Water, water everywhere…and not a drop to drink. As California gears up to face another consecutive year of drought, that thought may be top of mind for more people. How does that apply to technology?, you may ask. Computing is increasingly everywhere—in our phones, on our wrists, in our cars and appliances—and is ostensibly improving our lives. Gartner listed it as number one in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015: Computing Everywhere Is Changing How People Experience the World. We have certainly become dependent on technology. Whether we need it or not, “computing everywhere” is here to stay. And similar to the ways a drought changes our relationship to and interactions with water, computing everywhere is fundamentally changing our relationship with technology.
It used to be that you sat at your desk to type a letter or email on your desktop computer (that big tower with the separate monitor and keyboard—you remember!). Now you are more likely to dictate an email or text on your smartphone while waiting for a meeting to start. It used to be that the water from your refrigerator would start to taste funny and you’d realize it was time to change the water filter. Now your fridge texts you a reminder—with subsequent follow ups—to ensure you don’t experience that less-than-perfect-tasting water.
And customer service has vastly changed too. Not only can you conduct most transactions from home (researching, shopping, ordering, inquiring with questions, returning)—the people you are interacting with may be working from home, too. Ideally, all this computing power, ways to connect and speed of communication has streamlined and improved interactions. But if you don’t think that’s true yet…just wait a few years.
Computing everywhere is here to stay. There have been studies done, conferences convened and reports written about this trend for years. Future forecasting about the rise of computing, highlights on human-computer interaction—everyone from large tech companies to analysts to consumers has talked about it in some fashion. And now, for all intents and purposes, that future is here. Maybe not the “Minority Report” aspects of it, but certainly the ubiquity of connectivity and technology.
What does the inclusion of computers and technology in all aspects of our lives mean for the future of customer service? I’m a positive thinker, so I think customer service will continue to improve with more and better forms of technology. We are already seeing the benefits of simple tasks and inquiries being handled by technology, allowing people to focus on and handle more challenging issues—that should continue. There will always be a need for the human touch in customer service. And the rise of real-time contextual routing is making that human touch more timely and personal.
What’s next in customer service? That’s a challenging question. Technology is moving at such a pace that it’s difficult to keep up and get it integrated into a product or service before the next new thing is here. I think contextual routing will lead to the next new thing and mean that customers don’t even need to ask a question before the answer is given. Brands will improve at predicting shopping patterns and the questions that will arise, for example, and reach out to customers to ensure a smooth process. Web chat, SMS and social media will overtake email and, to a certain extent, phone as customers increasingly expect immediate communication. And those expectations will create opportunities for brands to impress.
Smart brands will embrace this expansion and continued integration of technology into our lives. They will work harder and work smarter to ensure they are exceeding customer expectations for service and responsiveness. And they will (hopefully) have some fun doing it. The opportunities are endless.
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.