Digital-first customer service solutions emerge as their own software category

Digital-first customer service solutions is a new category in the making, with broad appeal to teams that must support authenticated or anonymous customers in the pre- and postpurchase stages. They help understand customer behavior and intent and deliver highly contextual experiences based on friction points they detect in customer journeys.

Customers expect more from customer service organizations. They expect you to value their time, to make engagement easy, and to deliver answers and resolutions in a highly personal manner and in the context of their actions and journeys. 

Your customers use self-service as a first point of contact with a company and turn to digital agent-assisted service to resolve issues and get answers to questions. The pandemic has accelerated these trends as companies look to move phone inquiries to more automated and digital channels. Since the first days of the pandemic, companies continue to report very long wait times (sometimes upwards of hours) for customers to connect with an agent. This friction only amplifies the emotional state of customers who are often anxious or angry. 

There are two trends to note. As digital engagement increases: 

  • Asynchronous messaging gains traction. These are interactions over channels like Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, SMS, and WhatsApp, to name a few. Why? Messaging offers great customer experiences, as customers can move across channels and touchpoints and carry the conversation forward without having to repeat themselves. It's a rich experience that supports images and video. It's contextual to the customer's actions and journey. And it also makes customer service operations more effective as they don't have to staff agents to the precise peaks and valleys of engagement. 
  • AI and automation become foundational to customer service. These technologies power chatbot conversations, automated answers, and self-service processes; offload agents from repetitive interactions; and intelligently route work to the most suitable agents so that customer service organizations can keep up with ballooning volumes of customer interactions without adding headcount. 

Two Categories Of Customer Service Solutions Emerge 

There's no single customer service solution that serves all sizes of organizations, all industries, or all business models. For example, some organizations typically support long-running customer service processes that involve many stakeholders and that require collaboration between the account and customer service organization. Contrast this with companies that are more transactionally focused, where customer service interactions are simpler, more repetitive, often occur over digital channels, and where service interactions can be highly automated. 

Forrester sees two different categories of customer service solutions emerging: traditional customer service solutions and digital-first customer service solutions. 

Digital-first customer service solutions support automated and agent-assisted customer interactions over a range of digital channels. Some vendors specialize in customer service over a few channels -- for example, social customer service, or asynchronous messaging. Others specialize in offering a range of synchronous digital channels like chat, video, and cobrowsing. Yet others offer a broad footprint of digital channels, including digital voice.  

This post was written by VP, Principal Analyst Kate Leggett, and it originally appeared here