10/12/2013 06:43 GMT | Updated 08/02/2014 05:59 GMT

What Customer Service Challenges Will 2014 Bring?

I recently asked readers on my blog about the customer service trends that they think would be prescient for 2014. I have seen some great comments on Twitter and I'd like to use this article to give you a couple of my own ideas, hopefully so you can continue to comment with more - before Christmas I'll try compiling a list of predicted 2014 trends together that I can publish here.

I was in South Africa two weeks ago at an event hosted by BPeSA, the organisation that represents our industry in South Africa. I was asked for my own views on what will be the number one trend to watch for in 2014 and you can hear my comments on this audio recording. This is an excerpt of what I said in the interview:

"There has been a shift in the last nine to twelve months, where I have found that a lot of our clients - and the industry generally - have decided to rely more on their partners for customer experience transformation."

By writing about this I'm quoting myself, which may seem a bit odd, but I haven't heard this mentioned in the general customer service discussions online - yet. But I can see it already happening in our business and I believe it will be an important trend next year.

In my opinion it is only to be expected. A decade ago it was possible for a company to consider a captive contact centre. They just needed some basic systems to handle voice calls and the agents - at least to get going anyway. And doing it yourself was seen as cheaper than outsourcing because you could avoid working with all those pesky companies that are out to profit from your urgent contact centre requirements.

Now we are operating in a global 24/7 multichannel world where customers expect service on dozens of channels - voice, instant messaging, email, Facebook, Twitter, even regular old-fashioned letters - it's tough to try setting that up internally so it seems sensible that those who are still working with an internal customer service function would be looking for a partner to design the transformation strategy and then to run the centre.

From the same BPeSA event in Cape Town, I noticed this great audio interview online with Stephen Loynd. Stephen is the global program manager for customer contact at analyst firm Frost & Sullivan. In this one-minute interview he outlines what he sees as the most important customer service topic to watch in 2014:

"We are writing a lot about the move to the omnichannel. Integrating everything from mobility to social media and trying to get all channels integrated, getting a more cohesive multichannel experience for the customer. There are many different angles related to this but we have about a dozen analysts just looking at this alone."

The move to multichannel customer service is an area where Teleperformance has been working for a number of years now. Our blog has referred to this many times and we are already delivering these solutions for clients right now so we have practical experience in the field.

But it is an area that is changing fast and crosses a number of boundaries. With customer communications taking place so transparently, this also crosses into the area of marketing too - how many times have you seen great customer service examples shared with friends?

And it's a fact that the multichannel approach is not quite the same as the omnichannel that the customer expects. An easy way to think of this is a brand that has 15 different ways to reach their customer service team, but you are back at square one each time you switch channel. With the omnichannel approach you should be able to switch from a call to social to an email with all the communications tied together - they should know that all these different communications are all from you.

So these are a couple of great ideas to start with. Now what else do you think should be on our list of customer service trends to watch for next year? Leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me your opinion.