4 Ways Technology Will Affect the Future of Customer Service

There’s a lot of excitement about new technology in customer service, support, and success. The progress of video, real-time messaging, chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrencies, self-service, and even customer success itself, all present the potential for big changes in the day-to-day workings of customer success practitioners.

With new technology comes challenges

But with new technology come challenges, too. There’s a steep learning curve when it comes to learning to use and adapt to new technologies, they can be costly for businesses to implement, and there’s the looming concern we all feel about some new tech: Will it steal our jobs?

The short answer is no. Most new technologies will only serve to help customer-facing professionals to do their jobs more efficiently. These technologies might change your job, however, and that’s where these predictions come in. Read this blog post to get my thoughts on the future of service technology — and how it will change your day-to-day work, as well as the trajectory of your career.

Service technology

But, before you jump to my predictions, let’s quickly recap what service technology is.

Service technology is software that assists customer service teams in achieving customer success. These tools improve workflow efficiency and make it easier for companies to provide effective solutions to their customers. Adopting service technology helps companies manage the increasing demand for outstanding customer service.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at how service technology will influence customer service over the next decade.

1. Bots, Artificial Intelligence and direct Process Automation will help professionals, not replace them

Ah, bots. Our future robot overlords, right? Well, maybe not.

Today, most “bots” are not actually any form of artificial intelligence. They’re branched, piecemeal logic presented in a conversational (like iMessage or Facebook Messenger) user interface (UI). Bots are just a different interaction mode for existing knowledge, and it’s another opportunity to engage your customers. Conversational UI is a great way for businesses to make themselves appear on the bleeding edge of innovation.

Don’t get me wrong — that’s a natural form of interaction nowadays, and bots can actually be very clever when backed by good tech — but it’s not “artificial intelligence”. It’s extremely clever math, turned into experience. The near-term opportunity with bots is twofold:

1. Bots can be there when you can’t, like while your customer service team is asleep.

2. AI and Direct Automation can improve self-service for customers, and reduce expenses for vendors, by either eliminating certain manual process or tasks or providing a new, repeatable, and inexpensive method of communications

Over the next 10-25 years, this technology will continue to make huge advances and will be capable of doing even more of what humans are doing today. It will be smart for customer-facing teams to keep up with these solutions and stay on the cutting edge here to provide increasingly better experiences at increasingly lower costs.

Bots, AI and direct automation will be a game-changer for customer support, where reps spend close to 90% of their time on the job repeating the answers to the same questions and helping customers with the same issues over and over again.

In the grand scheme of things, when AI and direct automation become a mainstream part of every customer-facing team, leaders will be able to reallocate customer support reps into the customer success organization — because there will be less need for the repetitive answering of questions, and a greater need for helping customers grow and derive value from the products and services they’ve already purchased.

2. Self-service will become an absolute necessity.

Since the first time someone wrote a user manual, self-service has existed. And as mentioned above, bots, AI and direct automated solutions offer new frontiers of self-service.

But more meaningfully, customers and users are changing rapidly, and they expect more self-service avenues than ever before.

Why is that change happening? Most vendors that the average consumer interacts with nowadays are big and technologically-sophisticated — think about Amazon, Facebook, Google, Walmart, big retailers, big banks so on. These big businesses are embracing self-service because it lowers their costs of doing business — but in doing so, they’re also pushing the envelope on more sophisticated methods of customer interaction. Over time, businesses that can’t or don’t keep up with this change will look like dinosaurs to the average consumer.

Imagine a world where you interact most frequently with messenger bots or location-aware mobile apps. You would think it very strange if a business didn’t offer these self-service channels, and forced you to use something old like phone or email. Snail mail is dead, and phone and email are going to be next. This time, the killer is sophisticated self-service.  The first step to helping your customers or users help themselves?

3. Customer success will become a competitive differentiator.

Over the next five years, great customer success will become a critical competitive advantage for companies, just like great customer support is today.

The customer success industry, and the progress of companies in search of customer value, is just too fast and effective for this to not happen. Plus, the concepts of customer success are permeating beyond just the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry. It’s spreading quickly and growing.

When customer success becomes table stakes like customer support is today, it will be an exciting time in the industry of customer success to see the takeover. But when that happens, it’ll pose a novel challenge for companies looking to grow their customer list. Successful, established companies will have happier customers on the whole, raising the bar even higher for new entrants, even as switching costs of providers decreases for consumers.

Plus, customer success will become an imperative from day one, increasing startup costs and dipping margins for new entrants. It’ll be an exciting new set of challenges to stay ahead of that curve once it arrives — and if you’re already doing customer success at your company now, you’re ahead of the game.

4. Customer service will be data-driven.

No matter which service technology you choose, it should include a way to quantitatively measure its success. Without that, there’s no way to prove if the added software is being effective. So, as companies continue to adopt service technology, their customer service teams will become much more dependent on analyzing the success of these programs.

With that shift, there should be a noticeable influx of valuable data circulating throughout customer service departments. Service technology records a variety of information about customer interactions which are used to identify overlooked customer needs or roadblocks. Customer support and success teams then utilize this data to improve the customer’s experience.

Additionally, marketing and sales teams will be interested in this information because they can apply it to their initiatives as well. Marketing teams will use these insights to highlight new roadblocks and record them in the customer’s journey map. Sales teams will want this data to understand relevant customer needs that they can touch on during their sales pitch. Adopting service technology will lead to new demand for customer service data that can be beneficial across your entire organization.

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