Consider this! 40% of executives recently polled by Avaya rate their company’s customer experience as “poor” or “average,” and 93% say they’ll be focusing on improving customer experience in 2018. But how do they know where to start? To gain a better understanding, we must take a look at the past.
Eighteen months ago, we weren’t seeing interactive devices in our homes that responded to our every request (i.e. music, movie times, shopping lists, news, and general information). This provides a tremendous capability beyond what we had even on our mobile devices, and it indicates something very important to watchful businesses: technology becomes real when it gets in the hands of the consumer.
This reminds me of a piece I once wrote about Tool vs. Toy, which explores the changing value of technology driven by users vs. investors. With that in mind, we analyzed key information—polled by our own teams of experts—and have emerged with 10 CX predictions companies can’t afford to ignore…
- Artificial Intelligence begins to take hold in CX…in the most basic ways.
It doesn’t have to be big to be valuable! Think about the simple impact of chatting with natural language interaction. AI technologies like Siri, Google, Alexa and Bixby are all taking shape with different customer experience strategies. For example, Alexa (Lexbot) engages in continuous listening and data collection to endlessly refine and improve the user experience. Looking at the big picture, this data will be used to shape the way Amazon evolves its digital engagement efficiency. Other spoken bots will need to learn from this approach, and all platforms will need to unify chat and spoken AI to deliver more compelling and valuable customer experience.Overall, AI will allow more brands to focus on context and anticipatory engagement at the individual level to hone in on the customer segment of one. The goal will be to intuitively understand the nuances of each individual consumer as they inevitably change to deliver deeper levels of personalization.
- Connecting your digital experience is here and now.
The simple blocking and tackling of connecting your Digital Experience with the rest of your customer service capabilities must still occur. If you don’t, you face the real and inevitable risk of falling behind (side note: too many companies are spending time catching up to where consumers already are). Yet, it’s important to note that brands are tackling different things than before. For instance, many will now skip things like email and go straight to bots (where AI and digital meet).The bottom line: Companies will need to begin the digital experience in the expected ways consumers dictate.Keeping up with these expectations requires an environment in which customer data can be seamlessly gathered and provided across teams, processes and touchpoints.
- IoT starts with the mobile app.
Many brands will “ignore” IoT because they don’t have tech embedded on a “device” of sorts (like in a car or a refrigerator). Think smaller in 2018…specifically, mobile apps. These apps are essentially IoT in the pocket or purse of every consumer today. Start visualizing every consumer’s phone as an IoT device and your mobile app as the key to tapping into it.Consider the Apple Watch. At a glance, it’s a wearable that consumers purchase to unlock a suite of cool new features. Yet in reality, Apple was revolutionizing industries and changing lives. For example, the brand was allowing healthcare providers to put a device on patients’ wrists with a FDA-approved EKG. It was allowing hotels to deliver better value to guests with built-in room keys. We also see this with the Verizon mobile app, which functions as a sales app when used on the carrier’s Wi-Fi (in store, for example) and as a service app when not. This is just a taste of this “app evolution” and how it will change the game as apps become more IoT-defined.The bottom line: Once a technology is in the consumer space, users will naturally innovate on top of it to figure out how it can be best used to improve their lives and/or industry.
- The race for (the right) customer engagement solution will intensify
Our research shows that 96% of organizational spend in 2018 is earmarked for tech solutions, specifically related to engagement. Demand for customer engagement platforms will peak in 2018, forcing executives to comb through countless vendor solutions. Take a short cut by making sure the solutions you are considering provide the appropriate flexibility for future growth, and simplicity to implement even complex scenarios quickly.In other words, buy systems that provide you with broad options—not just point solutions.This means systems that go far beyond traditional contact center and UC; technology that reimagines communications and redefines business value as we know it. For example, communication-enablement for contextual engagement (using an open SDK to embed real-time communications like voice, video and chat directly into client-facing apps and to create an optimal agent experience). Or, flexible application integration using an open architecture platform (being able to integrate apps that are either ready-made from a trusted provider or existing within an App Store).
- The rise (and simplification) of customer journey mapping
Our data shows that 70% of companies believe improving customer experience requires mapping out ‘desired state’ customer journeys. As a result, 60% of large enterprises in 2018 are expected to perform customer journey mapping to gain a contextual view of the end-to-end experience. The question we have is: how can this be made simpler?Customer journey mapping is still a sensitive spot for most as only 1/3 of companies believe their data and analytics are differentiating. Everything is made simpler with a customer engagement platform built on open, extensible architecture.This kind of platform allows you to flexibly gather, collect, process and analyze real-time and historical data across virtually every channel (IM, co-browsing, SMS, phone, email, IoT) and device (phone, mobile/tablets, branch, desktop, kiosks) to gain a rich visualization of the customer journey enterprise-wide. This puts to bed the significant challenge of delivering consistent, contextual experiences regardless of where and when they begin, end and continue (and no matter how many people consumers communicate with).
- ‘High tech, high touch’ without coordination will put companies on thin ice Technology drives customer experience, but it won’t replace human interaction (consider industries like hospitality, where 93% of customers believe the value of personal service cannot be replaced). Therefore, a certain level of coordination will be needed in situations where human customer service becomes part of the digital experience.For example, building a more flexible communications infrastructure that allows for real-time human interaction to maintain a personal service feel. Or, bringing skills-based routing to the help desk and contact center to optimize resources and strengthen customer relationships. In 2018, major players will be defined by their understanding of this delicate balance. Those who fail to keep up will operate on thin ice.
- Security, Privacy and Accountability Pressures Spike
- Artificial Intelligence begins to take hold in CX…in the most basic ways.
New technology for e-commerce and communications has long brought with it new ways for those intent on criminal behavior to breach systems. Increased focus on solutions that protect and secure customer data and interactions starts in the contact center.
Consider the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II), which became effective on January 3, 2018. This legislation requires the capture of all voice and non-voice communications intended to lead to execution of a financial trade. This applies to any firms who conduct business in the European Union (EU), creating global impact.
Meanwhile, the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) becomes effective on May 25, 2018. If your business processes personal data in any way and operates in the EU, it will be affected by this new legislation.
Today, 75% of business apps lack key capabilities to ensure EU GDPR compliance. These new requirements will force companies to change the way they process, store, and protect customers’ personal data. In 2018, enterprises will need to evaluate their policies, procedures and operations to ensure compliance with these new consumer privacy, data security and data control rules—and they’ll turn to new contact center technology as their first line of defense.
- Customers demand connections with purpose
There are endless ways in which customers can now connect with brands, yet each connection should serve a purpose greater than itself. Companies need to see the close-up and the big picture of how they’re positioning their brand. This is what makes customer experience an actual experience.For example, instead of simply routing customers to agents based on KPIs, they can build customized learning algorithms that match customers with agents based on next-level variables like personality, emotion and relatability. Instead of only driving inbound experiences, they should offer proactive, intelligent communications across the end-to-end customer journey. Instead of just ‘serving customers,’ organizations should be working towards a higher purpose and defined experience vision.
- Blockchain becomes more than just technology
Any company that handles transaction records should be eyeing blockchain if they’re not already. The technology is ideal for continually growing a list of financial records without exposing any confidential information. Yet blockchain has also grown to offer immense opportunity for customer experience.For example, real-time blockchain technology can be used to measure the customer experience of multiple departments. Companies can leverage blockchain to securely gather sentiment information across multiple sources—call centers, email, social media—to identify key trends and customer insights. In this way, blockchain has evolved from a security technology to a strategic weapon for business growth and competitiveness.
- Employee experience will legitimize with consumerization of work
Employee disengagement has become nothing short of an epidemic. Companies must strategize long-term around employee experience to improve not only customer experience, but costs and operational efficiency (companies can capture an additional $13k to $26k of productivity per employee per year with better engagement).This calls for the consumerization of work, in which companies look beyond IT and devices towards workflow, behavior and rising expectations that mimic personalized, real-world apps like Snapchat and Instagram. 2018 will continue a massive shift in which enterprise software embodies consumer apps and, ultimately, reshapes the role of IT and the processes it manages.
In the end, our CX predictions are that 2018 will be about seamlessly delivering a breadth of capabilities in an ever-complex digital space, with a simple brand consumption approach that aligns with costs and customer value. No one said it would be easy, but we’re here to help.
You can hear more about these predictions by listening to our Get Smart session where I am joined by Val Matula, our lead for innovations applications, and Tim Gogal who leads Digital Transformation consulting team where we review these predictions more in-depth.
As your organization prepares for 2018, Avaya can help you gauge customer experience readiness and implement award-winning solutions that complement your budget and existing business ecosystem. In the end, our goal simply is to help you with experience, expertise and solutions you can count on. We know you can make 2018 your organization’s best year yet.