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What new technologies will improve customer service?

Businesses need to adjust to a reality where customers control the conversation with technologies of their choosing, a Forrester report says.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Image: iStock

New technologies are raising consumer expectations when it comes to customer service, and companies will pay the price if they don't respond -- just ask Comcast.

The company was very publicly called out last year for failing to deliver on its promised internet speeds by a customer equipped with a Raspberry Pi and a Twitter account. The customer built an automated bot to monitor the speed of his service and tweet at Comcast whenever it fell below the speed he paid for.

Businesses risk being caught flat-footed like that if they don't prepare for the next generation of technologies that will facilitate interactions with customers, a new Forrester report argues. Like Twitter, many new technologies will proliferate through the consumer world before hitting enterprise, and they'll give customers more control over the conversation.

The report, Plan Now for Customer Service in 2021, highlights five specific technologies that will change customer service in the next five years:

Two-way video

Two-way video obviously isn't a new technology, but the report notes that "as costs come down and bandwidth concerns ease, two-way video chat will become a more workaday feature of customer service." It could be especially handy for a few use cases, such as enabling customers to show service agents broken pieces of equipment, or facilitating conversations that require a greater sense of trust, such as banking transactions.

Augmented and virtual reality

Once consumers are comfortable with VR and AR, immersive experiences "will become the new normal," Forrester says. "Anything short of that will seem like a black-and-white rerun of 'The Honeymooners' on a 1950s TV." Businesses can prepare for more mainstream adoption of VR and AR by initially using it internally.

Virtual assistants

Once virtual assistants are enhanced with machine learning and improved speech recognition, customers should be able to get on-demand assistance with them. Some businesses in the payments and commerce sector have already started experimenting with different tools designed for Amazon's Alexa.


Already, nearly one in seven people around the world use WhatsApp monthly. Expect messaging apps to become "a customer service workhorse".

Connected devices

The proliferation of connected devices will put an even stronger emphasis on customer relationships, Forrester notes, prompting many companies to move from a product-based to a services-based model.

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