A hundred years ago when we needed customer support, we would go to the local store and explain to the shop owner what the problem was with the product we had purchased. We would also discover that in addition to the shop owner, we also knew the post man, and the barber, and pretty much everyone in town.
A lot has changed since then, especially after the Industrial Revolution and more recently, the Information and Telecommunications one. Consequently, the needs of consumers have increased and new inventions have come along continuing the rapid and inevitable tendency of change.
Let’s see the major milestones that have contributed to the increased demand for customer support:
1876: Alexander Graham Bell patents the electric telephone. Customer service takes a leap forward over the next few decades, as customers can avoid having to travel long distances for product information or to arrange for repairs.
1960: The original manual ‘freephone’ service was introduced by the British Post Office
1960s: Private Automated Business Exchanges (PABX) began to be used to handle large number of calls. These became the we’re familiar with now where a large number of operators handle customer conversations in one location.
Early 1980s: The invention of Interactive Voice Response (the option that lets you say “yes” or “representative” to the telephone and automatically connects you).
Mid to Late 1980s : First IT help desks appear.
1989: While outsourcing began prior to the late ’80s, it was not considered a formal customer service strategy until the early ’90s. In the late ’80s and early ’90s when companies began to focus more on cost savings, many customer service and support centres were sent abroad.
1991: Emergence of the World Wide Web
Mid-1990s: CRM systems as we know them today began to emerge, led by software company Gartner although many others also competed. As a result of more sophisticated customer data tracking, many companies began to provide gifts for customer loyalty such as cashback on credit cards, frequent-flier miles and discounts for multiple purchases.
Late 1990s-early 2000s: Outsourcing customer service to offshore locations gains popularity across the globe.
Late 2000s: Technology has evolved to the point of allowing support agents to log in remotely into the customers’ computers and fix issues or walk the user through the steps of solving them on their own. Remote desktop support is born.
From the telephone switchboard to the high-tech contact solutions, it’s evident that the way customer enquiries are dealt with has come a long way.
Taking a look at our timeline to date, we can only wait with anticipation for the next innovation to be added on the list.
What is the Future of Customer Support and What Can We Expect in the Years to Come?
One thing is certain – technology will keep evolving and expanding its reach in every area of our lives. Estimates show that over 2 billion people are now using smartphones; as our use of technology increases, so does the demand for customer support.
On the other hand, new tech inventions will grow ‘smarter’ and possibly predict and prevent future issues by voice recognition and different kinds of sensors. The world is changing as we speak, and it’s more important than ever to stay informed about what it coming. In this rapidly changing sector the only direction you can move is forward, make sure you don’t get left behind.
How good is your customer support team? Are they keeping up?
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