Companies need to provide their customers with quality customer service. It is a necessary cost of doing business – and something people have come to expect.
Technology, however, is fundamentally reshaping the interaction between firms and their clients. The old days of just calling a customer service rep seem to be coming to an end. We’re entering a radically different era.
The changes are proud when you consider them in full. Just a few years ago, the idea that a chatbot could solve your problems online seemed hopelessly futuristic. Now, though, major banks and eCommerce companies routinely use them to deal with customer inquiries. It’s a massive time-saving device.
Blockchain also has the potential to reshape company-client interactions radically. Creating a permanent ledger removes the need for financial intermediaries (or even lawyers to enforce contracts). It allows economic agents to engage with each other unilaterally, without the involvement of costly third parties.
So how is technology reshaping customer service and communications? And what can we expect to change over the coming decade?
Email Will Die And Be Replaced By Real-Time Chat Apps
A few years ago, several companies began experimenting with the idea of using Facebook Messenger to talk to customers, instead of their regular email channels. Interestingly, they discovered that clients preferred it to email exchanges. It was quicker and similar to texting – most people’s preferred method of engagement.
It is likely, therefore, that email will slowly die a death over the coming years. Companies will begin providing cheap, easy-to-use, integrated messaging solutions that allow customers to communicate directly with reps.
The challenge for firms will be to ensure that these messaging conversations are authentic and consistent with the brand. Reps will require additional training to ensure that they don’t say anything via text that could cause the company to fall into disrepute.
Blockchain Is Going To Change Customer Support
When people hear the buzzword “blockchain,” they immediately think of cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin. But the truth is that blockchain is much bigger than this specific application. It is a technology that allows people who don’t know each other to interact without first building trust.
The applications of blockchain in customer service are still being thrashed out, but there are several areas you’ll want to follow. The first idea is to use blockchain to set up recurring payments. Instead of bickering over fees, customers and companies could enshrine them in a blockchain-based contract and let the thing tick over automatically month after month.
The second use could be for things like downpayments and credit. Customers can’t always stump up the money for goods and services upfront. Instead, they require a lender to provide them with cash. Companies could come to agreements with banks and creditors to use blockchain to enshrine contracts. The process would effectively eliminate fraud and ensure that all parties are paid on time.
Customer Service Will Become More Empathetic
For years, companies have been looking for ways to step into their customers’ shoes so that they can better meet their needs. Hiring naturally empathetic people is a longstanding strategy. Hiring managers would typically look for people who are comfortable with meeting the needs of others.
Now, though, that’s all changing. Technology is taking up the slack – and making a substantial difference.
Take the concept behind Drop Cowboy, for example. The idea here is to avoid cold calling by going straight through to customer voicemail. People are then able to listen to messages when convenient and call back if they need to.
Software developers are also investigating whether they can automate more of the rote tasks of customer service reps, freeing them up to listen to customers’ concerns. Ultimately, clients aren’t interested in procedures of systems. They want reps willing to listen to their problems and deal with them.
Automation software, therefore, is going to make a big difference in how companies do customer service. Human reps are going to have tools that take care of all the background admin, allowing them to focus more on their patrons’ emotional concerns.
AI Will Mean That Humans Solve Fewer Problems
Artificial intelligence is still some way off achieving human levels of cognition, but it isn’t far off in some areas. We’re likely to see an increase in the number of companies forwarding customers to AI bots to solve their problems over the coming years. This software will primarily deal with all the easy tasks, allowing human reps to help customers solve the most challenging issues. Thus, there will be less of a rush to process customers, and everyone will feel happier as a result.
Social Media Will Become The Predominant Customer Service Tool
Social media is already massively popular among customers. In the coming years, though, it could become the predominant customer service tool.
We already see massive changes coming down the pike. Customers, for instance, are using Facebook and Twitter to leave real-time feedback on their experiences of restaurant meals. And social media is fast becoming a public forum where people can talk about their experiences of particular businesses.
In the future, though, things are likely to change again. Companies are going to have to handle social media like a Roman crowd. They’re going to have to work it and get the mob onside. Part of customer service, therefore, will be to promote how companies have helped their clients. Firms will need to develop a game plan for how they’re going to massage public opinion and keep relations cordial. When things go wrong, they need a strategy to help them get the situation back on course.
Customer Success Will Become A Differentiator
Companies are going to have to start talking about their customer successes more too. Prospects want to see that a firm can actually help the people that it serves.
Technology, therefore, will need to develop further to facilitate this level of functionality. Reps will need tools that allow them not only to advise but also to troubleshoot their customers’ problems. It will become a far more active and real-time role.