Today's customers increasingly prefer digital communication when it comes to seeking customer service. They would rather email, chat, or even tweet their questions – instead of actually picking up the phone, sitting on hold, and explaining their issue. This trend has started to expand the kind of talent companies need for support beyond the typical call center job.
Recently, I interviewed experts from several of the top staffing agencies (including Monster.com, CareerBuilder and SimplyHired) and HR software providers to get their thoughts on what skills they see becoming more important in the future. These touched a variety of talent pools, from mobile to social media. Here's four specific skills they identified as being crucial to the customer service team of the future:
1. Content Strategy
HP’s Manager of Worldwide Consumer Support Forums Jason Duncan was talking to me recently about how they provide an increasing amount of support through their customer communities. He said, where “It used to be customers would start on your website and navigate to support. Now Google is their home page.” What he meant is that customers just type their questions into Google. For this reason, companies will need content strategists do do two things:
Make sure they have content that answers every possible question customers might search in Google.
These articles are optimized around keywords, so that they show up in the results when customers search them in Google.
This person would also need to analyze site traffic to identify which articles attract the most visitors, so they can develop more content around those popular topics.
“I am seeing a lot of companies more actively managing their knowledge base. They’re looking at which articles are read, how often, how frequently, and deciding if content has an expiration date,” Mike Hargis, vice president of global operations for CareerBuilder.com, told me.
2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) Development
An increasing amount of website navigation happens on smartphones and other mobile devices. This makes typing cumbersome, so companies are investing more and more in mobile customer service applications that leverage voice command. This requires sophisticated algorithms that can process natural language, and understand the intent behind the question, regardless of how it's asked.
Consider, for example, the difference between “What is my current balance?” and “How much money is in my account right now?”
While most companies will deploy off-the-shelf or open-source NLP technology, they might need an expert in-house to make configurations to the technology so it fits their specific use cases and content. This coding will also constantly need to be adjusted and optimized based on how the customers use it.
3. Social Media Management
Social media is one of the fastest growing channels for customer service. Companies need talent that can both field questions from customers and keep any eye out for opportunities to market positive interactions.
Companies would also need someone who's adept at using social listening technology, particularly if they are a very large brand that receives hundreds of mentions on a given day. They can't possibly respond to everything, so a social media expert would be needed to refine listening tools to pick out customer service messages that should get a response.
4. Mobile App Development
In addition to NLP talent that can make sure that voice commands actually retrieve what the customer asked for, companies might need someone with a mobile app development background to design the interface. These would need to be constantly adjusted based on how customers uses them.
This person would be charged on devising and developing new features that make the issue resolution process easy and fast (and prevent the customer from ever having to actually call). These apps would also ideally proactively provide customer service, based on automated alerts about the customer's account.
These are just a few of the potential skills experts see emerging in the future. What changes do you see? What’s missing from this list? Join the conversation by commenting here.
Ashley Verrill is an Analyst for Software Advice, as well as the Managing Editor for the Customer Service Investigator. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been featured or cited in Inc., Forbes, Business Insider, GigaOM, CIO.com, Yahoo News, the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others. She also produces original research-based reports and video content with industry experts and thought leaders.