From sustainability and demand for fast, free delivery, to data analytics and artificial intelligence, Customer Experience is shaped by many internal and external forces.
We are in an age of vast online choice, rapid price comparisons and supply chain optimisation technology. It means customer experience is now a vital differentiator, whether in the consumer or B2B sectors. It’s how organisations keep customers coming back for more.
A PwC global survey of 15,000 people found almost one-in-three customers (32 percent) will walk away from a brand they are in love with after just a single bad experience. In the US, 65 percent of consumers find a positive experience more influential than any advertising campaign.
What then, are we likely to see emerge as trends in Customer Experience over the next 12 months?
1. On-board with virtual customer assistants and chatbots
Virtual customer assistants (VCAs), will be a prime area of investment throughout 2020. The artificial intelligence behind these technologies becomes more sophisticated and capable by the hour. By VCA we mean a bot that is capable of more than scripted conversations and can handle tasks such as booking, ordering or password resets. As we move on, VCAs will clearly expand their range of duties.
There could well be a rush to implement VCAs as companies seek to lower the barriers to conducting business. But the interactions handled by virtual assistants will require a great deal of care. A key decision will be whether VCAs are for self-service onboarding or for the support of current customers.
In the B2B sector, chatbots will continue their expansion, always available for customers who want more information on how to use products or require urgent attention. The obvious advantages of chatbots are that they work 24-hours a day, reduce costs and cut the impact of calls and queries on the rest of an enterprise.
2. Handovers from chatbot to human will improve and be more transparent
As we see, AI has surpassed its initial through the hype stage and we are now at the point where VCAs and chatbots supplement the more nuanced work of humans, especially for routine transactions. The human touch – being able to talk to a real member of staff – remains critical to ensuring the quality of customer experience.
Where this can fall down is in the crucial point of handover between application and human. It can fail completely or involve pointless repetition and delay. We will see customer experience technology honed to ensure handovers happen at the most relevant time and in a way that is totally transparent. The customer will know when and why they are engaging with a bot or a human.
3. AI will start to unseat the rating scale in surveys
AI is also set to transform survey data, capable of analysing huge strings of text very quickly and accurately, according to the parameters it has been set. This will reduce reliance on standard scale-based benchmarking as the focus in customer experience feedback shifts to getting the customer talking.
The precision of AI will give brands the ability to explore what matters most to their customers. From a line-bar with value-based metrics and a scoring system, customer experience professionals will move to the analysis of what customers are actually saying. They will be able to extract insights that are genuinely actionable and which will deliver positive results.
The number of channels and third-party platforms used by brands and their customers expands relentlessly, but with AI, all these touchpoints become listening posts. AI will allow companies to analyse the sentiments as well as the data, understanding customers at scale, without any fear of overload.
4. Key turning-points instead of whole journeys
In the next year, brands will focus on the most decisive moments in the customer journey, rather than trying to address each step in minute detail. That has only led to the dissipation of resources. Brands will use insights from customer feedback to hit the moments of biggest impact – when exactly customers are ready to make decisions about purchases or renewals or when they run into difficulties with a process or product or even its packaging.
With these insights, businesses can intervene with an offer, chatbot assistance or advice from a member of staff at exactly the right moment. Interventions will be at the contact point between processes to ensure customers do not drop off. Hard data insights will replace best guesses.
5. The value of data and insights will rocket
As the year progresses, AI will increasingly help customer experience departments demonstrate the value of the data and insights they collect from their customers. At the end of a call, live chat, online booking, or service centre interaction, there are opportunities to ask consumers for their feedback AI applications will extract the key themes from this content and quantify the ROI each theme will generate, either in terms of revenue or Net Promoter Scores or another satisfaction metric.
As the value of insights becomes more obvious, companies will use AI to extract insights from social media, analysing what customers and influencers are saying about their products and brands. This will be part of a big push for the implementation of digital and customer experience management platforms by enterprises.
6. Opening the gates to changing content
2020 will see the role of content evolve. From the conventional transactional exchange of content in return for details and data, we will see the removal of barriers on many company websites. In practice, this will mean less gating of content by brands.
More brands will have sufficient confidence in their content, knowing that over time its quality will attract attention from the right potential customers. But content too will become shorter and more “instant”, chopped up into short, easily digestible but slick videos or podcasts. Organisations will seek to inject more authenticity into their content, giving it greater character and personality.