What does the future hold for customer service?
| 4 min
Through decades past, customer service centres have started popping up everywhere. The telephone proved to be a very successful way to answer questions posed by (potential) customers. In the years that followed the rise of the phone, new technology started to accelerate the pace of developments. Following the launch and widespread adoption of the internet, those developments started happening even more quickly.
Websites, social media, forums and chats made their way to the main stage in rapid fire succession. What’s happened over the past two years has added yet another layer to the mix, with a shift in focus to a “digital-first consumer”. This article forecasts the future of customer service. What do we already know? What trends are predicted that you could start to take advantage of now? Read on to find out.
Where are we now?
Social media, email and the telephone are now the most popular customer service channels. Research has revealed that live chat on websites is also another popular way of getting service: over 40% of customers revealed they prefer this channel over others. Any way you slice it, consumers are now more than ever seeking service on digital channels like chat, instead of more traditional channels like email or phone. Convenience is, well, really convenient.
Companies are also jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to onboarding to “new means of contact”. It’s been proven that consumers prefer chat tools to get in touch with companies, at every phase of the customer journey (source).
Good customer contact is essential - it’s not only about answering questions from potential customers, but making processes flow more smoothly and increasing sales. Of course the ultimate goal is to satisfy customers and to keep them satisfied. In simple terms, it would thus seem not much has changed. But looking back at even the last ten years alone, the changes have been immeasurably impactful.
In the online bubble with the digital-first consumer, there are many channels and forms of communication being used. Even still, there are massive changes on the horizon over the next ten years. These changes will all relate to automation, cost savings for businesses and naturally keeping customers smiling and happy.
Calm before the storm
Chatbots have been talked about for years. They’ve been a subject of international hype since 2008, but back then weren't seeing much traction in the Netherlands. In the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, many companies are using a chatbot, or even have built one themselves.
In the first half of 2016 Facebook announced that they’d allow chatbots to interface with their platform, making them one of the first ‘chatbot-friendly’ social media networks. From that point on, chatbot developers could integrate with Facebook Messenger to allow chatbots to operate on this channel. That was a huge push for adoption of chatbots in the Netherlands. The highly popular Chatman also helped grow awareness, of course :)
The power of a chatbot
Despite the hype, automation of customer service is still just on the wishlist of many companies, albeit high up on that wishlist. Yet within almost every company, the question ‘How do we save money on customer service?’ has invariably come up at least once.
Employees are an expensive investment, and a human agent can typically only handle a few conversations at once. A chatbot, in comparison, can handle a theoretically unlimited number of conversations simultaneously - this means that customers can get the answers they seek, and fast. Automation of your customer service can happen quickly, if you were to leverage a chatbot.
The future of customer service
The future of customer service seems to be playing out, for the most part, online- and on the channels that are being used most often. Thanks to the use of chatbots, many conversations are automated and customers are being helped more quickly.
The automation of customer service is an important development that means customers will be helped more quickly, better and more efficiently. However, not every problem can be solved with a chabot. Personal contact is still essential, but said simply, needs to be done more resourcefully. The trick is to save the content of the conversations, such that they can be used in future conversations. This makes not only the first conversation with the customer a success, but any following conversations are that much better.
Trends that predict the future of customer service
A number of trends, like automation of customer service, have seen growth over the past few years. These trends will continue to play a big role in the future of customer service. Why? On the one hand, there’s technological advancement - and on the other hand there’s customer expectations. These two aspects go hand in hand. For example: companies aspire to answer customer questions more quickly. This aspiration leads to customers expecting to be helped more quickly the next time they get in touch with customer service. The same goes for availability. There are so many ways to get in touch with a company, the customer expects they can use any channel to reach out. Read more about chatbot trends here.
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