The 10 Biggest Trends Impacting Customer Experience in 2018 and Beyond08/21/18
Customer experiences provided by machines using artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools have become increasingly common in the past year. They are used in a number of recent technology trends. We are on course for entire customer experiences to be provided by machines online using AI. AI bots can also interact with other bots to solve customer issues. Alexa and Siri, two of the most common voice agents on the market, use AI to answer customer questions and even place orders for customers. AI allows employees to focus on other tasks instead of answering routine customer questions. It also keeps track of data which makes it easy for a live agent to take over if needed.
Chatbots as customer service representatives
Chatbots are the new customer service representative. On Facebook Messenger, there are more than 100,000 chatbots deployed by businesses. Often using AI, chatbots communicate with the customer and gather relevant data that can then be passed on to a human rep if needed. Chatbots have been useful in solving many common customer issues and are one of the biggest reasons for the decline in customer service phone calls. For more information on the usage, benefits and problems with chatbots read our blog here.
Increased consumer data security & governmental regulations
2017 was one of the worst years for company security breaches. Everyone from Equifax to Yahoo and even some government organizations fell victim to cybersecurity hacks, resulting in user’s data being stolen. These breaches have led to increased distrust of companies’ customer privacy and data-keeping policies. When Target was hacked in 2013, resulting in more than 70 million customers’ data being compromised, the company faced major backlash and a loss of their previously good reputation. It took a while for Target to regain the trust of many of their customers.
Because of the increase of cyber security breaches, companies are investing more into their data security in an attempt to reassure customers that they care about their privacy. Studies predict the global cybersecurity industry will reach $83 billion in spending in 2018. Some governments are even getting involved with the EU passing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which allows customers to request businesses delete their data.
Social media as a customer service channel
Brands have been using social media to promote their products and talk to customers for years now. This year it is more important than ever for businesses to utilize social media as a customer service tool. Digital channels have overtaken voice as the primary way of contacting businesses. With this shift in consumer behavior, it is important that companies vigilantly monitor their social media. When a customer complains on social media, companies need to use it as an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. Social media is such a public channel and it is important to handle customer complaints swiftly and professionally. One bad post about your company can go viral and damage your reputation.
Adoption of the omni-channel model
Most businesses have now implemented a multi-channel model, meaning they have more than one channel available for customers to contact them. The next step is for businesses to adopt an omni-channel model, where all the channels are integrated together to ensure a seamless transition from one channel to the next. For this to happen, companies need to keep track of consumer data and record all contact with customers so that employees at every point of contact receive the same information. While most businesses have not yet integrated an omni-channel model, 32% of companies plan to achieve this by 2019.
More personalized experiences for consumers
Personalization is the biggest customer expectation for this year and beyond. It is a marketing strategy that focuses on collecting consumer data in order to tailor the customer experience for individuals. There are many different ways in which personalization can be utilized, which are discussed in more depth here. Personalization often involves the use of AI to gather consumer data. The data is then used to determine the best content, location and time to reach an individual or similar group of customers. Personalization is a trend that is here to stay with 51% of consumers expecting companies to anticipate their needs ahead of time and make suggests based on them by 2020.
Emphasis on both employee and customer engagement
Many businesses are realizing that the biggest impact on customer satisfaction is the employees that deliver it. Businesses rely on their front-line employees to deliver a great experience to customers face-to-face, via the internet or over the phone. They also rely on employees behind the scenes to make these great experiences possible. We are discovering that great customer experiences are interconnected with great employee experiences. When employees are happy to be doing their job, they are more likely to deliver on a customer’s expectations.
Digital channels & mobile apps as primary form of communication
For years phone calls were the primary means of communication, but in 2018, that has changed. Digital channels, including messaging, email and social media, have overtaken phone calls as the best way to communicate. And this isn’t just the trend for personal communication; messaging has taken over business communication with 89% of consumers indicating their desire to communicate with a company this way. These digital options are faster, reach a broader audience and allow for many different elements of communication (emojis, photos, etc).
Mobile apps have also revolutionized communication and consumer engagement. Initially, most apps were transactional in nature but in recent years, they have moved towards being more engagement-centered. Many mobile apps now allow customers to interact using augmented reality, chat features and social platforms.
Create virtual experiences using augmented reality
Augmented Reality has been popping up on websites and apps in recent years. It is a useful tool that helps give customers a more interactive preview of products online. Sephora allows you to virtually try on some makeup using a photo of yourself in their app. Other companies allow similar previews of products like furniture and clothes. Virtual 3D maps can show what apartments, homes and vacation resorts look like before you ever step foot inside them. Augmented reality has the potential to be used in many industries to showcase an experience to customers prior to purchase.
Experience design shapes the customer journey
Customer expectations have changed over time. In the past, consumers wanted to distance themselves from the companies they do business with. Now, they want brands to form an emotional connection with them and make their lives easier. Experience-design allows companies to focus on empathy for customers’ emotions design their customer journey. It is also expected for companies to realign their metrics and analytics around their new innovative design.
Tags: Customer Engagement, Personalization