Customer experience (CX) technology has come a long way since the days of answering landline phones or requiring customers to physically travel to business locations to receive help. The evolution of the customer experience has changed how businesses can provide support, improving both quality and response times. Businesses can now connect with customers through various channels: web, mobile, VoIP, SMS, email, and even video.
In this article, I will explore the evolution of CX technology from the perspective of an engineering team with decades of experience developing call center and cloud platform technology. As former engineers at companies like Zultys, Five9, and Mulesoft, we have first hand experience on the changes happening in CX, and what it means for the future of customer service platforms.
Phone Lines and Physical Presence (1985 - 1993)
Over 30 years ago, customer support was primarily initiated through phone lines and in person. Businesses would have a physical location where customers could visit and get assistance, or they could call a phone number and speak to a representative. This was a very limited way of providing customer support, as customers were restricted to only two options, one of which depended on physical proximity to the actual business.
Hardware Call Centers and Dedicated Software (1998-2002)
About 25 years ago, specialized call center hardware and dedicated software exploded in popularity as new solutions for providing customer experience service. The main communication channels used over this period were phone PSTN lines. PSTN allowed businesses to have more control over their customer support operations, but it also required extensive investment into specific hardware and software resources in order to implement.
Web Technologies and VoIP (2003)
Around 20 years ago, web technologies became the preferred way to communicate with customer support. New channels like website forms and emails were used to build low-friction CX connections between businesses and customers. The flexibility and ease with which customers could directly interact with a business aided the adoption of these new formats. VoIP quickly became popular as an alternative channel to PSTN and landlines. The Early 2000s are known as the peak of VoIP and dedicated software/hardware solutions. This made it easier for businesses to communicate with customers, and it also allowed for more flexibility in terms of communication channels.
Cloud-Based Call Center Solutions (2005 - 2008)
About 15 years ago, cloud-based call center solutions began to take over the market over in-house hardware call centers. Buying a subscription instead of dedicated hardware investment for call centers was a more enticing solution for businesses. Cloud-hosted PSTN call center solutions became more popular, however a new flexibility and powerful communication structure really began to emerge during this time. Mobile and cellular phones finally began to enter the zeitgeist of customer support communication. It soon became clear that PSTN was not an alternative for the mobile phone, where different channels like web, mobile, VoIP, SMS, email, become available from the same personal device, which could be carried easily by each support agent and available 24/7. This made it easier for businesses to scale their customer support operations and allowed for more flexibility in terms of communication channels.
Video Channels (2009 - 2013)
About 10 years ago, video channels became more than reality. With the support of Google, the WebRTC protocol became a new standard for voice and video in browsers. This marked the peak of the popularity of hosted services, SaaS, and PaaS. Not only communication channels based on web services but the connection API-based services became a standard for modern Internet-based CX solutions. This made it easier for businesses to connect with customers through video and other multimedia channels.
Omnichannel Solutions (2015 - 2018)
About 5 years ago, call/contact centers became integrated omnichannel solutions. This allowed businesses to connect with customers through multiple channels, including web, mobile, VoIP, SMS, email, and video. This made it easier for businesses to provide consistent customer support and improve omnichannel CX workflows across multiple communication paths.
Today: Hosted Software Systems
Today, the “standard and modern” solution may be described as a hosted high-performance, reliable software system that supports popular communication protocols and channels (VoIP, WebRTC, SMS, emails, etc.) with the ability to integrate with other systems and applications (Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack ...) to satisfy any customer support needs by resolving cases more efficiently. This allows businesses to provide a more personalized and efficient customer support experience.
The Future of CX and Support
Customer support and CX technology has undergone a significant transformation over the past few decades. From traditional phone lines to web-based communication channels, the call CX industry has evolved rapidly with technology advancement and changing behaviors of customers across industries.
Today, the standard solution for customer support is a cloud-based, high-performance, reliable software system that supports popular communication protocols and channels. However, we believe the next evolution of CX is already here. We have developed an extendable cloud platform that allows us to write custom applications and deliver customized solutions in a totally unique way. Our platform is designed to have all the necessary features and functionality, which we can deliver on-demand as per each organization’s requirements. For example, HLC used live chat features to improve digital CX beyond phone and email to solve problems quicker, better categorize requests, and solve technical issues in real-time. The result? Almost 100% live chat response rates and improved CX experience that has helped HLC better meet customer needs.