I don’t claim to be Mystic Meg and I know we’re a few days into 2014 but I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the trends we predict will dominate customer contact this year. But before I do, let me offer you a tongue-in-cheek reminder of the folly of predictions, even by ostensibly the wisest business leaders.

It seems the fastest way to come unstuck is to make a technology-related prediction, so I’ll be steering clear of that. Here are five of my favourite predictions which bombed in the face of reality, starting appropriately with the phone:

"The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys." Sir William Preece, chief engineer, British Post Office
The horse is here to stay, the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.” Michigan Savings Bank
"Television won't be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." 20th Century Fox
‘I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas J Watson, Chairman and CEO of IBM
"There are just not that many videos I want to watch." Steve Chen, Co-founder of YouTube
So, keenly aware of the fallibility of predictions, here are five trends which I expect to dominate in 2014.
Social care
Social care - that is customer service delivered via social media, will become a reality for an increasing number of organisations. It has been a tough nut to crack for customer service operations, partly because historically it was seen as the preserve of press and marketing teams. However, business leaders are beginning to accept that it makes commercial sense to bring experienced customer service teams into the mix. Getting it right is not easy and some sectors face more problems than others but CCA can help through study tours, webinars and research, showcasing examples of innovation and success. I expect that in 2014 more businesses than ever will invest in systems and resources needed to join the social media conversation.
Customer Effort
Just under one-third of members are looking at customer effort as a key performance metric currently but we expect to see a far higher proportion do so in 2014 as organisations wake up to the fact that making things easy for customers is critical to retaining customer loyalty, increasing spend and creating influential customer advocates. Methodologies have been developed for measuring loyalty, and fascinating work continues into refining these. The greater the participation in this area, the more effective benchmarking we can do for the benefit of all. Let’s make 2014 the year of making things easy for customers.

New partnership models
There have sweeping changes in the way organisations manage and resource customer service operations and we expect the pace of change to accelerate in 2014, introducing new dynamics and new challenges. Outsourcing, as a means of not just reducing costs but realising efficiencies and introducing innovation, will be a key trend this year, with more of the UK’s largest organisations opting to work in partnership with outsourcers. We are excited about expanding our BPO Users Strategy Group in 2014 to allow more members to get to grip with how best to structure and manage outsourcing contracts and relationships for the maximum benefit of the organisation and its customers.
Joined-up service
The message that obtaining a single view of customers across channels is absolutely vital came across loudly and clearly last year and in 2014 we expect to see renewed efforts by customer service executives to make a compelling case for new investment needed to achieve this. Inadequate legacy systems are severely handicapping the efforts of customer service operations and this message must be presented to boards as a matter of urgency. CCA and our research partners have identifed the different kinds of return on investment that can accrue from investment in new fit-for-purpose systems, so the ammunition is there and ready to use.
Whether you are in retail, finance, utilities, healthcare or education, an ever more complex regulatory environment means that in 2014 you will need to work harder to keep up with changes on the horizon. Being aware is not enough, you need to prepare your team and ensure your processes are not just compliant today but flexible enough to adapt to future challenges. Compliance is obviously compulsory but the goal is to go one better and push towards operational excellence in all aspects of customer service delivery. One smart thing you can do is to sign up to the Global Standard© accreditation process which is the best way to gauge where you are on the journey towards operational excellence. This year there is the added bonus of taking part in an industry-wide consultation on the key elements of Global Standard© Version 6.
We have a really exciting agenda for 2014 and we’re looking foward to working with you on it.