A Call for Boldness in Customer Service

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I USED AN APP that was so good I deleted it within a week.

Let me explain.

After graduating from college, I moved to the “big city” (read: Toronto) to go be … whatever I was going to be when I grew up. Side note: “Contact center analyst” wasn’t exactly on the career vision board, but that’s a story for another time.

Back in my northern Ontario hometown for the holidays, I decided that this was the year that I “put myself out there” (whatever that means). I downloaded OK Cupid, made a profile, pressed publish—and seven days later I met the guy I’d end up marrying five years later. I couldn’t have had a better experience, and yet I will never log in to that account again.

Look, I get it. You’re sitting here reading CRM magazine wondering why this lady is telling you about her online dating experience. I admit, it’s a bit of a strange journey I’m taking you on, but I promise we’ll get there. Stay with me. You see, this isn’t just about swiping left or right, it’s about the bigger picture—the unexpected intersections of technology and life. Or something like that.

The dating app Hinge leans into this idea—the first thing new users see is the app telling them that it’s “designed to be deleted.” Pretty bold, right? And it made me wonder: Where else should we be so bold?

What if customer service technology had the audacity to do the same? Imagine a world where contact center tech worked itself out of existence, but not by simply automating the role of the agent (as it is so very fond of at least attempting to do). What if these technologies were so good at anticipating (and resolving) customer issues that customers never needed to call?

I once spoke with a retail executive who told me, sure, they want returns to be processed smoothly. But really, they’d much rather the customer loved the product they ordered in the first place. It’s a simple but important shift. Companies absolutely should be working to eliminate upstream problems, to solve customer issues proactively. But let’s face it: The best customer service is … not needing customer service.

So let me issue a challenge to customer service vendors everywhere: Make yourselves obsolete.

I dare you.

What? No. Put the chatbots away. Oh yes, I’m sure your models are very good—maybe even the best. But automating the resolution of an issue doesn’t change the fact that the customer still experienced that issue. You’re not thinking big enough.

Exactly none of us would “swipe right” on the current iteration of the contact center, so let’s not fool ourselves. Innovation isn’t just about slapping AI (even the generative kind) on existing processes; it’s about rethinking the problem space.

Trust me, I get it. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of generative AI and its endless possibilities. But we can’t settle for incremental improvements. We must demand more of our technology, and of ourselves. It’s about having the audacity to imagine what we’d build if we started with a blank slate.

It’s time for a revolution, not an evolution.

Who’s going to change the game? 

Christina McAllister is senior analyst, Forrester Research, covering customer service and contact center technology, strategy, and operations.

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