Turning the (Back) Page: A Glimpse into Customer Service’s Future
I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. Where are the lyrics? This isn’t Ian Jacobs! Am I in the wrong place? No, dear reader, you are exactly where you’re meant to be. And apparently, so am I! As Ian’s 4.5 years of back-page wisdom comes to a close, I’ll be your new source of customer service noodlings.
Who am I? Great question. These days, I am a senior analyst at Forrester Research—so yes, you’ll still get a little window into what at least one of us is thinking about over there. I spend my days talking or writing about a whole heap of customer service topics: digital channels, conversation intelligence, agent augmentation, outsourcing, to name a few. I’m a feverish champion of agent empowerment, augmentation over automation, and customer service being waay more impactful to companies’ customer experience than they realize.
Before Forrester, I spent most of my career on the vendor side as a sales engineer. I’ve worked with chatbots, IVR, chat, conversation analytics, AQM, agent assist—you get the picture. I am also a Canadian, a dog lover, and a semi-professional bread quality tester (my husband bakes a lot of bread).
So what are we going to talk about here? What will the trip into my mind be like? Another great question. I thought I’d start by sharing a few of the things I’ve been thinking about as something of a sample of what’s to come.
WILL CHANNELS FINALLY DIE?
A colleague of mine pressed me to weigh in on what I thought the contact center of 2050 would look like. While I tend not to enjoy playing the role of hot-takes futurist, it was an interesting thought experiment. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know what natural language interfaces will feel like in 27 years. Better, probably. But something I am extremely confident about? We’re not going to be talking about channels anymore. We won’t even be talking about self-service vs. assisted-service—it’ll just be service. Companies will no longer be dodging human connection—they’ll be seeking it. (As I wrote that last sentence, I was struck by how ridiculous it is that the first part fairly accurately represents our reality. What a world.)
It does feel like we’re getting a (very) small taste of this future when we consider asynchronous messaging apps in customer service. I believe we’re seeing the emergence of the first truly customer-led “channel” (modality?), and can I just say, I’m loving it. Finally, the operational best practice is to...follow the customer’s lead. Imagine that!
GENERATIVE AI’S HUMAN POTENTIAL
Oh great, another hot take about ChatGPT. No! OK, maybe a little. I, like the rest of the world, got sucked deep into the ChatGPT and Dall-E rabbit holes—very cool pieces of technology. But what I’m really interested in is where we’re headed next and the opportunities for generative AI to augment human work. I recently had an inquiry from a client asking whether they could use generative AI tools to kick-start their conversation analytics program rather than coming up with a bajillion keywords on their own—a task nobody enjoys but most vendor solutions require. My answer? Yes! A thousand times yes (and please tell me all about it!). I am constantly thinking about the untapped potential for these tools to entirely change how we work, and I believe we’re right on the edge of some very cool and transformational solutions.
Just a small snack. An appetizer for what I hope will be a satisfying multi-column feast. I look forward to revisiting these topics (and many others) in the months to come. Stay tuned!
Christina McAllister is senior analyst, Forrester Research, covering customer service and contact center technology, strategy, and operations.