I think the scenario pictured in this article from MSNBC.com Red Tape Chronicles is at least partially a picture of the future. I’m sure early attempts at remote customer service will be problematic. Some of the comments to that post reflect the reality that people want, well, what they want.
What many of us want is a person, in the flesh, to work with us. But many of us also want a person who is truly competent. Unfortunately, we often get a person who is far away but as incompetent as, say, a randomly chosen neighbor.
In time, remote customer service could make the shopping experience much better provided that people are given access to agents with actual expertise. In addition, better organized and more intelligently accessible information about products via automated systems (video tours, interactive examination, previews, and so forth) will make it much easier to access and choose what we want without ever going to the store. I predict that more and more people will start to do that.
Perhaps stores will develop a combination of in-house representatives who have access to true subject matter experts when their customers ask questions to which the in-house folks don’t know the answer. In any case, expect to talk into the camera at least some of the time at stores near you–sooner than later!