Customer service has transformed dramatically over the years. In the past decades, technology was at its most basic form, and companies had to deal with limited resources. Fast forward to today, we find ourselves in an era that’s marked by the use of automation and other advanced tools in delivering customer service support.
Indeed, customer service has been through remarkable changes, but it also makes you wonder – is everything new automatically good for customer service? Interestingly, a 2016 study by Accenture says that the human touch in customer support isn’t comparable to customer service technology. Whether the focus is on the process, technology, or principle, what’s certain is that customer service is a continuously evolving industry.
Here’s a look at the past, present, and future of customer service.
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Customer interaction was the foundation of good customer experience in the early days. Since technology was still rather crude in the 19th century, companies could only establish a positive relationship with their customers by engaging them in face-to-face interactions.
Sales people in brick and mortar stores provided timely and efficient services to customers. At the time, going to a store was the only way for people to make a purchase, get help with something, or return an item they had bought.
By the 1960s, telemarketing and call centres became popular as a way for businesses to reach out to clients and potential customers. Companies used telemarketing mainly to promote their products and services. Telemarketers had to undergo training to make sure they were effective at making sales calls and building rapport with prospects.
Meanwhile, call centres were set up to handle inquiries, process requests, and deliver customer care support for organisations of all sizes. Some enterprises had in-house call centres, while others outsourced them to BPO companies.
There were also companies who maintained both internal and offshore call centre operations, making it possible for customers to receive support 24/7 through a shifting workforce.
The arrival of internet and smart phone technologies revolutionised customer service on a whole new level. Today’s customers are always on the go, which makes it crucial for companies to establish their presence in multiple channels online. The rising connectivity between devices has also given companies the motivation to come up with modern customer service solutions.
For one, online shopping is now possible due to the emergence of credit card services and computer networks that can process sales transactions. This is a convenient way for customers to do their grocery and other shopping activities without having to leave home.
The use of digital technologies is another key component in modern customer service. Blog posts on a website are a convenient way for businesses to tell people what their company does. It isn’t just about marketing, as these tools also give customers easy access to information about their favorite brand, products, or services.
Mobile apps are also helping companies to be responsive to their customers’ needs, whether they’re trying to place an order, sending a ticket, or cancelling their subscription to a service. With a few taps or clicks on their mobile device, customers can get things done.
With the birth of social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and more – the customer service industry further evolved into something greater. Considering that billions of people are actively interacting on social platforms, companies are targeting this platform to engage followers in meaningful conversations about things that matter to them most. Do they want products that give them value for money or are they going all out for quality?
Social media users are also using this channel to give feedback on how companies could still improve their business processes. Some platforms on social like YouTube also serve as a venue for companies to showcase their products or services, complete with specifications, guides, and tutorials. As a result, customers have enough basis to help them decide if they should buy a product or sign up for a particular service.
Messenger chatbots are also finding their way into customer service channels. The idea is to provide immediate assistance to customers by giving automated responses to frequently asked questions so that customers don’t have to be put on hold for a long time before they get to talk to someone from the company.
Lately, chatbots have been programmed to use context clues to understand and respond to customer requests better. This helps human agents to focus on attending to customers with more complex issues.
Wherever customer service is headed in the coming years, one thing is sure – technology will remain a major force to be reckoned with.
Right now, the trend is leaning toward artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies where computers can communicate and interact with humans and perform tasks for customers. This raises concerns that robots may be taking customer service jobs away from humans, but in reality, it’s the technology that AI represents that can help your customer support staff to become an intelligent assistant (IA) who can make better decisions for the customer.
Customer cloud may also gain more momentum in the future customer experience. It’s giving sales and marketing teams invaluable insights about their market. When customer service staff have access to this data, they can better provide a personalised customer experience and solve problems for customers with remarkable accuracy.
Truth be told, customer service doesn’t become better right away with technology. Technology only acts as a tool to help your team take a more practical approach to customer care and support.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that customers are real people with real issues and needs. Your front-liner agents and the human interaction they provide, plus their extensive knowledge and skills in customer service technology, will ultimately define what higher level of customer service means.