Understanding the customer service industry and its unique relationship with technology can be a challenge. This difficulty primarily stems from the fact that both employees and customers interact directly with customer service technology every single day. It’s not simple server management technologies handled by a small, sophisticated networking team. Making sure all customer service solutions make sense for both agents and your customers is not only important but necessary.
This is a reason why you don’t see customer service “pushing the boundaries” of technology innovation like some other industries. As the last line of defense for a business in saving a customer relationship, I always stress the importance of making sure customer service solutions put agents in the best position to retain the customer. For example, having chat technology that works for essentially everyone is more important than creating an unforgettable aesthetic experience for half your customers.
With all of this said, here are some technology trends I believe will help improve customer service in 2018…
Increase usage and adoption of complete cloud-based customer service software – This is a trend that is especially prevalent in the B2B (business-to-business) industry. I’ve seen too many companies “piecemeal” together customer service technology, such as adding a one-off chat solution to their homegrown ticket management system. Customers are interacting with leaders in the customer service space in their personal lives (including Amazon and Apple) and are expecting more from their business relationships. I foresee even more companies will opt for an all-in-one customer service software solution in 2018 to boost productivity and help decrease customer churn.
Integrations with customer service software will become more common and complex – While the needs of the customer are obviously important, companies are also choosing customer service software for other reasons. One of them is the ability to drastically improve internal communication through integrations. We’ve all worked with someone who is knowledgeable but sometimes acquiring the right information from them can be a headache. Integrations help by tapping into the different technology systems all employees use daily to share information bidirectionally with customer service software. Not only will agents have more information so they can resolve customer issues faster, but other teams like software development can see service information including the most common new feature requests.
The IoT will continue to evolve within customer service – Existing as a company in the IoT era is exciting and unpredictable. We know devices will communicate with each other in new ways, but how they speak to each other is often the unknown variable. For customer service, we’re seeing an increase in chat sessions being initiated from mobile devices and customers are now expecting agents to know about their past conversations across all channels. Self-service has also seen an increase in popularity and this trend will continue in the future. I expect more companies will make self-service a bigger focus within their customer service software this year and into the future. More adventurous customer service teams will even explore adding unique code to self-service content so virtual assistants akin to Siri, Alexa, and Cortana can obtain information faster and with better accuracy.
Automation and bot technology will grow (but not as fast in B2B) – Every year, the number of things we do daily requiring little to no human interaction increases. From self-checkout at major retailers to ordering food with the tap of a finger, automated processes are here to stay and are generally making life easier for everyone. In customer service, automated technology has existed for many years but is now becoming more customer-facing, primarily due to the emergence of “chat bot” technology. While I’ll happily use a chat bot to easily get store hours or an address, I’m not turning to bot technology when I have an issue with a vendor. Automation is excellent in customer service for streamlining agent workflows and processes, but bots aren’t replacing knowledgeable B2B agents anytime soon. Automation and bot technology should help agents by reducing basic requests and simplifying their work. Don’t buy into the hype that you can swap out good agents with bots in the next few years or you’ll be left with a plethora of unhappy customers and nobody to empathize with them.
When it comes to technology in the customer service industry, 2018 will be a year of improving communication. Priority will be placed on modernizing the customer service technology stack and ensuring the systems chosen work well with other inter-departmental software solutions. Companies that already have this established will explore emerging mobile and bot technology to improve their customer service offering. While these solutions are not required to be successful, they can certainly empower agents to increase customer satisfaction and happiness even further than the previous year.