Recently I had a rather lousy customer service experience: I had to call a major company’s support department seven times over 72 hours, a number of which were due to incorrect call routing and failure to resolve the problem. Needless to say, by the last call I was ready to pull out my hair while yelling at the poor service representative. (Don’t worry; I kept my cool and the agent was both pleasant and helpful.) I’m sure you can relate to this story — we’ve all had our share of barely-keeping-it-together interactions with service representatives.
After this unfortunate situation, I grew curious about what the future of customer service might look like and whether less stressful service setups could be on the horizon. Fortunately for my sanity (and yours), some new approaches popping up suggest the service problems of today’s consumers will soon go the way of rotary phones and dial-up internet. Traditional help and service desk structures likely won’t disappear completely. However, new advances in the service field coupled with the fact that one-third of customers would rather clean a toilet than deal with customer service indicate businesses will be forced to revamp their customer support.
Let’s talk about a few of the new technologies that are making waves in the service industry — and giving power back to the customers.
Self-Service Turns Customers into DIY Problem-Solvers
Self-service apparatuses have been around for decades, be it contraptions from which we pump our gas or machines we use to deposit and withdraw our money. Yet in recent years we’ve seen virtual self-service not only emerge but rapidly gain popularity — and for good reason:
- Businesses and consumers have spun a complex web of technology in their daily lives, and now they need help ensuring all of those technologies work together.
- Users have incredibly high service expectations — expectations that frequently aren’t being met — so it makes sense to give them the tools to find answers and solve issues on their own.
- Service departments are struggling to balance their increased service demand, resource allocation, and customer expectations.
- Self-service methods are cost-effective and can greatly reduce the burden on service desk agents.
Virtual self-service portals are also attractive because they offer a more consumer-controlled experience. In the conventional support team setup, the customer remains a passive participant — providing information only when prompted. Yet many consumers want the ability to resolve problems on their own, with 65 percent admitting to feeling good when they’re able to solve an issue without assistance from customer service. Self-service gives customers the tools to move beyond their typical role as the passive complainer and into the position of an active problem-solver.
Plus, the latest advances in self-service include user-friendly features like interactive guides, video tutorials, intelligent funneling capabilities, and even touch-to-talk options for additional support. Progressive functions such as these offer the knowledge and value of traditional customer support minus the long wait times, call routing issues, and potential for human error.
Chatbots Make Customer Service More Convenient
On-site pop-up chats have peaked in recent years, peppering nearly every business site on the internet. In theory the pop-up chat is an invaluable line of support: easily accessible to customers and less of a hassle than calling and waiting to speak with a service agent (or awaiting an answer to your email). Yet pop-up chats can also come across as impersonal, disruptive, and minimally helpful for users.
Enter the pop-up chat’s cousin: the chatbot. Bots aren’t a novel concept, but new strides in development are making them a more universally useful tool for businesses. On the customer service front, chatbots enable customers to more efficiently and reliably address their service issues. Customers can message chatbots at their convenience and using their preferred method, such as via social media or the company website. And since bots can analyze historical service data while responding to queries, customers get a faster response that is based on past service patterns.
Artificial Intelligence Offers Smarter Support
Thus far we’ve heard excited rumblings about AI — a concept that still seems futuristic and foreign to many of us — as the next big thing to impact how we use technology on a global scale. The most innovative businesses are already testing potential applications of AI, and customer service is a segment ripe for an overhaul.
AI has the potential to revolutionize the standard customer support format with its ability to understand and analyze service needs sans person-to-person contact. Artificially intelligent support programs can greatly benefit customers seeking service in two key ways: by providing adaptable and reactive support while interacting with the customer, and by utilizing historical data to predict and respond to customer behaviors. AI can also transform chatbots into an advanced filtering system for customer service teams by guiding customers to self-service resources for simpler inquiries, and assigning a service representative to the problem when human assistance is deemed necessary.
Self-service, bots, and AI aren’t the only tools that can help your service team better manage its workload — your data is just as valuable. Find out how analytics enable your team to improve performance and increase service health in our exclusive eBook, The Case for IT Analytics.
[Photo credit: Pexels.]