Not long ago, the only option for contacting a brand was through phone and email. Now, if a brand values the customer experience, it will provide more channels to reach and engage with customers. Assisted by artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, real-time messaging, and more, companies can meet their customers where they spend most of their time, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other messaging service.
With changes happening so rapidly, what will customer service look like in 2025? Based on recent trends and current innovations, we expect four key developments:
- More (and smarter) AI
- More companies migrating to cloud-based communications solutions
- More digital avenues for customer interaction
- More options for face-to-face and co-browsing support
The desire for companies to provide exceptional customer experiences will drive these technological advances. In short, forcing customers to navigate through outdated interactive voice response systems will no longer suffice. Brands will differentiate themselves on the basis of customer experience— even more than they do today.
Here’s a deeper look at each of our four predictions:
Increased AI integrations
Many contact centers already use artificial intelligence today. From skills-based routing to information collection, AI helps make call center agents more efficient. So will bots replace human agents any time soon? The short answer: no. While the popularity of bots to assist and augment agents will grow, the fear of a robot coup can be put to rest.
Instead, the ability for AI to complete menial, time-consuming tasks will likely offer the biggest boost to agents. For example, most call centers use a post-call process called “after-call work” that requires agents to enter additional notes from a conversation, as well as outline next steps. RingCentral Product Marketing director Fabrice Della Mea says AI could help automate this type of tedious data entry, allowing reps to move more quickly to the next call.
“AI could help automate after-call work to a point where the agent only has to double-check and click ‘okay,’ potentially shaving off 10-15 seconds per call,” he says.
AI could also help improve training for call center agents. Traditionally, once agents complete their training, they’re expected to solve customer issues up to a certain level of difficulty. If they can’t perform at the expected skill level, they get retrained or placed in a lower support tier to sharpen their skills. AI can help identify these patterns and show managers which agents need retraining.
Steady cloud migration
Gartner predicts that by 2022, 50% of contact centers will use cloud-based communications solutions. The initial cost and work involved for companies to overhaul how they interact with customers may seem daunting, but the payoff is too big to ignore. For starters, brands that migrate to the cloud can stay updated with new innovations and integrate more seamlessly with other business software.
The cloud allows companies to remain on the forefront of innovation. Let’s use AI as an example again. Right now, third-party companies like Google Dialogflow and Amazon often provide AI solutions. But brands often want to integrate these third-party solutions with their contact center solutions using an API. If that contact center solution is even five years old, however, those APIs likely won’t exist, leaving the brand stuck in the past.
Over the next five years, we expect brands to migrate to cloud-based contact center solutions not only to remain competitive with those who are already on board, but also to attract customer service employees who value innovation.
Expanded digital channels with better message integration
Multi-channel support is no longer just a nice-to-have feature for contact centers—it’s a necessity. Requiring customers to use a phone number to reach a customer service agent—and wait for who knows how long—simply won’t work anymore. In reality, reaching out to a company should be as easy as texting a friend. Today, customer service needs to be as frictionless as possible. Rather than forcing customers through channels they don’t already use, brands should meet their customers where they are.
But it’s not always easy to keep up. Imagine an agent hopping between a company’s Facebook page, Twitter DMs, and homepage, replying to several different messages on multiple channels at the same time. While it’s good that the company interacts with its customers on multiple platforms, it’s important for agents to receive all those messages in one place. While these tools already exist, experts say they will become more prevalent in the future—especially as the number of digital channels continues to grow.
“What these solutions help with is aggregating all those different communication channels that your customers have access to and pulling every interaction into one interface for the agent,” says Liz Gonzalez, product marketing director at RingCentral. “It helps them complete real-time interactions and keep their average speed of answer down.”
More face-to-face interactions
While today’s customer service agents may not frequently use video to chat with customers, that may soon change. The ability to put a face to a corporation adds a human layer to what many people see as faceless, impersonal brands. Of course, not every customer may want to chat over video with a customer service agent, but AI can help escalate them to that option.
“I think we are going to end up with more expert agents,” says Max Bell, another product marketing director at RingCentral. “Where we’ve seen a lot of traction with video interactions is with high-skilled people like mortgage brokers or healthcare professionals. As agents get upskilled by automation, you will see more and more of it because there will be more appropriate people to do it.”
In addition to face-to-face video interactions, co-browsing—or screen-sharing with a customer to help solve their problem—will also become more prevalent in the coming years. “When the agent is able to see what the customer is seeing on a screen, the customer service becomes much more efficient,” says Gonzalez. “They can just say ‘right there, that button,’ rather than, ‘Can you see that little button in the corner that kinda looks like a bell thing?’” If you’ve ever tried to explain an interface to someone who’s not looking over your shoulder, you know how important that is.
Customer service: A brand differentiator
Because brands have fewer and fewer brick-and-mortar establishments, customers increasingly build a brand perception based on the interactions they have with customer support through digital and voice channels. To capitalize on this, brands must continue to evolve how they interact with their customers—or risk being fossilized.
Successful brands already differentiate themselves by how they serve their customers. To ignore this essential aspect of a business would be foolish, especially as technology increases the ability to provide superior, frictionless customer service.