The Future of Customer Service?

I recently came across an article by Shep Hyken, an American customer service expert and New York Times bestselling author. He has made various predictions for how customer service will evolve and develop over the next decade, especially taking account of new technologies that are becoming available. Here are a few of the interesting predictions he is making.

1) The phone will be used less frequently as self-service options become more popular. But the phone as a primary channel between customer and company won’t go away completely. It will just become more of a secondary mode of communication for when issues can’t be resolved through self-service channels.

2) Communication by email will also become less important as more customers post their questions, comments, complaints and compliments on social media. Twitter is becoming an important customer service channel and attracting more people because it offers a faster response time than email. It has even created tools for companies to help create a better customer service experience. Facebook is also a popular place to post customer comments. Smart companies monitor all social media channels and respond to customer comments quickly.

3) Two-way video will bring customers closer to customer service staff.  Although computer video has been around for a long time, it is not yet a popular channel of communication in customer service. Eventually costs will come down and video communication will become more affordable and accessible. Most people now own a smart phone, which means they have the ability to communicate via video. When the customer is able to see the customer service representative (CSR), then the whole dynamic of the interaction changes. It becomes much more personal than just a voice on the other end of a phone. The CSR can see the facial expressions that accompany the customer’s words. If it’s a look of frustration, anger, disappointment, etc., the CSR can adapt and give a more personalised experience.

4) Virtual Assistants (eg. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana) will become more important. The problem with Virtual Assistants at the moments is that the conversation needs to be very basic. Anything complicated can cause the computer to get confused and either give the wrong answer or ask you to repeat your question over and over again. However, the technology has been improving recently and computerised Virtual Assistants are becoming more intelligent and more fluent. They continue to develop a better understanding of what the customer is asking for, which increases the chance of a better response. It’s gradually becoming a much better communication experience, and it’s only a matter of time before a customer won’t be able to tell the difference between a human being and a computerised Virtual Assistant.

It’s amazing how fast customer service has evolved, from just phone conversations to multi-channel interactions. The technology that is driving this is truly amazing, and the future of customer service is just around the corner!

Hyken, S. What's Hot in Customer Service and What's Not, Forbes, July 2016.