Live chat software has come a long way since the chat room boom of the 1990s. We’ve seen the rise (and fall) of IM programs, the explosion of social media messaging, and the immersion of the smartphone and its smart apps into society.
With this rapid rise of real-time messaging options, we’ve also seen a shift in the way people communicate. Today, electronic chat is entrenched – and integral – to our lives. As consumers and as customers, we’ve come to expect instant, real-time communication.
Live chat software has been allowing businesses to meet this demand for over a decade. But technology, as ever, is not standing still. With developments such as AI, chatbots and voice recognition gaining traction, what will the future of live chat software look like?
AI and chatbots
Perhaps the most imminent change facing live chat software is the growing rate of chatbot use and AI functionality. Together, the new technologies are starting to fuse and settle. As they advance, so too does live chat.
Businesses are increasingly using chatbots to streamline the customer journey. We’re seeing more and more websites with a handy, 24/7 chatbot option – offering the instant promise of quick-fire help. Elsewhere, AI is personalising the online customer experience and delivering new depths of insight.
The future of live chat software is tied to this spread of AI and chatbots. Already, live chat is benefiting from a renewed understanding of AI. Human agents are starting to tag-team with chatbots, and AI is infusing customer conversations to deliver things like sentiment analysis and personalised canned responses.
We’re starting to see a blend of bot and human; of automated replies and authentic engagement. This, then, is where the future of live chat software begins: with a new era of smart symbiosis.
Voice support has grown in recent years, with the success of Siri in 2011 leading to Cortana, Google Assistant and Alexa. Now, almost everyone has some sort of voice recognition chatbot in their homes and pockets. But these advancements in voice technology don’t only affect your digital assistants at home.
As natural language processing (NLP) capabilities improve, voice recognition technology will mean even faster, more human connections through live chat software. With voice recognition, the future of live chat software could go beyond the typed word. We may soon start seeing customers interacting with chat channels vocally.
This may be difficult to envision, but it’s already happening. (If not in a format you recognise as live chat software.) NatWest, for example, has recently introduced a ‘digital human’, Cora. It’s Cora’s job to speak to customers and answer their questions – a chatbot in female bank teller form.
Transposed to the ecommerce world, these kinds of hybrid voice-chat solutions could be used to give speedy online service. Customers could use their smartphone to have a brief vocal conversation with a chatbot much like Alexa or Siri. This could start as a spoken query, and evolve into a typed live chat session – creating a multi-faced chat experience.
Augmented reality (AR) technologies are growing quickly, particularly in the gaming industry. AR is the term for technology that merges virtual images with real surroundings. A great example of successful AR is Pokémon Go, which transposes virtual Pokémon into the real world via the user’s camera. Aside from gaming, though, this technology could easily expand to shape the future of live chat software and customer support.
For example, a customer connects through live chat in search of support and uses the camera on their device to show what needs fixing. The support agent could then use AR to virtually fix the problem. By putting virtual images over the video feed, it would be possible to show exactly how to fix the error. The customer simply copies the actions of the virtual images they see in front of them. The agent can also explain these steps as the customer completes them, and answer any questions at any point.
AR as part of the future of live chat software will mean that online support will be able to rival on-site support. Your experts can show customers exactly what to do and where to find things without the need to be there in person. (In theory.)
3D technology is also growing. Today, its advancements are most commonly seen in films at the cinema. However, it won’t be long before 3D screens and technology merge with AR, enabling holographic projections. These projections would be like Princess Leia’s message in Star Wars, or Arnold Rimmer in Red Dwarf. It might sound like a science fiction cliché that could never happen, but it’s closer than you think.
Thinking futuristically, holograms could greatly improve the feeling of a human touch in your online service. Incorporating 3D technology with live chat software could enable a hologram of an agent to be projected in front of the customer during a chat session.
This means that live chat software could create the impression that the agent is there with the customer, helping them with their query. The future of live chat software, then, could mean blurring the lines between online and in-store support.
An omnichannel melting pot
The highlight of these future technologies is their capacity to increase the human touch in future customer service. Live chat software and AI might make it seem like businesses are gearing up to get rid of their human support members, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As we write in The Conversation Engine: “Ultimately people want to deal with people and technology is the interface that makes this easier and more effective.” The future of live chat software won’t see humans engineered out of the customer service process. Rather, the technology that will enhance the live chat software of the future will help bring the human touch of your agents to the forefront.
As chat continues to evolve, we will see support teams and customers brought closer across all channels. Communication technologies are starting to converge in one big omnichannel melting pot of AI, agents, and tech touchpoints. Live chat software will remain, but it will be part of an integrated conversation engine of the future.
The future of live chat software
The future of live chat software is being reimagined with new technology. As we move closer to AR, 3D holograms and intelligent voice recognition, the limitations on text-based communication will be lifted. In turn, chat will enable even better, more immersive and efficient customer experiences than ever before.
New technologies will enhance the human touch that live chat software provides. Regardless of what comes first, the AR or the voice recognition, the future of live chat software looks to be the centre of an omnichannel melting pot of communication.
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