There is no single customer service solution that is ideal for all sizes of organizations, all industries, or all business models. For example, many companies selling and supporting higher-value, considered purchases have complex customer service processes that require collaboration between the account and customer service organization. Each customer interaction is also an opportunity to nurture the customer, blending the goals of customer success, account management, and customer service teams.

This is a different dynamic that more transactionally focused companies experience for customer service. In many industries such as retail, entertainment, or hospitality, customer service interactions are typically simpler, more repetitive, and have a high proportion that can be partially or fully automated.

This is why Forrester sees two different categories of customer service solutions emerging: traditional customer service solutions that include robust capabilities for workflow-based inquiries, case management, and next best action, as well as rules-based omnichannel engagement capabilities, and digital-first customer service solutions that facilitate highly automated interactions over digital and self-service channels.

Typical characteristics of these solutions are:

Traditional customer service solution Digital-first customer service solution
Engagement type Relationship-oriented; more emphasis on customer success and post-purchase engagement Transactionally oriented
Inquiry volume Lower volume Higher volume
Inquiry type Typically more complex Lower complexity (one and done)
Customer Account or household Consumer
Customer value Higher price-point products Lower price-point products
Agent collaboration Often needed Seldom needed
Channel use Phone, email, visual engagement Self-service, digital channels


We have two reports that highlight these spaces: “The Forrester Wave™: Customer Service Solutions, Q2 2019,” which covers traditional customer service solutions, and “The Forrester Wave™: Digital-First Customer Service Solutions, Q2 2020,” which covers emerging digital-first vendors.