Article | Getting to Happily Ever After

Customer Service: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Headed

Customer service has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Prior to the 20th century, if customers had a problem with a product, they traveled by foot or by horse to the store to resolve the issue face-to-face with the shopkeeper. 

Fast forward to the 21st century, where customers can reach out for support via social media, mobile, video, self-service, and other channels. 

Despite these and other technological advances, such as the use of artificial intelligence for self-service and other types of customer support, it’s not clear whether sophisticated support capabilities will be enough to improve lagging customer satisfaction rates. But taking a holistic, customer-centric approach to designing service experiences is certainly a good starting point. 

“The evolution is to let the customer drive the channel where you’re not forcing customers to meet you where you’re at, but to meet them where they’re at,” says Kimberly Johnson, senior vice president of operations business development at TeleTech.

Where we thought we'd be
Predictions for Jetson-esque customer service experiences where robots handle all of our requests are not too far off, with the emergence of Siri-like personal assistants such as Amazon Echo. Still, customer expectations place increased pressure on companies to provide consistent service experiences across the various touchpoints customers use, whether robots or not.

“The opportunity for companies is to have connected conversations with customers,” says Johnson. “It’s about identifying your customers and their needs, and threading this across different channels to deliver a better customer experience.”

Where we're going
Just as the Internet is still considered to be in its relative infancy, so too is omnichannel customer support. Going forward, digital capabilities will be blended across channels, such as chat being melded into co-browse, Johnson says. Meanwhile, customer service will become more consultative in nature and less reactive. “Customers will be reaching out to companies less as a result of a defect and more because of a recurring buying need and product and service expertise.”