As we approach the end of 2020, it’s natural that we look ahead and consider how customer service will change and what customer experience will look like in 2021 and beyond.
When looking forward, we often use the past as a reference point. How have we got to where we are now? What did we learn that will inform our next steps? It’s important to have that history because, without it, how will we know how far to aim in the future?
The past tells us that, when looking forward, it’s best to be a little cautious. Trends, technologies, and models often burst onto the scene with the promise of revolutionising customer experience, only to turn out to be, at least in part, hype.
For a while, automation has been a hot topic with new technologies emerging that promise to remove the need for human interaction. However, while automation can certainly play a significant role in enhancing the customer experience, it helps to support the human element of customer service delivery rather than remove it completely, as was often predicted.
Likewise, in 2020 many businesses moved their customer service team home with success, delivering a positive experience for customers and a great many employees. As a result, the value of working from home is now recognised. However, it’s not believed that this way of working will totally replace the contact centre. As things settle back, many companies expect to have around 25 – 30% of their people permanently working from home, which makes clear that the contact centre is not dead and gone. Businesses will utilise learnings from 2020, along with corporate perception of risk, to develop the model that fits their needs, both now and in the future.
Customer service in 2021 and beyond will be somewhat different, with greater leaning towards at-home working and the use of automation continuing to improve. But the customer experience of the future will not be unrecognisable compared to what we know now. Changes will be substantial but achieved in frequent small, incremental steps that will enhance and adapt rather than revolutionise how customers receive support.
How do we know?
Over the past few years, companies have looked at automation in customer service and piloted or tested it, but realised it requires a lot of effort to deliver success. Similarly, work-at-home has been tried and not always found to be effective. But both are very different to process automation and regular customer service team management and will work very well when part of a progressive customer experience improvement model that brings new methods, technologies and support channels to bear.