What’s the future of customer support?

Published January 26, 2011
Last modified January 26, 2011

We posted a question on LinkedIn Questions: What will customer service and a great customer experience be like in 5 or 10 years time?

We received a LOT of responses from a variety of people working in a variety of professions, and despite the wide-ranging points of view, one clear theme did emerge: robotic, impersonal customer support must die.

Self-serve transactions completely void of any human interaction and Interactive Voice Response or IVR, better known as phone trees (better known as hell), once seen as innovations in customer support, are now the bane of customers. And as the world gets smaller and customers get more vocal due to the unstoppable rise of social media, organizations must change gears and create a customer experience more reflective of how people are interacting today, which is ironically similar to the customer experience of yesteryear, the one our grandparents remember: personal, human, and available.

Below is what our LinkedIn community had to say about the future of customer support. The commentary ranges from enlightening to vastly entertaining.

A clinical psychologist said:

"Worse, [it will be] all animated. You'll never get a live person. Wait, that's happening now. We're screwed."

An HR and administration manager said:

"The future of customer service must be more focused."

This person went on to say the future of customer support will also look at:

•The trade-off between efficiency and relationship strength

•Developing knowledge-based customer relationships

•Building customer feedback loops

•Creating the future of customer relationships

•Action steps for customer relationship professionals

An HR strategist said:

"I believe that as time goes by corporations will realize that we are involved in a new paradigm. This new world will make it mandatory that an organization, in order to survive, will have to listen and respond accordingly to the voice of the customer. Once this is achieved customer service will out of necesssity improve."

A business writer said:

1). 5 years from now, I predict that high-tech over high-touch will experience a severe consumer backlash. The self-serve online transaction with little to no human contact will reach a tipping point of frustration, spawning a lucrative cottage industry for entrepreneurial companies that can offer a high degree of personalized service and over-the-top unexpectedly friendly service staff.

2). The GREAT customer experience trendsetter will be the great INTERNAL customer service experience for employees - completely counterrevolutionary to a recessionary economy. Imagine this: you’re an employee and you get free back and shoulder rubs everyday by a registered massage therapist; you have access to a personal concierge; you have a bed and shower should you choose to spend your lunch hour to take an energizing nap; you have access to a wellness spa (with gym, Jacuzzi, and sauna) and health [sic] cafeteria; a free automated carwash is available to you night or day; flex-time is standard; you have access to an in-house library of books, videos, and music; and you have a paid personal coach and/or mentor assigned to help advance your career; and you wake up and discover this is not a dream, and this is not Google or some Silicon Valley tech giant, but a transformed company that makes even Googler’s jealous; and you're treated like GOLD when you know darn well that everywhere else even bronze is a stretch, and you never, ever want to leave. (Or you wake up and find out that it is a dream after all and a pleasant one at that).

A CIO said:

About 25% of customer service is hologram based. I read somewhere that banks are experimenting with hologram-based tellers where the actual person will be operating from a best-cost country and the hologram image will give the personal touch to the clients.

A social media analyst said:

Customer service will become a very personalized experience based on what is known and determined abount an individual online. Eventually, US citizens and world citizens will have a national online digital profile that can be used to cross the international borders. This same digital profile will start to contain specific bits of information about our online and offline activities. Between tracking our online activities such as purchases, social communities joined, and what multimedia we like to participate within, etc., this is how better online engagement and conversations can be planned with sales prospects.

Tell us what YOU think!

How will we be delivering and experiencing customer service in the next 5 to 10 years? How will attitudes and technology change and influence the industry?

Photo courtesy of Veronique Debord.