Enterprise, Channel technologies

Customer Service Technologies Are Variably Effective: Know Your Options

During the pandemic, devastated customers reached out to customer service organizations to seek advice or support. In doing so, customer service became the lifeline for these customers.

This dynamic helped elevate the importance of the customer service organization within companies as they nurtured customers in order to retain their loyalty — and revenue. The pandemic also uncovered gaping holes in customer service processes and technologies, and helped accelerate modernization strategies that were already underway.

Customer Service Tech: Know Your Options

In Q4 2020, Forrester surveyed technology decision-makers, suppliers, and other subject-matter experts in our search for the 20 most important — and most resilient — customer service technologies. These technologies allow companies to deliver service consistently across voice and digital channels, enable agents to follow consistent processes, and comply with policy. They embed automation and AI, which allow enterprises to make workforces more productive and effective. We then rated each technology by the business value that it incurs, as well as its maturity. We published our analysis in the “The Forrester Tech Tide: Contact Center Technologies For Customer Service, Q1 2021.”

Contact Center Technologies in 2021

Kate Leggett, vice president & principal analyst, Forrester Research
Kate Leggett, vice president & principal analyst, Forrester Research

What we found was:

New channels are adopted — but old ones refuse to die. The pandemic has fueled the deployment of synchronous and asynchronous digital channels for customer service as companies attempt to offload spikes in voice calls. On the other hand, legacy channels, such as email, saw an uptick in use, even though more immediate communication channels offer better experiences.

Automation does best when connected to humans. Automation and AI require supervision. Today, they are good at handling routine tasks. But agents need to be involved in all steps of automation, from helping train models to supervising their performance and handling escalations when automation fails. Organizations must leverage the strength of automation and agents together to deliver differentiated experiences. AI without humans isn’t actually intelligent, and humans without AI are hobbled in their efforts to provide empathetic service at enterprise scale.

Workhorse technologies still hang in there. There are many mature customer service technologies that continue to form the backbone of contact center operations. These include contact center interaction management (CCIM), workforce management, interactive voice response (IVR), quality management, and case management. Vendors are still evolving them, often growing their feature set into adjacent technology categories — and making tech consolidation inevitable.

Author Kate Leggett is vice president, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Read more from Forrester Research here.