If you watch the Oscars this weekend, look out for the Spike Jonze movie 'Her' for a vision of what could be the ultimate customer service of the future, with technology trumping humans at knowing what we want and delivering it faultlessly every time.

In the movie, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a man who falls in love with an ingeniously intuitive operating system ‘personified’ by Samantha, seductively voiced by Scarlett Johansson. As automated personalised service provision goes, Samantha is an ace performer, absorbing and understanding Theodore’s hopes, fears, insecurities and longings in seconds through uploading his entire email history and diary entries.

‘Samantha’ learns to laugh at Theodore’s jokes, respond to his moods and even to flirt with him. You may think she sounds like the ideal contact centre agent - or - depending on your views on automation, personalisation and the importance of the human touch - you may think she represents a retrograde development in the evolution of customer contact. Or, you might just think it is ludicrously far-fetched Hollywood nonsense - if so, perhaps it is time to think again.

According to a new interview with one of the biggest brains on our planet - Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering for Google (widely regarded as the world’s leading artificial intelligence visionary), we are just 15 years away from a tipping point at which robots/computers will have the power to outsmart humans. His view is linked to the concept of ‘singularity’, defined as the moment at which man and machines ‘converge.’ Click here to read more.

It may all sound a bit ‘Tomorrow’s World’ but we have forerunners of this vision in things like ‘Siri’, the intelligent personal assistant which is part of the Apple iOS. Plugging emotion into software is also an area moving forward in leaps and bounds, with Israeli start-up Beyond Verbal creating technology which can determine a caller’s emotional profile in real-time.

Amazon, regarded by many as the bellwether of first-class automated customer service, has also just taken an intriguing step, obtaining a patent for what is termed ‘anticipatory shipping.’ This means that it will actually start shipping goods it thinks you will like before you have even purchased it. It sounds bizarre, but Amazon clearly scents money in this approach, having honed its knowledge of customers through its ‘Amazon recommends’ feature which generates suggested purchases based on customer buying histories.

As CCA Special Adviser Dr Carsten Sørensen from London School of Economics maintains, we are rapidly reaching a point at which we will be “delivering warm services through cold technology.” He predicts that instead of technology wrapping around human effort, human effort will wrap around machines.

It is not just the pace of technology development that is astonishing, the scale of IT spend is growing. According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.8 trillion in 2014, a 3.1 percent increase from 2013. Click here to read more.

With such a high global spend on technology, organisations face important decisions regarding which new technology interventions warrant investment and which will deliver the golden combination of cost savings and differentiated customer service.

We recognise a need to stay abreast of fast-moving developments and to be able to drill down quickly into more in-depth intelligence on the technologies most appropriate to your particular business model and customer service promise. 

That is why this week we launched our new CCA Research Institute monthly journal which provides a digestible synthesis of what’s new not only in our own research activities with our partners but more generally in the wider research sphere.  Click here to read more.

Each month we will profile thought-provoking reports, white papers, news and views showcasing the latest thinking in our market place. If you haven’t read the first edition, take a look now, it will arm you with the intelligence you need when facing tough decisions.

Have a good weekend and if you do stay up late on Sunday night watching the Oscars action, look out for ‘Her’ and a vision of the future that may be less of a fantasy than it seems.