While talking about future of customer service, let’s come back to its history.
This was the year Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. His first words that were also first words said through telephone were “Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you.’
The telephone enabled people to communicate remotely, which was also extremely important for business, as now for such complicated activities like checking out the stock availability could be done without coming to the store personally. Whatever future will look like, telephone communication will remain in it.
The next major development in the field of telephone customer service was PBX (Private Branch Exchange) release. This solution worked as “Internet of the telephone world” and allowed businesses to manage calls more efficiently, especially if taking into account that the number of calls grew. After war, people started to restore their financial prosperity, so customer demands started to grow on exponent – and telephone technologies allowed them to make purchases faster and in a more comfortable way.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology came as a new banger in early 1980s. IVR was the first customer service automation solution as it could process customer queries without involving agents.
The only options customers could say to the system were “yes”, “no”, and “representative”. Not a lot, but still enough to be called the greatest development in customer service industry for that time.
Later capabilities of the system were improved, but still some customer experiences were quite frustrating – but still, customers were ready to take it if further contact with an agent was satisfactory.
If IVR was a predecessor of modern digital technologies, a development of CRM software became first implementation of beta Artificial Intelligence. This software allowed businesses to gather data about customer orders,preferences and needs, so businesses could predict customer behavior with high accuracy.
Also that was a time of customer loyalty cards created by Tesco, and this well-known Amazon’s algorithm “If you like that you will like that too”.
Late 1980s, Part 2:
In a lesser-known episode, a diminutive software company conceived a rudimentary innovation known as OLM, or On-Line Messaging. Curiously, the inaugural computer to adopt this software was the Commodore 64, renowned predominantly as a haven for gamers. While the gaming community holds nostalgic reverence for the unit, OLM, later metamorphosing into instant messaging and subsequently live chat, would leave a more enduring impact.
Live chat remains a captivating realm within customer service, and astute individuals would be wise to place their bets on the synergy of live chat and AI as the forthcoming frontier of customer service. Notably, the obscure software company underwent a future rebranding, emerging with the moniker… AOL.
Late 1990s – Early 2000s:
Our subsequent juncture deviates from technological advancements but holds significance in the annals of customer service history—outsourcing. With the dotcom boom and subsequent downturn, companies found themselves in a scramble, resorting to outsourcing their novel call centers abroad as a viable solution.
However, an unforeseen repercussion was the dip in customer service ratings, as customers encountered challenges interacting with non-native speakers characterized by thick accents adhering to scripted responses. Companies faced a swift need to select countries not only cost-effective for real estate but also possessing a talent pool capable of authentic customer service interactions.
The advent of social media, particularly Twitter, marked the subsequent milestone in customer service interaction. Despite the slight risk of airing grievances in public, companies recognized this as an excellent opportunity to exhibit care, proactivity, competence, and wit in addressing intricate questions. It also served as a platform to encourage engagement and, for interested customers, build a repository of best practices through a history of Q&A interactions. These facets align with the aspirations of all customer service centers, now distilled into a unified online funnel.
While possessing no literal crystal ball, the events of the past underscore the trajectory of improvement and increased customer engagement as the future of customer service. At times, akin to life, taking a step back may precede a leap forward (with outsourcing being a prime example). Nevertheless, the indisputable trend indicates that the curve of customer service improvement will persistently advance in a technology-driven direction.