How about a little popmaster quiz to brighten up your Friday? OK, just one question: In what year did Sting release his album ‘Ten Summoners’ Tales’ (hint - the one with the hit single ‘Fields of Gold’)? 

The answer is 1994. What makes it notable is that one of Sting’s fans bought the album online for £7.74, marking the first ever online shopping transaction. 

Roll forward 20 years and internet shopping is part of everyday life, with 95% of Britons now buying goods and services online. UK online sales reached £91 billion in 2013 and are forecast to surpass £100 billion this year. 

The surge in online retailing has reshaped many things, from purchasing patterns, to high street occupancy, business opening hours, logistics and business strategies - and of course - the customer service landscape. Online retailing has presented - and continues to present - a raft of both challenges and opportunities for customer service professionals. 

Of course lots of businesses perform well in supporting online retail customers, notably internet pioneer Amazon, but also more traditional companies such as John Lewis, as well as online-only players, like fashion retailer Asos. Other sectors such as financial services, travel and leisure have also made great strides. 

For Asos, its ability to live up to customer expectations was sorely tested recently when a warehouse fire forced it to halt business for several days. Remarkably, customers went online to express sympathy as much as frustration, with #poorasos trending on social media. 

A swift, efficient and joined-up approach is critical when seeking to resolve customer problems with online transactions, whether the problems are caused by glitches in supply chains, flawed sales processes, defective products, IT system outages or delivery network problems. 

Identifying pinch points or system breakages can only be done properly if companies invest in and promote enterprise-wide adoption of systems and processes which deliver a comprehensive view of the end-to-end customer journey.  

It may sound like Nirvana but it is actually achievable today. It requires sufficient resource and leadership, which is why having insightful, influential and forward-looking Chief Customer Service Officer on boards is important. 

Coincidentally, our very first Convention took place in the same year as Sting’s album sale became the first online transaction. That gives us 20 years of collective experience to draw upon in our analysis of future trends.

Looking ahead 20 years is daunting, if you’re brave enough, take a look at which ages your face by 20 years and you’ll see what I mean. 

But seriously, while a 20 year strategic plan is a rarity in the extreme these days, join us at Convention (click here for link) for fresh input on the factors you need to consider for the next five years and it will be time well spent.