Digital channels and infrastructure, customer service representatives, and data, voice of the customer (VoC) and customer service metrics are the top three priorities for customer service and support leaders and their organizations’ success going into 2020, reports research and advisory firm Gartner.

“Customer service and support leaders face increased pressure from leadership on the role of the service function in improving operational excellence and growing the business,” says Lauren Villeneuve, senior principal at Gartner. “Given this environment, it’s unsurprising that customer service and support leaders’ top 2020 priorities are rooted in customer experience, service reps and data. These priorities, overall, are very similar to what we’ve seen in the past—but looking into 2020, we also see subtle, but very important, differences.”

Gartner’s 2020 Agenda Poll asked customer service and support leaders from 42 organizations, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, about their top priorities and the underlying challenges they will need to overcome to successfully execute them. The survey found that to keep up with customer expectations and competitors, many service organizations add and integrate more digital self-service offerings into their portfolios, hoping these new investments will displace costlier live contacts and improve customer experience. However, Gartner research shows these strategies aren’t paying off.

“The add-and-integrate strategy ends up costing organizations more money and doesn’t bring any improvement across customer experience metrics, either,” says Villeneuve. “To truly tackle this issue, service leaders must progress beyond adding new channels and capabilities to making the functional transformation into a self-service-dominant organization.”

The role of the customer service rep is also changing, Gartner found. It reports that self-service channels are now resolving simple issues that reps traditionally answered, leaving reps with the more complex issues to resolve. As a result, service leaders are left wondering who they should be hiring in this new, more complex era of customer service. The Gartner 2020 Agenda Poll found that 56 percent of service leaders agree that they will face difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality reps in 2020. Villeneuve adds, “To engage and retain reps, Gartner recommends that organizations define and measure rep engagement, provide reps a clear path for career progression, encourage feedback, reward contribution, and create a network judgment climate in which reps feel trusted and influential.”

Many service organizations struggle to capture, share and generate value from VoC data, Gartner found. As a result, 67 percent of service leaders said that it will be important for them to address the difficulty of capturing, sharing and generating value from VoC data in 2020. To gather and analyze VoC data to identify actionable insights and improvement opportunities for service and other functions, Gartner recommends:

  • Set clear, narrowly focused VoC objectives, and gather targeted data to generate actionable insights.
  • Evaluate customer data gathered from various sources to identify the root causes of customer feedback and determine corresponding improvement opportunities for service, as well as other functions.
  • Communicate the VoC findings with business partners and customers, and build transparency into the initiatives planned for addressing the areas of concern.