Customer Service in the Digital Age

Service is the beating heart of business today. Keeping your buyers happy will keep your customers buying and create a whole new revenue stream in the form of trusted customer referrals. Discover what great customer service looks like in the digital age.


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1. The importance of customer service in the digital age

According to research, 73% of business leaders report a direct link between their customer service and overall business performance.

People today have different expectations compared to even a couple of years ago. Digital adoption was already rising when the global pandemic forced most people to go online. 

Awareness of digital channels grew. Online shopping introduced us to a world in which we were spoiled for choice. Unable to go outside and buy things for ourselves, we became impatient for deliveries. Our behaviours changed, and our expectations with them.

“The pandemic and continuing uncertainty about the future have changed how customers interact with businesses as well as customer expectations overall.” Forbes, ‘How the Pandemic Has Impacted Customer Expectations


Fast-forward a couple of years to today, and the modern buyer expects the ads and content they see to be relevant to them. They expect your emails to be personalised. They expect next-day delivery, and Lord have mercy if there’s something wrong with their order.

When there is, you’d better believe they expect to resolve the issue quickly, painlessly, and on their terms — whether that’s the time they choose to reach out to you, the channels they use to get in touch, or the nature of the solution to their complaint. 

Fail in any one of these areas, and they’ll post a review about it quicker than you can say “hold, please”. You might be the first to hear about it, but you won’t be the last.

This is true whether you’re in B2C or B2B. People are people and this is human behaviour at play.

So what does all this mean? 

  • Your customers’ expectations have changed.
  • Your customer service needs to change with it.
  • If it doesn’t, their customer experience is going to be poor.

What do we mean when we say that customer expectations are changing, and how will this shape your service?

Let’s dig into some of these trends a little more closely. This will help you to understand why your customers’ expectations have changed, how to adapt your customer service, and what a good customer experience looks like in the digital age. 

Trend #1: speed of service matters

As people, we’ve come to expect instant gratification: we binge our shows, we opt for next-day delivery, we get a buzz when we get what we want and we get it now. (More than half of British people actually think same-day delivery is important.)

So when someone reaches out to your team today, they usually want to resolve their issue there and then. Not in an hour. Not tomorrow. And not after having spoken to six different people from three different teams (don’t get them started on that elevator music).

“Timeliness of service can make all the difference between a mediocre and a delightful customer experience,” explains Niraj Ranjan, Forbes Councils Member. “Quick, straightforward answers are what your customers want today. What’s clear is that if companies can deliver faster support, they have a good chance of keeping their customers happy.”

“It’s important when looking at reducing ‘time to answer’ that businesses don’t overlook the customer’s need for first-time resolution. Many contact centre environments still have different teams answering emails and phone lines.” Opus, ‘How to Reduce Contact Centre Costs and Boost CX

Trend #2: more than just a number

People also want to be treated like a person, not a number. Consumers are much more likely to purchase exclusively from businesses that can show they understand them. At the same time, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.

“They want to feel like their case is important and that [you care] deeply about solving their issue,” HubSpot explains. “It shouldn't feel like your team is applying a one-size-fits-all approach to every customer interaction. Since every support case is a little different, each one should be treated as such.”

In an age when it’s easy to feel like you’re just another number or another sale, buying from a company that makes you feel like you matter and are understood is great service. 

“It’s absolutely critical in the current climate that your front-line support staff truly understand customer pain points before coming up with solutions. [...] Empower your support team to resolve requests the way they best deem fit — the more freedom they have, the easier it is for them to go the extra mile for the customer.” Forbes, ‘How the Pandemic Has Impacted Customer Expectations


Trend #3: does this work for you?

Just as important as the speed of service is when and how it happens. We’re all busy enough without having to sit on the phone for twenty minutes while we wait in a queue. Our time is precious and we begrudge wasting even a second of it on service issues.

Equally, we might not be in a position to make a call. Perhaps a quick WhatsApp message is easier, or an email, or the chat function on a company’s website. Businesses need to be able to offer a range of service channels so customers can use their preferred method. Anecdotally, millennials are very comfortable using digital channels, for example. 

Fail to offer this range and you’re forcing your customers to go out of their way to seek help. There’s also an inclusivity issue here — for a whole range of very valid reasons, some customers simply cannot use certain channels. Giving them a choice gives them options.

“As for channels of choice, millennials are typically phone call averse. They prefer emails, social media, and messaging. Synchronous messaging such as live chat is often preferred to asynchronous messaging due to the desire for quick resolutions.” WhosOn, ‘Customer service expectations across the different generations

Trend #4: the rise of omnichannel

Building on the availability of different channels is how well they all work together. Businesses are adapting to these trends by adopting more digital services and expanding their use of services such as livechat, chatbots, self-service knowledge bases and more — but it’s vital these systems are all connected behind the scenes.

When they’re not, the customer experiences a disconnect:

  • They’re talking to someone on the phone who has no knowledge of the conversation they’ve been having with one of their colleagues in live chat.
  • A chatbot might be able to serve them much better if it can pull keywords or phrases relating to their previous enquiries from an integrated customer record.
  • When it’s necessary for the customer to be switched across teams or departments, they do not want to have to keep repeating their situation over and over.

The omnichannel trend is rising but businesses need to make sure their different systems are speaking to one another to actually deliver on this trend and improve customer service.

“Companies seeking to keep pace with industry leaders must embark on an omnichannel transformation—one that views touchpoints not in isolation but as part of a seamless customer journey. And since customer journeys aren’t simple and linear but a series of handoffs between traditional and digital channels that can vary significantly by customer type, an effective strategy requires an in-depth understanding of what customers truly want.” McKinsey & Company, ‘How to capture what the customer wants

Trend #5: saying it like it is

You don’t need to see a statistic to know that people nowadays won’t think twice about jumping onto their preferred social media channel and kicking up a storm if they haven’t received good customer service — or rather, if the service they received didn’t meet their expectations.

There’s a distinction here that plays really nicely with social media. What your brand or business considers good service might not be the same as what your customers think. With social media being a place people go to when they want to talk or, yes, complain, there can be lots of valuable information here that you can use to pivot and improve your services.

“With customers increasingly moving their service interactions onto social media, companies have an opportunity to leverage these channels to differentiate their service experience.” McKinsey & Company, ‘Social media as a service differentiator: how to win

Of course, in an ideal world you don’t want your customers causing a scene in your online communities, so there’s a real incentive here to review your customer services, to listen to your customers’ feedback, and to make the changes that will protect your brand reputation.

3. Customer service software

As digital customer expectations have risen, customer service software has advanced to keep pace. In the last few years alone, several digital channels have opened up or expanded to meet the changing needs of the modern customer, from self-service, live chat and social messaging to in-app messaging, chatbots, and peer-to-peer communities.  

The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 highlights that pre-pandemic, less than 30% of companies offered these kinds of support channels.

But as demand for this kind of channel support has shown, those businesses willing and able to adapt their customer service strategy to include them will gain the competitive advantage. Many organisations have already done so to great effect. 

“One customer deployed a solution recently that invited callers to move their conversation to WhatsApp or SMS when their agents were too busy,” explains technology provider Opus. “From a CX [customer experience] perspective, that was powerful because it meant the customers could respond at their convenience, instead of being locked into a call for a rigid time period.”

Learn more about the contact centre challenges and opportunities post-pandemic.

Digital customer service tools

The customer service software you choose is important because it’s your gateway to the tools needed to deliver a customer experience that meets your customers’ expectations.

Bridget Reid, our principal marketer, explains more about these tools and how they help.


Customer portals

“Portals are a fact of life for many customers nowadays,” Bridget explains. “A customer service portal, through which they can view, open, and reply to all their support tickets, as well as access other information relating to customer service, is therefore familiar to them.” 

Supporting this kind of functionality can be very empowering for your customers, opening up all kinds of self-service opportunities as well as giving them a clear place to visit to access customer services. There’s no ambiguity as to where they should turn when they need help.

“HubSpot’s newest Service Hub update is a customisable portal that delivers exactly this, allowing your customers to access and reply to all their support tickets in one place.”

“At BabelQuest, we’ve created a custom pipeline for internal HubSpot portal requests. As any support requests via this channel are specifically for queries or change requests to our own HubSpot portal, we’ve added custom stages like ‘Internal stakeholder review’ with its own automation to alert the right internal stakeholder about the request.” Hollie Higa, Head of Marketing, BabelQuest

Survey tool

We touched on the importance of feedback for maintaining a robust customer service strategy that genuinely works for your customers earlier on. A survey tool is key to this.

“Surveys are a direct line of communication with your customers at scale,” Bridget says. “Whether you’re looking for feedback on how your services are being received, advice on how to build/shape future services, or any other kind of customer engagement, a survey is an effective way of getting constructive feedback and giving your customers a voice.”

“HubSpot’s build-your-own-survey tool covers all your bases. Start from scratch to create a fully customised survey or personalise some “industry standard” survey templates such as CSAT and NPS to get a handle on what your customers are really thinking.”



Automation is key to growth because it allows you to take a winning formula and multiply it many times over.

Many customer service platforms can help you use automation to speed up processes, eliminate repetitive tasks, or remove friction across the customer service process.

“Seeing as we’ve just talked about surveys, you could use automation to automatically follow-up with people who’ve taken the time to complete one,” Bridget explains, “as well as to deliver the actual survey results. Content can even be dynamic based on their responses.” 

HubSpot’s conversation automation is a great example of this. Using it, you can automate HubSpot’s conversation tool, meaning your business can respond to something a prospect or customer has asked of your organisation automatically in ‘one seamless workflow’.

In this way:

  • it gets rid of 90% of the manual, time-consuming actions that are boring and repetitive
  • it removes the costs and inefficiencies associated with disconnected data
  • It streamlines the user experience, whichever stage your prospect or customer is at

Learn more about how to automate tasks and reduce costs using HubSpot.

Knowledge base

With many digital customers preferring to answer their own questions, self-service is proving increasingly popular as a channel that serves both the customer and the business.

Self-service aligns with many buyers’ preferences to research their own solutions, removing the need to reach out to the company in question and so delivering an improved experience.

At the same time, it’s a cost-effective solution for the company itself. It doesn’t require daily monitoring or live agents. In this way, self-service is also self-sustaining. 

“HubSpot’s knowledge base offering is very mature at this point,” Bridget reveals. “It’s customisable so you can create a knowledge base that really works for your business and your customers. At the same time, it uses a similar structure to HubSpot’s blog content, making it familiar and easy to use for everyone involved. From generic FAQs to A-Z list of resources you can make it what you want.”

Did you know…

…you can really get creative with your knowledge base tool. We use ours to host our HubSpot hacks. Our customers don’t just use it to troubleshoot when they have a problem but also when they want to go above and beyond to get the most out of their software.


Customer service analytics

If your customer service software doesn’t support analytics, it’s time to shop around. 

“On your quest to better serve your customers, you need to be able to understand them,” Bridget says. “What are your customers searching for? Which keywords are regularly cropping up? Did they find your knowledge base content helpful? Analytics (and the software that supports it) play a key role in being able to answer questions like these, giving you empirical, data-driven insights into what good service looks like for your customers.”

You’ll be hard-pressed to find service software with deeper analytics capabilities than HubSpot. This is partly because its service software supports analytics itself but also because it integrates natively with the HubSpot CRM and wider HubSpot ecosystem. This joined-up, single-source-of-truth approach means it’s never been easier to understand your customers, from a market segment perspective right down to the individual contact level.

“Uncover key insights with industry standard out-of-the-box reports that help you deliver service that is both efficient and authentic.” HubSpot, Service Hub Analytics

Support tickets

The bread and butter of many customer service platforms, support tickets are what most people think of when they consider service software. Tickets provide core service functionality by giving your digital customers the ability to flag an issue or ask a question.

“Add the option to raise a ticket into your HubSpot chatbot, or add it as a stand alone form on the website,” Bridget suggests. “Whatever its source, the ticket will be routed through to your service team in a bespoke pipeline. Add various stages to the pipeline for optimum performance and even go as far as to add automation.” 

Examples of support ticket automation

If someone hasn't responded to a ticket in two days should it be escalated? If a customer hasn't responded after 30 days should the ticket be archived? Do we need to report on the resolution status? If so, add it as an automated requirement!

4. HubSpot Service Hub

Growth platform HubSpot has recognised that many customer service systems don’t deliver the seamless experience that modern customers have come to expect.

They’re not convenient, they’re not easy to use and they often leave customers even more frustrated than when they started. To help its customers deliver a better service for their customers and keep their flywheels spinning, HubSpot has enhanced its Service Hub offering so you’re always there for your customers when they need you most.

  • Are you meeting your customers wherever they are using their preferred channels?
  • Have you connected their service requirements with their contact records so they never have to repeat a word?
  • Can your customers provide valuable feedback on their experiences? 

Set up correctly, Service Hub can help your organisation achieve all this and much more. How does it do this, and more importantly, how can its range of features and functionality help you to delight, retain, and grow with your customers for years to come?

Help desk (aka inbox):

Omnichannel service


End-user features

We won’t go into all the details of these features here (check out this article to find more of that) but we will highlight some of our favourite low-hanging fruits for new Service Hub users.

Custom views

We all work a little differently, so there’s a lot to be said for being able to customise your workspace around your needs and preferences. Help agents stay focused by giving them the flexibility to create views in the inbox that will help them get their work done.

With custom views, you can:

  • create views based on ticket and conversation properties
  • use ‘and/or’ operators to expand or refine your view criteria
  • view, edit, and delete views

Mobile inbox

You heard it here first — conversations inbox in the HubSpot iOS app is getting an update! HubSpot has redesigned the experience from the ground up to help your agents unlock greater functionality and stay productive on the go.

Benefit from:

  • all new design and improved inbox actions
  • improved collaboration tools, including @ mentions, comments, and email forwarding
  • an agent collision and active visitor indicator
  • the ability to forward emails from the inbox
  • efficiency tools: insert snippets and knowledge base articles in replies on mobile
  • expanded integration with the mobile CRM allowing users to associate contacts to conversations


Channel switching

Channel switching helps users using the conversations inbox to switch channels from live chat or Facebook Messenger to email on a single thread while preserving conversation history both for the agent and for the end customer.

What’s included?

  • Seamless switch from Live Chat/Facebook Messenger to Email
  • End customers get full chat or messenger history over email. When an agent switches from chat to email, the customer gets a complete conversation history without losing context

In a nutshell, Service Hub gives you all the functionality you need to make your customers happy and your business grow. To see those tools in action, read on for a closer look at what they are and how you can use them to keep your customers smiling and buying. 

For a deeper dive into more of its features, don’t miss: HubSpot Doubles Down on Customer Service: What’s New in Service Hub?

How to Build a Chatbot

12-point checklist for building a chatbot that serves you.


5. 8 service hub use cases

1. Quickly respond to customer inquiries in real-time


One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your customer service is to make sure you’re there when your customers need you. This is especially true if their issue is an emergency or otherwise time-sensitive and they want an answer now.

Service Hub’s live chat and mobile help desks are perfect channels for customers with pressing  needs, promising the convenience and immediacy they really need.

Check out the full article to find out more about Service Hub’s live chat and mobile help desks.


2. Create ticket pipelines to best service your customers’ needs

There isn’t always a one-size fits all process for dealing with customer enquiries. Different product lines, business units or enquiry types might require different processes, different teams and different responses. 

On top of its default ‘Support’ pipeline, Service Hub allows you to create custom Service pipelines so you can add different stages and automation tailored to each support scenario.


3. Speed up resolutions with productivity and time-to-close reports

First-time resolution and time-to-close are well-established customer service metrics; transform yours using Service Hub’s rep productivity and time-to-close reports to increase efficiency, get the most out of your team, and deliver a better service to your customers.


4. Stay organised with a mission control for all communications

As we referenced earlier, as customers we all know how frustrating it is having to re-explain why we’re calling and what we need help with every time we’re passed on to someone new.

As a business with Service Hub’s shared inbox, we can eliminate this for our customers. Anyone can dive in and pick up where the last agent left off, facilitating seamless handovers.


5. Manage to-do lists and next steps to take care of your customers

If a customer is expecting a follow-up or similar interaction, it’s important that your team follows through on that promise. This isn’t always possible at scale, especially when busy.

Service Hub’s automated task queues feature takes that responsibility away by automatically scheduling follow-ups with the right person with little to no manual involvement required.


6. Leverage templates to help your team quickly address customers

When service requests peak and the team is flat out, it can make all the difference — to your customers and your agents — having templated responses that they can use when appropriate to quickly and efficiently help customers to solve their problems.

Service Hub’s unique snippets set you up for this, giving the team all the tools they need to help more people in less time while maintaining consistent tones of voice and messaging.


7. Let your customer interact how, when, and where they want 

Choice is everything, particularly when talking about channel availability. Customers today want the ability to contact you at their convenience — in other words, when they want to, whatever device their usings, through the channel of their choice. 

Sales Hub provides these capabilities, showing the customer that you want them to be able to contact you on their terms and that whatever their preferred touchpoints, you’re here.


8. Receive and log calls powered and anchored by your CRM

We’ve already called out the importance of a connected service system that integrates with the CRM to capture all your customer data in — and share it from – one place. Your single source of truth should absolutely include records of service interactions and the issues your customers have experienced, including those you’ve received via voice channels/over calls.

Sales Hub integrates naturally with HubSpot CRM and the wider HubSpot ecosystem so your single source of truth is exactly that, from which all your business operations can leverage customer data accurately and operate more effectively.

We dig into several of these features in more detail in the dedicated article — check it out now to learn more.

6. Unlock the potential of Service Hub with BabelQuest

It’s rarely a question of “can HubSpot do that?” More often than not, the real question is “can I do that with HubSpot?”

The distinction’s a subtle one but it makes all the difference. HubSpot has been designed with ease of use at heart. All the complexity you tend to see in software with advanced capabilities, all the faff that usually accompanies having to set up and integrate your different systems, it’s all gone. Or it was never there in the first place. HubSpot is simple to use.

That doesn’t mean you won’t need partner support. It’s one thing to be able to use the software as intended and another to work magic with it, unlocking its potential and leveraging its features in new or exciting ways to make the most of them and gain a competitive advantage. 

As an Elite HubSpot solutions partner, we’re here to help. Pick our brains, borrow an extra pair of hands or leave everything with us — whatever your immediate requirements, we’ll work with you to set up the platform around your business needs and flex the tools around your requirements, so you’re always there to help your customers when they need you most.

Read about some of the great work we’ve done with Service Hub for Westminster Commercial Waste