5 Key Trends from 2021’s Hype Cycle for Customer Service and Support Technologies

September 28, 2021

Contributor: Ashutosh Gupta

Assess these promising technologies to recalibrate your investments.

Automation, contact center technology, proactive service and customer service analytics have become investment priorities for customer support and service (CSS) leaders as COVID-19 drives an increase in customer service demand.

The technologies featured on this year's Hype Cycle for Customer Service and Support Technologies largely fall into the aforementioned categories. They enable personalized and contextual customer engagement, improve the working environment for support reps and facilitate customer self-service interactions. 

“In order to deliver a more holistic customer experience (CX), it has become increasingly critical to view the broad range of CSS technologies as an integrated ecosystem rather than as a set of separate, stovepiped systems and evaluation processes,” says Drew Kraus, VP Analyst, Gartner.

Download now: Emerging Technologies in Customer Service and Support

5 key trends within customer service and support 

Trend No. 1: Digital customer service

Customers have high expectations for how they want to interact with organizations. However, too often, customer service has been focused on individual channels or applications in addition to traditional voice and IVR, thus overlooking the aggregate impact of the customer experience across the customer journey.

Digital customer service focuses on end-to-end customer engagement. It leverages conversational AI and intelligent automation, and it ensures seamless conversations across digital channels. It can enable organizations to deliver personalized, instantaneous and uninterrupted experiences to customers, mitigating the risk of disconnected conversations and high churn. 

Trend No. 2: Workforce engagement management (WEM) applications

The shift to hybrid contact centers highlighted a need to reimagine ways to onboard, evaluate and coach employees. As chatbots or VCAs now handle most mundane interactions, support reps are increasingly responsible for the more complex and emotional interactions with customers. Therefore, they require a positive working environment to remain invested and productive.

Existing workforce optimization (WFO) applications focus largely on operational efficiency, e-learning and performance monitoring, but don’t address concerns related to employees’ well-being and engagement. Workforce engagement management (WEM) technologies such as interaction assistance (unified desktops, process guidance) and voice of the employee (VoE) can fill this gap and enable contact center managers to handle the workforce holistically. 

Learn more: About the Gartner Hype Cycle Methodology

Hype cycle customer service and support tech

Trend No. 3: Customer engagement hub (CEH)

A customer engagement hub (CEH) is an architectural framework that ties together multiple systems to proactively engage customers and ensures contextually relevant interactions at every stage of the customer journey. It can span and connect all departments and synchronize marketing, sales and customer service processes. With an array of digital touchpoints to reach customers anytime and anywhere, CEHs are critical for organizations to execute their multi-experience strategy. 

Gartner estimates that by 2022, 60% of large organizations will extend their CX technology and process goals by tying together disparate systems in a holistic approach focused on customer needs. Marketing, digital commerce and sales departments will join with IT leaders to develop plans for CEHs.

Trend No. 4: Communications platform as a service (CPaaS)

CPaaS is a cloud-based middleware on which organizations can build, run and distribute communication software. The platform offers a DIY ecosystem of APIs that simplifies the integration of communication modules (SMS, voice, messaging apps, social and video) with applications, services and business processes. It does not focus on any specific part of the business but is embedded across the organization, spanning multiple products and business units.

Using CPaaS, teams with modest IT skills can deploy SMS, voice and two-factor-authorization for basic workflows like notifications and appointment reminders, whereas robust developer teams can build more complex business workflows with features such as email, video, payments and WhatsApp.

Trend No. 5: Customer service analytics

Customer service and support produces an overwhelming amount of unstructured data consisting of telephone recordings, emails and digital messages. This data is useful for gaining deeper insight into customer interactions and journeys, employee engagement and operational performance.

Customer service analytics includes interaction analytics (desktop, speech and text), customer journey and sentiment analytics, and historical analytics. It can suggest the next best steps to enhance customer experience, point out opportunities for automation and process improvement, help CSS leaders assess the skills of support reps, and much more.

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