about 40 more years. Older consumers and employees have different needs than younger ones. Consumers change their behavior with age according to their health, disposable income, and available time. For example, they use other means of transport, choose other vacation destinations, and use technical equipment in a different way (higher volume, larger font size).

Companies need to target older consumers more effectively by using the right channels, delivering the right messages, and adapting products and services to older customers. They also have to adapt to an aging workforce, for example in their training tools and methods, or in their recruitment channels.

7) Flexibility in professional and private life.

Work and private life are more closely interlocked, and both areas are characterized by increasing flexibility. This is reflected in the desire for individual self-determination, independence, and a connection between work and private life.

Although some large companies like pioneer IBM have once again done away with the option of a home office, this flexibility is fundamentally important for employees: a Bitkom study showed that 35 percent of employees in Germany would change their job for more flexibility and a home office. Mobile working or working from home will become the norm, and this flexibility also needs to be offered in customer service. But this can also bring benefits like cost efficiency and a larger pool of employees to recruit from.

8) The sharing, interface, and platform economy.

The sharing economy is shifting the focus from owning goods to accessing them. New interfaces between people, companies, and devices are combining the physical and virtual worlds. And the platform economy is creating even more new, open marketplaces.

These developments influence how people interact and consume. For example, in the future, they will increasingly borrow or rent cars or appliances instead of owning them. Platforms will play an important role here. For suppliers, this means a growing need for service as more users have questions about a product, and more users can lead to faster wear and tear. The new interfaces bring with them an increasing number of interactions, which will further increase the demand for support and service while facilitating the exchange of information.

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