Leanne Goott
Leanne Goott

The simulated future of customer service technology

by Leanne Goott. Relentless innovations in IoT and high-level machine intelligence (HLMI) drive us towards an AI CX future.

by Leanne Goott. Relentless innovations in the IoT and high-level machine intelligence (HLMI) markets drive us towards a future in which customer support technologies will have aggressively developed AI’s immeasurable potential. Global infiltration of a myriad of smart devices and the upsurge of wireless technologies set a future stage in which everything in business and life has evolved. This dizzying rush towards a tech-dominant order of interconnectivity places renewed emphasis on shifting consumer expectations, particularly on support-service systems.

GlobalData’s latest report states that the IoT market was worth R9278 billion in 2020, up from R8741 billion in 2019, and should reach R16,100 billion by 2024, representing a CAGR of 13%. While in 2021, it’s expected that 46 billion devices will be connected to the IoT, this can increase to 125 billion by 2030 – meaning the average number of connected devices in Western households would jump from ten to about 25 in eight years from now, according to Juniper Research and Martechadvisor.com.

Such rapid growth in the IoT market has created a big wave in the way companies approach customer experience (CX). Adding to this wave, IoT devices are getting smarter by the day, which leads to consumers becoming more tech-savvy and demanding in their dealings with support services and their attempts at solving issues. Current technologies assisting with customer service have limits, which can potentially damage a brand’s reputation. Often these shortcomings make it seem as if some sectors are more focused on handling generic problems quickly than properly addressing individual customer needs.

Personalised AI support underpins the future of customer service

Optimal personal service comprises a serve-assist request in which an agent has the relevant knowledge of all variants affecting a customer’s query or issue and who has the relevant know-how and authority to address such a query or issue in a manner that’s emphatically sentient.

The desire to be in control in a world swamped with interconnected tech sits at the heart of the customer experience. And although consumers today prefer using automated self-service options instead of getting hold of the right support agent, the future of customer service is not about over automation but about personalising AI. It’s also anticipated that in a few years, AI will have progressed beyond the parameters that limit it to a stage where it replaces human contact in addressing consumer issues and queries on a personal level.

Controlled emotional intelligence at your service

According to a Zion Market research report, the global affective computing market was worth R336 billion in 2018; and is expected to reach around R2,617 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 34% between 2019 and 2025. Affective computing (or emotion AI) is the discipline where machines detect, study, interpret and respond to emotional signals such as body language, facial expressions, sentiments, and voice. It’s expected that emotion AI will disrupt nearly every industry in the next decade, particularly retail, advertising, healthcare, and customer service.

Imagine a smart-bot capable of accurately capturing and responding to human emotion under various conditions, such as dealing with an irate customer in noisy surroundings or dealing with a customer with little-to-no grasp of the product or service in question. Take things further and imagine a bot that understands all languages and is sensitive to diverse cultural identities while also being mindful of you as an individual. This is where we’re heading with emotion AI – when humans and machines interact in a way that transcends how humans interact with each other. That’s why many AI pundits are super-optimistic about this incredible future potential of artificial intelligence and emotion.

Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute AI survey with its estimates from 352 machine learning researchers predicts that in the future, high-level machine intelligence will outperform humans in many activities. By 2026, a median number of respondents said machines would be able to write a Top Forty pop song. By 2031 machines will outperform humans in the retail sector. By 2049 a machine will publish a New York Times bestseller; while by 2052, a machine could very well qualify as an orthopaedic surgeon.

Hardwired to serve customer support systems

In the support service domain’s more immediate future, we can expect practical advances in omnichannel support, knowledge-based predictive support, chatbots, phone trees, interactive voice recognition (IVR) systems, and other automated service tools and systems. Yet, AI’s inherent promise goes way beyond next-level upgrades. We’ve only just begun tapping the astounding promise of high-level machine intelligence and its ability to harness massive amounts of data to potentially use in ways that are personalised, intuitive, and emotionally adept. The future is looking rather bright for companies wanting to optimise their service offerings.


Main image credit: Pixabay.com.


Leanne Goott is marketing manager of Mobile in Africa (MIA). Her more than 12 years of experience includes digital marketing strategy and execution, integrated marketing, team and relationship management, and event management. She believes the role of marketing in an age of greater connectivity and intensifying customer expectations, has never been more important.



– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Wednesday • Subscribe here.