Customer Service

Customer Service

Industry Outlook

The customer service industry is generally expected to have steady growth in the near future. Companies in various industries will continue to improve on the tools and techniques needed to provide their customers with the best customer experience possible. Large and small businesses will enhance their customer service offerings by adopting the most current social and mobile applications for managing customers, from product research to purchase and to post transaction. The customer relationship market will continue to expand and is projected to reach nearly $82 billion in revenue by 2025, according to a Grand View Research Inc. report. As described in this report, a growing number of companies large and small will use CRM because of its “operational efficiency, reduced cost of marketing, and the ability to complete the sales cycle ‘on the go’." CRM solutions have “also assisted in increasing revenues while simultaneously making the process of acquiring and retaining customers easier.” Another projection from the report is that industries such as local governments, nonprofit organizations, and the education sector are adopting CRM solutions and that trend is expected to continue.

Companies realize the importance of the customer experience (or CX, as is commonly known in the industry) with their products and services and will continue to research and invest money in customer service innovations. A recent Inc. article noted that more companies worldwide are integrating CX-related systems and technology into more of their business operations. And that “this has coincided with a reconsideration of what CX can do for a company, including providing valuable consumer data, reinforcing a brand’s positive image in the mind of its customers, and ultimately reducing churn.” Industry experts predict that in the next few years, companies will be allocating more resources to study customer experience data as a means to predict future consumer behavior, with the aim to personalize customer service, increase year-over-year sales, and build brand loyalty.

Employment opportunities in customer service will vary depending upon the industry, with some areas offering more job growth than others. The Department of Labor (DOL) predicts 5 percent employment growth overall for customer service representatives through 2026, which is about as fast as the average for all other occupations. From 2016 through 2026, approximately 136,300 new customer service representative jobs are expected to be added, for a total of more than 2.92 million workers. The top industries in the United States that are driving economic growth and will offer good employment opportunities for customer service workers and others include health care, technology, retail, and nondurable manufacturing (such as clothing, electricity, and gasoline).

Customer service workers who specialize in computer equipment and software are expected to have excellent job opportunities. Faster than average employment growth (11 percent) is predicted through 2026 for computer support specialists. Individual consumers and businesses alike will require the expertise of these specialists as well as help-desk technicians to help resolve technical issues with computer products and software systems. Demand will be especially strong for information technology support services in health care industries. Those with a bachelor’s degree and solid technical and customer service experience will have the best chances of securing work.

Customer contact centers will continue to need customer service representatives to handle customer service and sales functions. The DOL predicts that customer service center, or telephone call center, representatives will have excellent job opportunities, with much faster than average employment growth through 2026. In-house customer service departments will continue to exist in some companies, as they aim to distinguish themselves from their competitors, especially for such functions as confirming coverage of insurance or issuing refunds for customers. Technological advancements in the customer management field, however, may reduce the number of jobs available in some companies, as more customers can have their questions and issues handled through Internet self-service, interactive voice response, and mobile applications, without need to speak to a customer service representative.

An IBISWorld customer care center report stated, “In the past, new technologies such as high-speed telephone cables, Voice-over Internet Protocol, and automated telephone answering devices enabled the industry to automate jobs and lay off workers, as well as operate offshore business locations. However, with more advanced technology, some companies may take it upon themselves to have automated self-service customer service centers, foregoing industry services altogether.” Increased investment in computers and software could pose a threat to the customer care center industry. In the coming years, more companies are expected to introduce virtual customer assistants and chatbot technology into their customer service offerings. This could reduce the need for customer service representatives; on the other hand, it also might increase the demand for human customer service specialists who can handle the more complicated inquiries that are outside of the scope of virtual tools and technologies.

When the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, no one foresaw how much it would disrupt daily life and business. Restrictions on travel, cancellation of events and performances, disruption to product supply chains, and many other issues led to an unexpected surge in demand for customer service. Customers contacted businesses to request refunds, change or cancel reservations, inquire about product availability, and many other topics. While customer service employees, who work largely by phone or over the Internet, were able to continue working remotely, the overwhelming need for customer support led many businesses to consider improving or enhancing automated systems, a development which could affect future employment opportunities in this industry.

In October 2020, the U.S. customer care center industry was valued at $10 billion. There were 17,062 businesses and 248,470 customer care center employees. This industry is expected to grow at a faster pace than many other industries and experience strong demand through 2025, according to IBISWorld. The emergence of the COVID-19 vaccine and accelerated distribution in 2021 will help the economy rebound, which in turn is expected to increase consumer confidence. "Over the coming years, the customer care industry is expected to benefit from an increase in consumer spending and the number of U.S. companies, which will likely continue to create new services, requiring call centers."

One trend that is expected to continue in the coming years in the customer service industry is personalization. As described in a McKinsey & Company article: "The initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to adopt physical distancing, test their business continuity plans, and rapidly deploy work-from-home models, all while customers rushed to digital channels. This urgent response has now given way to a pervasive uncertainty about what lies ahead. One certainty, however, is that personalization will continue to be central to the customer experience." Many customer service organizations will be focusing on technological innovations to enhance and personalize their customer care.