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  • Writer's pictureSharon Oatway

The Future of Customer Service: Evolving Roles and the Importance of Human Connections

Updated: Feb 26

customer service representative confident

There has been a lot of discussion and angst about the role of AI and machine learning in our lives. Those in the customer service business are mixed about its impact -- I am not one of them! I believe there is a vital role for AI and machine learning to play in improving the experience and reducing the cost of customer service. As these technologies continue to advance, the role of the customer service representative will need to undergo significant changes. The time to start preparing is now!

While self-service options may become more prevalent, human agents will still need to handle complex or sensitive customer inquiries and provide a personal touch in the foreseeable future. Here are some skills and areas of focus that customer service representatives need to develop:

  1. Emotional Intelligence: Customer service agents must excel in understanding and managing customer emotions. They should be able to empathize with customers, demonstrate patience, and effectively address their concerns, creating a positive customer experience. What to do today: Ensure every CSR understands how to demonstrate empathy and does so on every call. For Empathy training customized to your environment, check out

  2. Complex Problem-Solving: With more sophisticated self-serve capability, CSRs will handle more complex inquiries that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They will need to analyze situations, think creatively, and offer customized solutions beyond simple FAQ-style responses. What to do today: Taking on more complex problem-solving requires solid knowledge, the skills related to analysis and decision-making, plus the ability to handle the stress associated with it. Great complex problem-solving takes time and experience. Start empowering your CSRs in small doses, develop support tools, and understand how to make the correct decisions.

  3. Product and Industry Expertise: Agents will be expected to possess a deep understanding of the products or services they support and the broader industry. This knowledge will enable them to provide accurate and comprehensive assistance to customers. What to do today: It is unrealistic to expect that all CSRs will have the same level of product and industry expertise. These things take time. In the meantime, invest in support tools like AI-supported knowledgebase systems to augment their personal experience.

  4. Communication and Language Skills: Effective communication will remain crucial in the customer service role. Agents will need to have excellent verbal and written communication skills, with the ability to convey information clearly and concisely. Multilingual proficiency may become more important as businesses serve increasingly diverse customer bases. What to do today: As you build out your roster of CSRs, pay particular attention to communication skills. This may require you to rethink your outsourcing strategies as communication skills take on a much more significant role.

  5. Adaptability and Technological Fluency: As AI and automation continue to evolve, customer service agents will need to adapt to new tools and technologies. This is nothing new. However, they will need to be proficient in engaging with and leveraging AI-powered systems, chatbots, and other automated platforms to provide efficient and effective support., What to do today: It is anticipated that technology will continue to become easier to use, requiring less technological aptitude from its users than we experience today. That being said, having a sound understanding of how technology works will serve CSRs well.

  6. Relationship Building: The human connection and building relationships with customers will continue to be vital. Agents will need to establish rapport, actively listen to customer needs, and create personalized experiences that foster loyalty and trust. This isn't a new requirement but will take on greater importance as more customers opt to self-serve. When customers DO call, they will have heightened emotions. What to do today: Every interaction that comes into customer service today is an opportunity to build and reinforce their relationship with our organization. The scale is still tipped in favor of efficiency versus relationship building. That's okay for now, but in the future, the role of the CSR will be heavily weighted toward retaining and building customer loyalty. It's time to start investing in the soft skills required to do this today.

The importance of human connection in customer service is unlikely to diminish significantly in the next ten years. While AI and self-serve options can handle routine inquiries, customers often seek human interaction for more complex issues or a personal touch. Human agents will be crucial in building emotional connections, providing reassurance, and offering genuine empathy. The human touch can enhance customer satisfaction, deepen brand loyalty, and differentiate businesses from fully automated competitors.

Overall, the customer service agents of the future will require a blend of technical proficiency, emotional intelligence, problem-solving abilities, and strong interpersonal skills to meet customers' evolving needs and provide exceptional support. And if I'm wrong and AI doesn't have as significant an impact on customer service as I think it will, you will still have built a solid foundation for excellent customer service.

VereQuest Quality Assurance

Sharon Oatway is a highly accomplished professional in the areas of Customer Service, Sales, and Relationship Marketing, having over three decades of hands-on experience. As the President & Chief Experience Officer of VereQuest, she has been instrumental in helping companies of all sizes elevate their overall customer experience and optimize multi-channel contact center performance. The knowledge gleaned from analyzing literally millions of customer interactions for renowned brands across North America is the foundation of this work. Since its inception in 2002, VereQuest has provided organizations with a comprehensive range of tools specifically designed for the contact center, including well-regarded contact center quality monitoring solutions and resources, robust soft skills and coaching e-learning library, and customer journey mapping facilitation. With a unique perspective on the ever-evolving customer landscape, VereQuest assists businesses throughout North America in navigating the complexities of customer engagement.

For more information, contact Sharon directly at


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