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Technology has become a transformational part of all of our lives. With connected devices, supercomputing and always-on, anywhere-accessible workers, expectations have shifted.

Consumers and businesses alike today want meaningful interactions with immediate, effective and practical assistance. Whether it's a billing question, technical snafu, or the desire to speak to a human being, customer service is in many ways at the forefront of these new demands.

Better Customer Service Is Key to the Success of Modern Businesses

How has technology changed customer service and what does it mean for businesses that do, or do not embrace these advances?

For one, location means far less than it used to. The brick-and-mortar shoe store that is the only place for miles that carries the style you love is no longer the only game in town. Consumers can, and do, change providers with a few keystrokes. If customer service falters, consumers can, and do, walk away.

With multiple devices connected to the internet, consumers expect to find information and get answers all the time, all over the globe. Companies that do not provide access to rich content and reasonably fast answers are unlikely to survive.

Technology Can Take Your Business Into the Future

Below is a look at some of the technologies that are helping companies transform the customer service experience.

  • Cloud call center. The call center is one of the most maligned aspects of customer service. With recent advances on cloud computing, companies have the capability to enhance the call center, using infrastructure that prioritizes calls and routes customers more quickly to the proper support area.
  • Every channel. Customers today want access in all kinds of ways. The telephone used to be the only way to reach a help desk or customer service desk. Today, phone support joins email, web, instant messaging, social media, instructional videos and videoconferencing as expected areas for support. For companies, the challenge is that these different channels can be very different in terms of the type of information and the mode in which it can be displayed. Companies are turning to multi-channel tools that provide central hubs for monitoring and tracking help requests across media. Companies that are not in all these spaces risk losing customers to competitors.
  • Secure interactions. For financial institutions, government agencies, medical providers and other operations that work with sensitive consumer information, there is a need for secure engagement in customer relations. Technologies like VPN, multi-form encryption, and self-destructing documents maintain privacy, reduce the risk of data breaches and identity theft and keep intimate information protected.

For example, banks use VPN to share loan applications with lenders and other branches using secure interfaces that only display virtual copies. Billing assistants in hospitals have restricted access, allowing them to see billing statements, but not specific patient records or medication prescriptions.

With shifting technologies and consumer expectations, customer service will need to continue to evolve to be effective. More importantly, as an always-on extension of businesses, customer service will play an increasingly critical role in customer retention.