Customer service used to be reactive. Generally, a standalone product issue would come in and the appropriate call representative would then field it accordingly. Once a seemingly simple process, customer service is now under rapid evolution as it adapts to the changing workforce in the wake of workplace automation trends and the rise of artificial intelligence. While emerging technologies continue to streamline workflow processes and advance efficiency, artificial intelligence is not something to fear. The “human” element to customer service remains a critical component. In fact, according to a 2016 study by Opinium Research and IDC, four out of five people prefer that human interaction remain a part of customer service through this transition period toward automation.

As the industry evolves to embrace preventative maintenance in the connected world, representatives need to be able to anticipate product issues before they happen. They also need to understand the products and their purposes in an array of complex client environments by collaborating closely with product engineers and developers when proactively investigating and resolving issues. It is no longer enough to react to standalone product issues to win the game. Service support teams must proactively play the field, anticipating potential derailments to a client’s workflow operations and addressing product concerns with regards to how they fit into a business’ end-to-end solution, which can ultimately boost employee productivity and help save businesses valuable time and resources.

"Service is no longer static; there are many moving parts and players, and the overall game is one of strategy"

Consider the below to be the “starting five players” that are essential components for service support teams to adopt into their business models to succeed:

An Integrated Service Support Hub: Transition away from the traditional service center and pivot toward an integrated service support hub. It is beneficial for the location to house technicians and supporting staff that can help troubleshoot and train clients, as well as have the tools and resources to virtually recreate the work environments of their end users in house.

A Preventative/Predictive Maintenance Model: Time is money, quite literally, if a product experiences extensive downtime. Service support teams should understand the intricacies of different connected devices and anticipate potential, future glitches prior to visiting the client onsite. And if onsite support is not the business model, it is a good for service support teams to have the capability and resources to replicate the client’s environment in the service support hub. The end goal is to help the end user course-correct and troubleshoot in real-time, either in-person or over the phone, to help generate invaluable trust and solidify a strong relationship with the client.

On-Call Representatives: No matter how smart machines become, the “human” element remains critical. A reliable service support team that is able to respond to customers, dealers, or partners under direct pressure is crucial. After hours coverage can also important. Remote offices and flexible working hours continue to make this less of a burden and a possibility for service teams of all sizes.

• Feedback Services: Thanks to machine learning, connected devices digest a lot of data.But how can businesses take that data and turn it into something actionable? It is no longer enough to fix a problem; an innovative service and support team will use their resources to help their clients learn and manage incoming device data, providing customized recommendations to clients to help improve operations and customer satisfaction.

• On-Demand Product Education Tools: There is always more to learn about a given product or service, especially as technology continues to rapidly evolve. On-demand client assistance through web-based training tools, such as educational webinars and step-by-step product guides, can help offer clients around the clock support and guidance.

Depending on budgets and resources, the above may not be realistic for all businesses but can be scaled appropriately to fit different business models. Creating a service support team that encompasses a 360-degree approach—one that boasts modern-day technological advances made capable through artificial intelligence with knowledgeable one-on-one support—can be key to helping companies retain and grow their customer base and conquer the competition.