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The Development and Transformation of Customer Services

Digital technologies are shaping customer service and care both online and in-person. When looking to engage a brand for support, today’s customers are spoilt for choice. From the traditional call centre to on-device apps and Twitter, there’s no shortage of options. Not all support channels are created equally.  

Contacting a customer support centre telephonically renders a 90% chance of a successful resolution. In contrast, other social media support, email communications, etc. have a 70% success rate only. Customers are unable to connect to databases with issue resolution, or their challenges haven’t been addressed previously. On Amazon, as the platform is smart you can probably resolve all your problems.

A company’s flexibility is vital to maintaining prosperity in this dynamic age. In 2017, customer experience will be more important than ever before. The speed and quality of responses to feedback from firms demarcate their success. In this golden age, even the largest manufacturers can break apart if they aren’t adaptable – a pertinent survival mechanism.

With customers becoming increasingly dependent on crowdsourced reviews and recommendations, the voice of fellow customers has an intrinsic link to commerce. If you don’t have good customer reviews, your product will not survive.  Customers will vote with their wallets in a way that won’t give organisations that second chance.

Scenarios Analysis

A prime illustration is Amazon’s creation of a service wherein customer relations agents personally work with clients through the whole process of receiving a product. Acting as a reference point for the entire delivery, they tailor the experience by going out a limb to form a relationship with the said consumer.

Another sample is how flight companies take a step forward and support customers due to a mistake on the company’s part – flight delays, flight cancellations, etc.

To summarise,  many “digital” channels face the disadvantages of:-

  1. A dysfunctional data organisation system.
  2. A meagre spread of issues resolved.
  3. A lack of awareness by the consumer population of their existence.

Prominent trends in social customer services:

Mobile First

Smartphones are climbing the podium of customer choice when it comes to customer care. By the end of 2015, 42% of the global population owned a smartphone, dictating a large part of how supply and demand interact as interactions, purchases and conversation with their label are through their smartphones. If a customer wants to contact a brand, it’s increasingly likely to be through a mobile device.


Self-service is very consumer friendly and attractive, and it can be done on digital platforms if the firm is smart. However, when serving a mass market, the experience is more generalised and standard, resulting in a much more impersonal client relations encounter

Speak to Me

The advent of the digital segments) Google Assistant, (Microsoft) Cortana, (Apple) Siri, will become an increasingly common and accepted input mechanism for gadgets. Clients will be exposed to more than their devices’ digital assistant; the same technology advancements in voice recognition will initiate the end for Interactive Voice Response (IVR) issues. Despite automation starting to reshape the care channel hierarchy, the voice will continue to be the channel through which most volume passes yearly. Customer interactions across telecoms, banking, utilities and healthcare industries will continue to utilise IVR deployments to serve their clients more quickly and efficiently.

Proactive Customer Care

Mobile help apps are in place to provide holistic customer support when clients choose to use them. Quality customer care makes all the difference.  Many brands want to go that bit further, extending a helping hand to customers as their prosperity depends on consumer reviews and encounters.

Smart Machines

Such devices enable mass personalization. Excellent client-consumer relations are denoted by the individualisation of support to clients, providing an experience that is unique to each consumer.

Traditionally, achieving a greater care function with these characteristics has been a tall order for companies with a large customer base. Getting to know all of your customers, and using this context to personalise interactions and build meaningful relationships, has until now, been unattainable for medium to large businesses.  Such gadgets can conduct research and analyse the entire customer database, learning about the product’s reviews, the feedback from customers, etc. In turn, this allows customer care to be constantly revamped and speeds up profits due to quick reaction times to customer issues.

Re-Humanizing Care

Digital technology facilitates high-end customer relations. The “uncanny valley”, a phenomenon first outlined in 1970, describes the adverse reaction humans have towards machines that are close to, but not entirely human. With the advancements in artificial intelligence, it’s unsurprising that this corner of robotics theory has recently gained renewed interest. A sense of humanity separates humankind from a machine, resulting in a lack of connection with devices, as well as with the mechanisation of man-led procedures.

With rigid protocols to increase time, efficiency and profits, the client is left feeling unsupported by customer services. Thus, client relations need to be titrated to the right amount of bespoke support and preferences despite a wide array of demographics. A label has to assess their consumer pool as a majority and ascertain the defining features of their client population to best profit.

Retail Stores: ‘More than just stores’.

Retail is transforming around client-focused relationships as labels have recognised the value of human touch and personal interactions in consumption. Thus, there is a movement towards re-introduction of traditional retail shops in the multiple purchasing method consumer model, resulting in coverage of all possible challenges that a single technique retail service might not have. Merchandise outlets could become a pivotal part of customer relations delivering collection points, support services and more.

For example, Apple’s much applauded retail stores are an excellent example of this –  they have been using an omnichannel since the inception of their retail strategy in 2006. For Apple customers, an Apple store is more than just an emporium as it functions as a place to resolve customer issues and showroom new releases. On the other hand, with the ease of access to data, shoppers are just as informed as a sales associate, resulting in i. A lack of function as a retail assistant ii. A higher chance of being unaware of all the information a consumer has and an inability to respond to every question. A label is consolidated through an interdisciplinary retail experience, with suppliers, organisers and in-store retail aides (to name a few posts) working together.

By establishing tools and skills for retailers to use, brick-and-mortar experiences could set apart one label from the rest. This will range from product support to click and collect services, real-time stock availability data, and everything in between brought together with customer encounter in mind.

Chat Comes of Age

Instant chat is increasing its prevalence in customer care.  Labels are attempting prophylactic measures, i.e. reaching out to customers who haven’t interacted with the retailer website in case they are struggling with navigation. What is unique about chat within the digital care environment is that it requires less commitment of concentration from the customer when initiating a support interaction, rendering it the most convenient and hassle-free channel for customers.

Voice is ideal for situations where customers are comfortable voicing their issues and potentially being overheard – such as at home or in the car, and providing their complete attention to the task at hand. However, as the mobile-first trend suggests, increasingly, customers are reaching out to brands on the go. Instant Messaging is the most straightforward client interaction technique with both privacy and ease of reviewing chat history.  

Virtual Reality Renaissance

Innovative brands are also exploring virtual and augmented reality to supplement their customer care experience. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – the most prolific technology giants- have all waded into the virtual reality pool with big-ticket acquisitions of virtual reality start-ups Oculus Rift, and Magic Leap in 2014 and innovations such as Kinect back in 2010.  The three tech firms are focused on integrating people and enterprises from across the globe; believing in virtual reality’s importance in the modern day. Virtual reality is already creeping into customers’ lives; consider Ikea’s 2014 catalogue that allowed customers to use an augmented reality feature on their smart devices to virtually place pieces of furniture from the catalogue within their homes.

A common interview question is to ask you to describe a company that is very successful and another company that is facing many challenges and is struggling.  The two examples below Amazon and Tesco are just that- examples. You may wish to research examples more relevant to the company and industry you are applying for future reference. Also, remember success can be very ephemeral in that some companies are successful for a short time and then several trends undermine them. Businesses that have proved successful over the long haul are rare and are much studied as they have created a unique culture that is adaptable to rapidly changing global trends.

It’s instrumental to have different examples of companies up your sleeve.

July 12th, 2017

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