By Marcus Leach

It has been another busy year in the world of business, complete with the ups and downs we have come to expect, but nevertheless a year that ends with seeds of positivity hoping to flourish in the new year.

And so, as another action-packed year comes to an end, we take a look ahead to 2013. In this new series, 2013 Trends: What can we expect, Fresh Business Thinking examines different industry sectors, and what can be expected from each.

Forget the cloud — but not entirely, because it’s probably a given. 2013 will be all about that small device we carry about everywhere, something called omnichannel, and reversing workforce management to help the customer to help you. Richard McCrossan, Strategic Business Director at Genesys shares his list of New Year Resolutions.

1: Reduce the churn — focus on your brand promise AND execution
Companies across the globe spend billions of dollars capturing new customers every year with exciting promises which may not be fulfilled. By focusing on your brand promise and executing that promise to customers, companies can reduce churn, reduce customer effort and improve customer loyalty in 2013 and beyond.

2: Deliver Omnichannel - 'Omnichannel' is fast replacing multichannel as a requirement for customer service. In 2013, we'll see an increased shift to an omnichannel approach, with companies tracking customers across all channels and retaining the customer interaction history at the same time. With this increased knowledge, companies will certainly provide superior, customer-centric service, regardless of the channel used. Again we reduce customer effort and keep those customers — helping us keep NY resolution Number One!

3: Mobile — the centre of our digital existence - The one device the consumer has with them all the time — even by their bedside — is their mobile phone. It's becoming the centre of our digital life. So it’s important for companies to remember that all of these cross-channel elements happen on just one device: buy, query, research, socialise, chat, and even talk!

If companies embrace this device as the centre of consumers' digital existence, there's huge potential to add value to their customer service.

4: Make Mobile work — when is a smartphone not so smart? When it’s a phone! Yes, this is a phrase we've heard a million times before, and yes, mobile has already played a huge part during 2012, but with the massive rise in the use of mobile, companies will have to integrate mobile apps into existing marketing strategies and into the overall customer experience.

But companies must beware that the low effort which is provided through a mobile app is completely wasted if this doesn't form part of a seamless strategy, and if the customer has to move to another channel in order to resolve an issue. Back to Resolution Number Two — it’s a key part of an omnichannel strategy.

5: Will video finally take off? Video has always been a bit of an old (Christmas) chestnut. Despite the advent of applications such as Apple's FaceTime, there hasn't been a huge take up in mobile video customer service. Maybe as investment in mobile customer service apps continues to increase, video will take off as it's further enabled in mobile in 2013.

But it’s in web customer service that we've seen video being used more and more to great effect, and we're receiving more requests for video as it begins to form a greater part of our customers’ overall strategy. So consider video as part of your web solution.

6: Social media — the fear is gone - In 2012, our research with the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that fear of customer criticism across social media was a huge concern for senior executives — 40 per cent of respondents were primarily concerned with the potential effect this criticism could have on their company.

No more. In 2013, organisations will embrace social media as part of their customer service strategy — engaging with customers, not simply monitoring social media out of fear. In 2013, organisations will start to reply to customers in-media, so if a customer Tweets a query, they will Tweet them back — not provide them with a number to call.

7: Unlock the power of your data - The commoditisation of inexpensive data storage has made it easy for enterprises to retain and maintain massive amounts of data from various internal departments such as customer service, marketing, and others. Over 2012, the volume of digital content grew to 2.7 zettabytes, up 48% from the previous year. As a result, new computing frameworks — called big data and aligned with Web 3.0 and cloud computing — are emerging to extract high-value insights from this mountain of data to provide business context and other meaningful outputs.

In 2013, big data will continue as a strategic initiative as companies strive to unlock business value from multiple data sources. Specifically, companies will begin to change from an inwardly focused view to a customer or employee engagement approach that leverages social networks and mobile.

8: Make Web-chat work — don’t just talk among yourselves - Web chat will form a huge part of any digital customer service strategy in 2013. Interestingly, we’re finding that it’s as much used by older generations as younger ones, but it's often siloed within an organisation. Contact centres sometimes use specialist organisations for this communication channel which means they become siloed services rather than integrated into customer service, and this actually damages the customer experience. By not opting for a single holistic platform to manage all channels together, agents lose that single view of the customer — back to omnichannel and resolution Number Two.

9: Reverse Workforce Management — helping the customer to help you
We've talked before about Workforce Management and the importance of planning agent workloads and optimising resources based on staffing. Next year, we expect this to go one step further in terms of customer forecasting, not just employee forecasting.

Customer service agents are able to engage customers on their smartphone and offer them a choice of options for contacting the customer service department, based on availability. So, if the voice side of the contact centre is busy, the customer is given the option to make use of a web chat agent, or even elect for a call back from their preferred agent!

This intelligence gives customers a choice, reduces customer frustration at busy times in the contact centre, and importantly increases efficiency within the contact centre.

So what lies ahead for 2013?

Despite a lacklustre economy in 2012, customer service has been seen to dominate business initiatives and will continue to do so in 2013. Technologies such as social media and mobile have pushed innovation, and we've seen that companies have begun to realise that customer service is an enterprise-wide issue, not just something limited to the four walls of the contact centre.

As companies plan for 2013, these 9 new year resolutions should provide some insight into the key business trends as we look to continually improve customer service and more importantly, customer satisfaction.