Customer service is going virtual. Businesses spent  $5.4 billion on cloud-based customer service in 2016. That’s expected to grow by an estimated 23.6 percent by 2021 to reach $15.7 billion. Today, companies are banking on this new technology to not only deliver quicker and more superior results but also to gain a competitive edge. Here’s a closer look at how cutting-edge technology is transforming the future of customer service.

Cloud-based Customer Service

Cloud contact centers have already come to occupy a key role in the consumer goods and retail industries, providing a comprehensive environment that integrates service across all channels. Solutions like Aspect Zipwire enable companies to meet the growing demand by today’s consumers who would rather do business and talk with store representatives behind a computer or other digital device.

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These cloud-based service solutions also enable companies to deploy remote support agents, reducing the need for on-premise support and allowing for more efficient outsourcing. From the cloud, remote service teams can provide seamless customer support from one agent to another.

Customer Support Via Texting

As customer support becomes more digitized, texting has naturally emerged as a new way to deliver support. Innovative companies are experimenting with ways to provide support through popular messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger, Kik, WhatsApp and WeChat. In fact, KLM allows customers to book their flights using Facebook Messenger. For customers, messaging apps provide a natural, seamless way to receive service over their smartphones.

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Virtual and Augmented Reality

The rise of virtual reality has also helped transform customer service as we know it. For instance, Zugara uses Microsoft Kinect to create an in-store augmented reality dressing room in its clothing stores. Customers can try on an outfit and then look in an AR mirror to see how they would look wearing different patterns and colors.

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Beauty supplier Sephora uses a similar technology, enabling in-store customers to look in an AR mirror to see 3D and real-time representations of how they would look wearing different cosmetics. Meantime, customers shopping on Sephora’s website can upload a selfie to see how they would look wearing different cosmetics.

Live Representatives with Chatbots

Siri, Cortana and Google Voice Search have gotten consumers used to the idea of voice-controlled virtual assistants. Now, chatbot services are taking this technology to a new level by allowing consumers to receive voice-controlled customer support. During last year’s F8 conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated how to use a chatbot to place an order with 1-800-Flowers by simply dictating by voice his order to the bot operator.

Chatbots are expected to semi-automate the customer support process and thereby reduce the need for human support. However, chatbots are not yet sophisticated enough to handle everything human agents can do, and most can only supplement existing customer service protocols versus acting autonomously.

What do you think of these changes? Will they improve service? Let us know what you think in the comments.

~ Jiro