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Reinventing the Customer Service Hierarchy: How Self-Service Will Rule the Digital Age

Throughout the dynamic cycle of technological advancement, customer service and technology have always been connected at the hip; where technology has given up the ghost, consumers have reached out for support. But today, the way customers expect to receive that support is evolving, with more and more tech-savvy individuals emerging from younger generations.
For decades, telephone support or face-to-face advice was the go-to channel for begrudged customers of household appliances or “modern” gadgets, but today, with the internet connecting the entire world, and the complexity of the myriad devices out there in the global market, the variety of support channels has grown exponentially.
In our current digital age, the priority for brands is to meet customer expectations and respect the technological intelligence of its client base. But in order to achieve that, the hierarchy of customer service has to be re-imagined.
The Customer Experience
As many businesses know, the process of defining the customer experience begins from the moment a person walks into a store or visits a website to purchase a product or service. Point of sale locations have to be eye catching and it must be easy for customers to complete their purchase.
However, once that purchase has been made, the next important factor to consider is the unboxing process. Many brands are now focusing on creating a package that offers a complete experience for their customers. The process of unpacking a new product has even resulted in thousands of consumers uploading their unboxing videos to YouTube. With this in mind, it’s important to make sure your product or service would impress potential buyers in a home-made customer video.
Finally, once customers start interacting with the product or service, it should be natural and flawless in its performance. However, if and when an issue might arise then companies must get creative to solve the problem in a swift and effective way. This involves staying on top of the many support channels available to them, while considering the audience from a cultural or generational standpoint.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Nowadays, there are a huge amount of products that connect to the internet, such as TVs, cars, refrigerators, and even houses. However, most of these products lack the support that is required for their target markets. Tech-hungry customers are commonly eager to solve issues in their own way; for these savvy consumers, contacting customer service or tech support is usually the last resort.
Let’s use a Smart TV as an example: these devices not only provide access to regular television, but also allow you to use social media, download apps, and play games, among other things. Smart TVs are meant to be connected to the internet at all times; you can sync them with your smartphone and stream content from one to the other. So, how could self-service maintenance be applied to these devices with IoT support?
Picture the scene: you turn on your TV in order to stream the latest Netflix Original series and you get an error that says “Unable to connect to the internet, check your connection and try again”. So, you reset your router and retry the connection with your TV, but the same error message continues to appear. Since you can’t access the internet with your TV, you whip out your smartphone, which is already paired with the TV to access relevant support content. The paired app then automatically detects the TV’s serial number before attempting to access it via the internet. When detecting the issue, the app then reconfigures the settings on the TV to successfully restore the connection. It even lets you know the overall status of the TV, gives you the option to update your TV’s applications, and makes a routine maintenance check.
In this example of how IoT support could be self-managed, how many calls were made to a service rep? That’s right, zero!
Hello Siri
Siri and Cortana are the two most popular intelligent personal assistants in the market today, and they’re already in almost everybody’s pockets. These virtual ladies offer a conversational interaction with many apps and can assist you in simple things such as reminders, telling you the weather, or more complex requests like how your stock is doing, or even making reservations for a restaurant or a movie at the cinema.
What will these bots do in the near future? Imagine Siri or Cortana interacting with thousands of apps through voice, you’ll ask these bots to do something as if you were asking your secretary or a concierge. You want a plane reservation for Paris next month, first class, evening flight? Done. You forgot to turn off the lights of your house? Just ask. Done.
The Age of Bots
One thing is for sure, technology will replace humans in the first stages of customer service. This goes for people working at contact centers and also at retail stores. Customers want to shop their way and they want to solve things easily, without having to dial a 1-800 number or go through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR). People are averse to talking to customer service representatives that have been instructed to follow a script, therefore already sounding like robots themselves.
According to several studies, in just ten short years there is a risk of up to 75% of contact center jobs being automated. Currently, many companies such as banks, airlines, and fast food brands are using bots to answer FAQs, only bringing human agents into the picture for more complex questions or requests.
A New Support Hierarchy
Ultimately, the requirement for human assistance will always be necessary, but it will definitely stop being the first point of contact. In the future of contact centers, self-service must be the initial stage, followed by bots that take advantage of IoT. If these two channels are incapable of solving a customer’s issue, then that’s where companies can continue to rely on good old human interaction.

Lutz Remmers

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