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Understand How Customer Service Is Changing

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain what an industrial revolution is.
  • Describe how The Fourth Industrial Revolution is impacting the contact center.
  • Describe how new technology is creating a shift in customer expectations.

Remember Blockbuster Video? It was the place to go when you wanted to rent a movie. In many places, it was the only game in town. Then, without warning, streaming video came along and Blockbuster disappeared overnight. Thousands of Blockbuster employees were out of work—but millions of Americans were suddenly freed from the tyranny of late fees, and could finally watch movies without making that trip to the store. In a nutshell, that’s how industrial revolutions work.

Throughout history, periods of rapid technological advancement have led to big changes in other areas, and we’re living through one such period right now. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is affecting the way societies, governments, and businesses function. Because of new technology, customers are more connected than ever—to each other, to products, and to brands. These changes are impacting contact centers, and the situation is creating what we’re calling the customer crisis. 

The customer is now in control. They decide how and when to contact you for service, or whether they ignore you altogether. The customer controls which channel they use for complaints, creating potentially embarrassing situations for brands on social media. They’re also keenly aware of the high level of service that new technology enables, and they have no patience for companies that can’t keep up with evolving standards. In this unit, you learn how the demands of tech-savvy customers are creating both challenges and opportunities for contact centers. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Customer Expectations

You probably remember the first industrial revolution from your high-school history class. That was the one where steam-powered engines drove the rapid expansion of railways and textile mills, leading to mass migration from the countryside into cities. The second industrial revolution began at the dawn of the 20th century with the development of electricity, automobiles, and telephones. The third industrial revolution was associated with computing and the Internet (you can thank that one for the end of video tape and the fees people used to pay for not rewinding it). And the Fourth Industrial Revolution—the one we’re living through right now—is the result of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

People are now able to connect to each other and the world around them in totally new ways. This interconnectedness is blurring the digital and physical worlds. It’s now commonplace to activate a robotic vacuum cleaner or dim the lights in your house using your cell phone, even when you’re miles away from home. The ability to control physical objects from a digital interface changes perceptions around technology and the convenience it can provide. This is the world customers live in, and it’s reshaping their expectations every day. The customer crisis is happening against the backdrop of this new industrial revolution. 

Customers desire connected, personalized experiences wherever they go. Because of advances in technology, customers can now choose to connect with the contact center in a variety of ways: text, video, or social media—in addition to more traditional channels like telephone, snail mail, and email. This creates a gap that customers see when one company has an advanced customer service department and another one is still reliant on the telephone as the primary channel for communication. Because customers like to use the channel of their choice, companies that serve their customers on more channels have the edge. They’re able to meet the customer where they want to be, rather than forcing the customer onto a channel they don’t want to use. Companies that haven’t yet created the seamless, digital, personalized experiences that customers want will fall behind. 

The Contact Center in the Age of the Customer

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has created a boom in customer service technology. Call centers are now able to connect with customers using social customer service, SMS, in-app chat, chat bots, IoT, and more. These channel options mean customers can get great service in the way that’s most comfortable and convenient for them. While most companies aren’t deploying all of these channels, many are starting to realize they need to provide options in order to keep customers happy.

More channel options are part of a new power dynamic emerging in customer service. Companies can no longer just say, “Here’s our phone number, call us if you have an issue.” The Age of the Customer demands that companies be more proactive about offering communication channels and support mechanisms that their customers want. If they don’t, some customers have a bad experience before an agent even picks up the phone, because the customer never wanted to call and wait on hold in the first place.

The Future of Customer Service

Technological change doesn’t mean customer service goes away—if anything it becomes more important. The world has seen rapid technological advancements before; and every time an industrial revolution happens, big opportunities present themselves. The companies that thrive in times like these are the ones that use new technology to create better experiences for their customers. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the companies that embrace digital channels to break down communication barriers between them and their customers will be the ones that come out on top. 

In the next unit, you learn how another factor is influencing channel preferences alongside the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There’s a generational shift that’s happening, and it’s about to change everything you know about the contact center.


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