Research from the newly published “Second Annual State of Service” report reveals some habits of high-performing service teams. Here are seven highlights to keep in mind to set your service team on the right track this year.

But first, a quick note on the research: Salesforce Research provides data-driven insights to help businesses transform how they drive customer success. For the second annual “State of Service” report, Salesforce Research surveyed more than 2,600 customer service professionals worldwide to discover:

  • How service leaders are responding to heightened customer demands
  • Which habits are hallmarks of top service teams
  • How smart tech is impacting service protocols 

The bar for providing excellent service has never been higher. The old way of answering the phone when the customer calls, asking the details of their account history and service issue, and then transferring them to the right department (often multiple times) is no longer tolerable. The modern customer expects that whether they send an email, interact with a chatbot, or send a tweet, they receive the same personalized, speedy service. They do not expect to have to explain their entire account and service history. They expect every single service agent who picks up the phone is capable of helping them with their specific case.

It's a tall order. But it's also a large opportunity for customer service teams everywhere. Some are rising to the challenge, while others are struggling to keep up with the vast pace of innovation and rising customer expectations. What sets apart high-performing customer service teams? That's what we try to find out, by interviewing thousands of customer service teams worldwide.

High-performing service teams are the top 14% who rate both their service performance and performance versus competitors as excellent.

High-performing customer service teams are 2.1x more likely than underperformers to agree they’re leading customer experience initiatives across the business. There’s an overall sentiment that “everyone is in customer service,” with 78% of service teams saying they view every employee as an agent of customer service. Delivering an exceptional customer experience requires a unified front across company units — but many service teams say they’re leading the charge.

High-performing customer service teams are 1.8x more likely than underperformers to share goals and metrics with sales teams. Service and sales teams are also partnering across departments to communicate new opportunities, ensure insight into customer interactions, and more. If you’re seeking to improve your own service-sales relations, check out these 8 tips for alignment.

High-performing customer service teams are 3.5x more likely than underperformers to excel at having a shared, single view of the customer.
Demonstrating that you know your customers — no matter the context of the conversation — is more vital than ever. Another research report shows that 73% of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company provides inconsistent levels of service across departments. 

High-performing service teams are 2.4x more likely than underperformers to excel at personalizing customer service. Why does personalized service matter? Chances are good that your customers’ loyalty depends on it. According to a consumer study, 66% of consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual.

High-performing customer service teams are 2.2x more likely than underperformers to excel at implementing predictive intelligence. Artificial intelligence, in all its forms, will change just about everything. Rather than replace human contact, AI enhances the experience by adding humanlike intelligence to interactions. For instance, machine learning could analyze a caller’s word choice to understand emotions and recommend the next best thing for an agent to say.

High-performing customer service teams are 3.3x more likely than underperformers to excel at leveraging real-time conversational intelligence (e.g., using behavioral signals during the conversation to gain customer empathy and build rapport). The shift from customer service for the masses, to intelligent service tailored to the individual is why some are calling 2017 “The Year of Conversational Service.”

High-performing customer service teams are 4.1x more likely than underperformers to say the IoT/connected products will have a transformational impact on their service organization by 2020. The use of IoT technologies among customer service teams has nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016 — rising from 27% to 53%. The IoT opens new avenues between customers and service teams, and creates opportunities for more proactive service.

Customer service is a team sport

It's time to break down the walls that divide customer service teams from all other departments. As customer experience becomes the key differentiator for competitors – rather than price or even product — it becomes the entire company's job to provide a next-generation customer experience. Customer service teams can't do it alone, they need customer insights from the sales, marketing, and IT teams to create a 360-degree view of each and every customer. But it's not just a one-way street. Customer service teams also must share their goals, metrics, and achievements widely across the entire company so all departments are bought into the vision.

Technology is a friend, not a foe

We get it — the rapid pace of technological innovation is overwhelming. It's hard to even imagine a world powered by artificial intelligence and connected products, much less equipping customer service teams for such a brave new world. However, we're far past the planning stage — artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are here, changing the way customers interact with brands right now. The good news is, this technology doesn't have to be a hindrance. It can be the impetus to predictive, personalized, high-touch service that helps build customer loyalty.

For more customer service insights, get the complete “Second Annual State of Service” research report (free to download).