Remote first service is here: companies are now using augmented reality (AR) enabled, cloud-based software to facilitate communication between remote experts and boots on the ground. To the average person 20 years ago, this may have seemed futuristic and lofty; 50 years ago, it would have seemed almost inconceivable.
So how did we get here, exactly?
After all, automated customer service – otherwise known as customer support automation – is a relatively new phenomenon, with its first iterations rooted in the 1950s (and even then, this technology was a far cry from what we would consider functional and helpful automated customer support today).
So that being said – let’s rewind the clock for a second and go over:
Let’s dive in!
Before we talk about the history and development of automated customer support, let’s define what it is, exactly.
Automated customer support is a “purpose-built process that aims to reduce or eliminate the need for human involvement when providing advice or assistance to customer requests.” In a nutshell, then, it encompasses hearing, understanding, and responding to customers’ needs in such a way that is helpful to them. Popular examples of customer support automation might include, “bots,” chatbots, intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs). These include examples such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Now – self-service portals, and remote first service.
But it’s important to note that all the above items are extremely sophisticated versions of the first “primitive” iterations of automated customer support. Siri might not be able to answer all our complicated questions (it’s best to keep inquiries short and sweet). But she is still lightyears ahead of the technology we were looking at during the 1970s, for instance.
Undoubtedly, the tail-end of the 20th century signaled the rise of the self-serve model.
The creation of the internet in the 1990s, the boom of big-tech in the early 2000s, and the influence of big-tech companies in the 2010s expedited this rise to prominence. Specifically, it’s clear that key companies accelerating this growth include:
Clearly, though, there’s no supply without demand.
The relationship between the average US consumer and the average American business is a symbiotic one. As companies offer social networking platforms, iMessage, virtual assistants, chat bots, and even virtual tours: consumers have taken these businesses up on their offerings, primarily driven by convenience, ease, and speed. After all, why call a customer service representative and wait on hold when you can ping a chatbot and get a response in seconds?
In a recent study published by Open Market, researchers found 75% of millennials prefer texting over talking. And their reasons for this reflect the world’s surge toward automated customer service perfectly: texts are “more convenient”; texts work better with their own schedule; texts are less disruptive than a voice call, and they prefer to text vs. call in general. Now replace “text” with all the automated customer service options available: most of the alternatives to in-person service are simply quicker, more convenient, and less disruptive. And so the demanding forces behind the proliferation of automated support show no signs of slowing down.
Here’s some eye-opening stats from a recent survey conducted by Groove HQ.
And here’s the thing: having multiple channels of support and engagement works. Because here’s another interesting finding:
The takeaway here? Give your customers support automation options, or you risk losing out to your competitors.
Did you know that by adding self-service, a typical utility could see $1-$3 million a year in savings?
In fact, IBM found that simply by implementing a chatbot – a company will save an average of 30% in labor costs. And that’s without any other self-serve technology!
As such, it’s definitely worth considering how self-serve could slot into your business model. Because when you implement self-service or automated support as a means by which to offer your customers efficiency, convenience, and speed, you save money which you can put toward other revenue-generating activities (or which you can feed directly toward your bottom line). You also tell them you value their time and respect their customer experience.
Customer support automation isn’t without its hiccups.
If you’ve ever spoken to a chatbot before (or an automated voice recording, for that matter), you’ll know that there are miscommunications and frustrations at times. Because the reality is, these technologies are not humans. And so they are not as developed or sophisticated in their understanding of complex issues. For that reason, it’s best to use bots and IVAs for simpler requests or inquiries.
Note here: there is a difference between general IVAs and enterprise IVAs. Thanks to Siri’s use by millions of iPhone owners, she is specifically designed to answer general, simple questions. On the other hand, enterprise IVAs are consistently learning and growing from a specific, niche number of concerns and inquiries. This makes them much better equipped (by virtue of machine learning) to answer more developed questions. That being said, again, we are still at a point in time where particularly nuanced problems still stump the software. And so humans are best-positioned to continue answering these concerns for the time being.
Alexa doesn’t get it when you respond sarcastically to her (and Siri won’t either). Most criticisms around customer automated tools center around their inability to tackle nuances in human speech, inflection, and intonation.
Specialists predict that these concerns will be of primary importance in the coming years. So developers will focus around trouble-shooting these shortcomings. In the meantime, there is speculation that these smart technologies will eventually come to offer a personalized, emotionally rewarding experience for users. This is certainly a plus for consumers who place priority on a friendly, engaging customer service experience.
It appears that the growth of automated customer service offers a number of industries has primed the market for the benefits of remote first service. Specifically, it enables service based organizations to give and receive help using remote virtual assistance. And it does not struggle with the miscommunications or interactive limitations that other customer service technology is currently battling right now.
Instead, it allows us to solve complex issues easily and expediently using augmented reality.
Whereas in the past service-based companies would find it difficult to communicate instructions with on-the-ground persons, and instead have to rely on in-person service calls, they now find they are able to cash in on the benefits self-serve offers.
And just as the retail, real estate, and food industries have embraced self-serve automation, it’s clear that remote first service offers similar financial and operational benefits to service-based partners that have the potential to spur increased customer satisfaction and improve productivity and ROI, among other key factors to business growth.
Interested in learning how remote first service can benefit your business? Learn more about results we’ve driven for previous clients here, or get in touch today to schedule a demo.