Last year, I made a few predictions about what to expect in the future of customer service. Although I may have had a rosier outlook about the “end” of the COVID-19 pandemic, we did see massive strides in the advancement and adoption of AI as well as the continued digital transformation of businesses across industries and around the globe.
Now, we find ourselves entering a new year amidst another wave of uncertainty about our global health (both physical and emotional), supply chain challenges, and what the future of work will look like for everyone from frontline workers to office dwellers.
In the midst of so much uncertainty, I do believe there is hope and more of an appetite for genuine human connection than ever before. With that in mind, here are my predictions for the world of global customer service in the year ahead.
1. Empathy through quality will be key
It’s been a long few years of isolation, fear, divisiveness, and confusion. Humans are longing for authentic, loving connection with others. I’ve written extensively about how emphasis on native language experiences can build empathy among a global customer base. In 2022, it will be even more important to integrate high-quality native language into customer service communications to facilitate empathy.
The quality aspect is key here. A brand’s customer service efforts will be judged based on how well native language — including cultural nuance and relevancy — are integrated seamlessly into communication efforts. Global consumers are no longer willing to overlook sloppy translations or culturally irrelevant or insensitive speech and imagery. They expect brands to communicate with them with the expertise of a native speaker, whether the support agents on the other end of a chat are located on the next block, or another continent entirely.
My company Unbabel has long emphasized the importance of quality translations with COMET and our quality estimation tools. It’s our way of facilitating global communications that put authenticity at the heart of every exchange.
2. Customer service and marketing will continue to intersect
As customer expectations around quality native language support increase, so will expectations about native language experiences with brands in general. Customer service professionals and marketing professionals must work together to create a seamless brand experience for each interaction — from discovery, to purchase, and beyond. In order to facilitate this collaboration for global markets, I believe we’ll start to see a shift toward more hybrid executive roles — like a Language Operations leader — that are responsible native language integrations throughout all of a brand’s departments and operations. While this shift may take a few years, I believe in 2022 we’ll see more emphasis on hybrid projects and performance metrics, paving the way for the emergence of new executive roles.
Eventually this type of leader will be responsible for implementing technologies to facilitate native language capabilities across customer service, marketing, and more. A holistic approach will help brands save time, money, and provide a more seamless experience for global customers.
3. We’ll tackle (more) major issues around bias in AI
Many will look to AI to help tackle the quality challenge at scale. But, as we’ve seen throughout the past year, AI algorithms are far from perfect. Major companies like Facebook have come under fire for the dark side of AI implementations that introduce and replicate human bias in an extremely destructive way.
In the world of customer service, there’s no tolerance for any sort of bias, whether it be gender, class, ethnic, or otherwise. Customer service technologies that integrate AI will be beholden to strict standards to prevent bias from creeping into the mix. These standards could take the form of additional bias training for technologists who train machine learning algorithms, or additional oversight procedures to catch issues and reduce risk.
In a larger context, I think we’ll also see lawmakers begin to craft legislation to keep algorithms in check. Similar to the world of data privacy, regulators around the world will look to keep citizens safe by reducing the chance of biased language and decision making from entering our society. As this effort evolves, we’ll see companies take an active and invested role in shaping this future (like we’re looking to do at Unbabel, joining forces with other Portuguese startups to form a Center for Responsible AI).
4. Expect key learnings from the metaverse
As the lines between real and virtual worlds blur, I’m curious to see what we can learn from how humans interact with brands and each other via the metaverse. It’s been said that “The metaverse is potentially the next iteration of how humans use the internet to connect, communicate and transact.” Brands will push the boundaries of creative customer experiences within this virtual world. For customer service leaders, it’s an interesting opportunity to watch and learn. I believe we’ll see brand’s find new, creative ways to sell products, solicit feedback, and interact with fans. Brands will also find new ways to turn virtual experiences (or interactions with virtual brand representatives in the form of avatars) into empathetic, authentic interactions with customers that mimic a solid in-store interaction. These lessons in CX will be valuable for marketing and CS leaders moving forward.
A look into the future
A year from now, I hope to reflect on the strides we’ve made in 2022 to improve the health and safety of our communities, as well as to facilitate more authentic and unbiased communications with others around the world. We’ve faced no shortage of challenges recently, but have also been presented with new opportunities to rebuild our systems for the better.
As our industry evolves in 2022, I challenge us all to continue to emphasize quality first, aid brands in providing multilingual, seamless communications across customer service and marketing content and channels, and continue to advocate for more responsible use of AI algorithms.