Salesforce, the Customer Success Platform and world’s #1 CRM company, today issued its Second Annual State of Service research report, surveying more than 2,600 customer service professionals worldwide to discover how smart technologies are impacting service protocols and how service leaders are responding to heightened customer demands. The report found that exceptional customer service requires a united front across the entire company, agents armed with the right tools and training, and artificial intelligence to deliver a smarter customer experience.

Customers today are super-connected, hyper-informed and more empowered than ever. In fact, 70 percent of consumers and 82 percent of business buyers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere, making customer experience more than an indication of loyalty, but a means of rising above the competition. This industry transformation has turned customer service—what was once seen as a costly and reactionary role—into a key business differentiator.

“Customer experience has become the defining line between companies that grow and companies that fall behind,” said Adam Blitzer, EVP and GM of Sales and Service Clouds, Salesforce. “It is imperative for every company to prioritize the customer experience by empowering service agents to deliver personalized, intelligent and conversational service.”

Great Expectations: Service Leads the Customer Experience Charge
Delivering a seamless customer experience takes collaboration across the entire organization. Collaborative customer service increases cross-selling and upselling
opportunities, while also delivering more consistent and efficient customer experiences.

  • Collaborative customer service across sales, service and marketing is key. In fact, 78 percent of service teams believe every employee is an agent of customer service.
  • Sales and service need to work better together. 63 percent of service teams have a formal process in place to collaborate with sales and more than 65 percent of service teams are able to proactively provide their sales counterparts with intelligence on customer issues and needs.
  • Cross team collaboration has the ability to boost sales. In fact, 59 percent of service agents find themselves empowered to create add-on renewal quotes and orders directly from their CRM.
  • Customer experience is a key competitive differentiator for companies, making it more important than ever to invest in great service. In fact, 81 percent of service teams believe that service has the largest impact on how customers perceive their brand. Additionally, over the past two years, 89 percent of service teams have increased or maintained their budgets.

Empowered Agents: Companies Boost Investment in Agent Success
The top service teams are not only empowered with the right technology and tools—they’re also set up for success with training and a single view of the customer.

  • A single, 360-degree view of the customer can dramatically increase agent productivity. In fact, 79 percent of service teams agree that a shared, single view of the customer empowers agents to provide consistency and continuity in every customer interaction.
  • Empowered agents are beneficial to more than just the customer but also the company. With 64% of consumers and 80% of business buyers expecting companies to react to them in real time, it has become increasingly important for service teams to adapt.
  • Arming agents with the tools they need has long-term benefits, including employee retention. Among top performing service teams, 90 percent plan to work for their same company a year from now.
  • Analytics have become a key tool for customer service agents. From 2015 to 2016, use of service analytics has increased 166 percent.

Emerging Metrics: Service KPIs Pivot Toward Customer Success
In the past, customer service teams were focused on closing the highest number of cases in the least amount of time possible. However, in today’s customer-centric world, service has become a growth engine for business, generating new sales opportunities and improved brand experiences.

  • KPIs are increasingly customer-focused and 79 percent of service teams prioritize customers’ needs over hitting their performance metrics. Additionally, 46 percent of service teams now track agent-to-customer empathy as a KPI.
  • Phone and email interactions are merely the tip of the iceberg for service interactions. Meeting customers where they are has become increasingly important, leading more than 50 percent of service teams to deliver customer service on at least 5 different channels.
  • Mobile apps in particular are seeing a spike with triple-digit growth. From 2015 to 2016, there has been a 196 percent jump in service teams using mobile apps.

Intelligent Service: Smart Tech Ushers in New Ways to Connect
Using technology to simplify service interactions may sound counterintuitive, but that is exactly the direction that top teams are headed. To meet evolving customer expectations, service teams are doubling down on their use of artificial and predictive intelligence.

  • AI and predictive intelligence benefit more than just the customer, but the agent as well, allowing agents to focus on the most complex customer inquiries, better understand the customer and deliver a more personalized experience. In fact, 77 percent of top service teams excel at leveraging AI, enabling an enhanced customer experience.
  • Building deeper customer relationships is key for any company looking to succeed. Today, 67 percent of high-performing teams use real-time conversational intelligence (e.g., analyzing words and tone to recommend the best next steps for the agent) to build better relationships with their customers.
  • By 2020, 51 percent of consumers and 75 percent of business buyers expect that companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they reach out.
  • There is plenty of room to improve intelligent service capabilities—only 37 percent of service teams excel at gathering insights across the entire customer lifecycle and perform next-step analysis that allows sales, service and marketing teams to anticipate customer needs and prioritize tasks.

To download the Second Annual State of Service report, please click here.