The gold standard in customer support has changed over the years. The objective for customers and companies has always been to solve problems as quickly as possible, but the preferred means of reaching that goal has shifted for customers and support teams alike. In the past, many customers believed that reaching a human being was the most expeditious manner of solving their problem, but companies created elaborate automated voice response menus to try to weed out the simpler issues. This often frustrated customers in the process — particularly B2B customers with more complex issues.

Technology has upended this order, and not just because businesses have deployed new digital tools: customers approach the quest for answers in a different way. Today’s customers are typically more knowledgeable about products than they were in the past. Before they even come to a purchase decision, they’ve read online reviews and perhaps consulted user groups. When they encounter a problem, many customers turn to Google first instead of automatically calling the support line.

This shift put self-service options at the frontline of support delivery. With the right platform and a robust set of support materials, self-service support can be a great option for both B2C and B2B support delivery. Companies that deploy detailed FAQs and a comprehensive knowledge base can give customers access to the answers they need 24/7/365. A portal that enables user communities to interact and provide advice and assistance to peers can also be an excellent self-service tool.

Not only does self-service give customers quick access to the answers they need, it deflects agent support requests, which saves money. When customers can solve a problem themselves without requiring agent support, that means the company providing assistance can redirect resources: Self-service also enables agents to focus on the more complex service requests that come in, which means customers with challenging issues get faster resolution.

Not long ago, email and, more recently, chat support options, displaced voice as the go-to platform for issue resolution at many companies. This trend has steadily gained popularity in both B2C and B2B customer support environments, and as technical advances made it possible, companies began adding artificial intelligence (AI) elements to their support infrastructure. Businesses are continuing to invest in AI options, using more advanced technology to enable AI to handle more complex issues. But since B2B support usually involves moving beyond the basics, AI is more suited to manage entry-level B2C questions.

The overall trend in customer support has been to use technology to move away from direct person-to-person interactions. There are obvious advantages to this approach for companies that adopt it, which save considerable time and money when customers find the answers they need without interacting with an agent. But something is lost as well: the opportunity to make a human connection. While FAQs can get customers back up and running on their software or product quickly, they don’t provide an opportunity to strengthen the personal relationship between the customer and the company.

New uses of video technology in customer support scenarios can provide the best of both worlds. Some businesses are now allowing customers to use video and screen recordings to quickly communicate the problem they’re having with software and products, enabling customers to embed clips directly into trouble tickets. This saves customers the hassle of describing a complex issue in written form, and it gives agents an opportunity to respond with a video or screen recording of their own.

It’s a technology-facilitated interaction, but with a video and optional voice narration, it’s also a more personal approach than traditional self-service tools or chat and email options. These new uses of video in the support process are part of an emerging trend that may suggest an eventual shift from pure text to video, either in real time or recorded. Customers who access support video tools or view a screen recording with voice narration from an agent get a sense of the human being behind the support.

In a very real sense, technology is bringing customer support back to its human-centered origins. Where support platforms once put distance between the agent and the customer, the human touch is emerging once again with platforms that enable greater levels of collaboration and allow support agents and customers to put faces with names in the process of resolving their issues. Overall, support options are expanding, with omnichannel platforms allowing customers to choose the flavor of interaction they prefer. And what could be more human than that?

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