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Customer Experience Technology Trends for 2018

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Technological innovation and digital disruption are dramatically reshaping the way brands are interacting with customers. Terms such as AI, chatbots, machine learning, AR, VR and a host of others have emerged to refer to the different technologies organisations are using to improve the customer experience. We take a look at some of the key technology trends for 2018 and their impact.

There’s a plethora of innovative CX technology out there being developed and deployed within organisations. Chris Luxford, from Experience Innovators, highlights how this new technology is focused on automation, analytics and improving engagement to deliver the following benefits:

  • Better experience to customers at a dramatically lower cost to serve
  • Greater agility for organisations to drive rapid change
  • Unlocking revenue opportunities through data and insights

Peter Monk, general manager of BPO provider Concentrix, divides the key technological trends reshaping the customer experience into two main categories, “Firstly, we’re seeing technological change around the channels or the devices that customers are using. A major trend is the evolution of the omni-channel to provide customers with a seamless experience across all devices and channels.

Monk adds, “Mobile devices, social media and other digital channels are increasingly the preferred channel as opposed to the traditional phone call. A lot of this is due to generational change. The millennials and younger generations, who have grown up with mobile phones, tablets and social media, are driving this shift in channel usage.”

“The second area of technological innovation is around the systems enterprises use to manage customer interactions. We’re hearing a lot about robotics and RPA (Robotic Process Automation to automate back office processing and remove a lot of the programmable work in the back end.”

Improving the Customer Experience

Customer experience is about assisting the customer on their journey and guiding them to the desired outcome. There are stages and potential roadblocks on this journey. Technology can help organisations identify:

  • The stage of the journey the customer is on
  • What are their biggest road blocks – causing them to pause or even fall off the path
  • How to overcome or bypass those road blocks and ensure the customer follows the path to the desired outcome

Peter Doherty, Principal Solutions Consultant from ServiceNow warns, however, there’s a tendency to focus on the immediate visual experience rather the entire process. He comments, “I think sometimes when people talk about customer experience, they are really talking about the visual experience. What we should be thinking about is what needs to be combined to deliver an outcome. This does need to include a highly visual interface, but just as important are the backend processes, which work best when highly automated”.

AI, Machine Learning and Chatbots

There has been plenty of discussion about AI, chatbots and machine learning but the potential of these technologies still has a long way to go. As Monk points out, “Chatbots have been with us for nearly a decade, handling simple question and answer scenarios. But what we see in the market these days are cognitive chatbots that use machine learning to drive natural-language conversations. It’s early days at this stage, but we see great potential for the future.”

Doherty concurs, “Just having chatbots answering queries is not enough: they need to be able to integrate and automate many systems across the organisation to deliver the right outcome for the customer.”

He adds, “Machine Learning has so much potential but too often companies don’t have the right tools or resources at their disposal for it to be effective. Recent research we conducted found that 80% of Australian CIOs cite insufficient data quality as a substantial barrier to the adoption of machine learning in their business”.

Iot – Internet of Things

It’s predicted that we will soon be living In a world full of connected and interconnected devices that are sensing and monitoring every interaction we have with the world. The evolution of sensor technology means cheaper and smaller sensors can process greater amounts of data.

Ken Raley, consultant and client success director for the Customer Experience Company, advises that IoT (Internet of Things) can be a double edged sword, “There are countless ways the customer experience can benefit from IoT. If done properly it can enhance every touchpoint a customer has with a product, particularly complex products or products that they have long term relationships with.On the other hand, if done poorly, it can create a giant security nightmare and a mishmash of features and functions that make the customer experience more confusing and frustrating.”

To take advantage of Iot, companies need to address a few basic questions:

  • What are the opportunities in analysing the data collected from devices?
  • How can it be used to improve product design and manufacture?
  • How can it be used to create an enhanced customer experience?

AR, VR and MR

AR (Augmented Reality) refers to the integration or overlay of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. It differs from Virtual Reality, which creates a totally artificial environment and typically requires purpose build devices such as headsets and visors. MR (Mixed reality) mixes real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualisations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.

Augmented reality can greatly enrich the customer experience in many different, creative and innovative ways. Research from KPMG highlights how AR and VR can be particularly useful to marketing, sales, customer service and post sales, by offering three major benefits:

  • Emotional resonance: the technology has the potential to garner greater emotional resonance to objects and topics, by improving the sensory impact of an experience.
  • Information accessibility: It can provide information in an instant, easy-to-understand format, that supports multi-sensory learning.
  • Compelling hypothetical experiences: the user can experience multiple different scenarios in real time without the need for prototyping or making judgments. Try-before-you buy scenarios could greatly enhance the experience of potential buyers for a product.

Does it solve a problem?

The decision to implement any of these technologies should be based on whether it solves a problem or removes a roadblock in the customer’s journey. As these technologies evolve they will be able to solve a greater variety of problems. Doherty comments, “In manufacturing and logistics, the supply chain process was automated many years ago, increasing speed, efficiency and lowering costs. Yet when it comes to customer service, most organisations still rely on manual processes”.

“Many still even use email as their main customer management process, which is slow, prone to human error or oversight, and time-consuming. Automating and streamlining these customer management processes will deliver better, faster, and more accurate outcomes for customers, increasing customer retention, all the while reducing costs. It will also free customer management teams from repetitive, mundane work, so they can focus on more strategic and value-add activity.”

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Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience. His key ability is to translate the business needs of organisations into an online presence that raises brand awareness, generates leads and most importantly, increases sales.