For companies looking to fully embrace the evolution of customer experience (CX), a delicate balancing act between adopting the right technologies and engineering the right business strategies must be performed. The solution is an integrated customer experience strategy built from the outside in – yet for many, there’s a tangible gap between CX ambitions and CX capabilities.
While 81% of global companies recognise the importance of the customer experience as a competitive differentiator, only 13% rate their own CX offering as nine-out-of-10. Why has progress stalled? And which key CX trends will help companies flourish, all the way from strategy to implementation?
Dimension Data’s new Technology Trends 2019 report explores seven key areas of focus for companies next year, with the customer experience playing a critical role. Here are five trends that will dominate B2B CX in 2019.
1. Conversational AI will give speech a voice again
Automation is growing apace, with conversational artificial intelligence (AI) emerging as a critical priority area. Technical capabilities have improved greatly, and the ability to process natural language has become sophisticated and normalised.
The manner in which consumers interact socially is increasingly starting to converge with the way they communicate with businesses.
Conversational AI is causing simultaneous growth in knowledge management. Organisations are using data generated from smart speakers to better understand the context and content of customer interactions. This data also allows them to develop increasingly accurate algorithms and models to drive more effective interactions.
The optimal strategy is a harmonised combination of human and virtual agents, despite the fact digital-native entrants tend to have a mindset that humanless interaction should be the norm. They see interactions that include humans as value-added propositions.
2. Robotic process automation will reshape customer experience
As their capabilities advance, technologies such as machine learning, AI, and heuristic neural networks will give robotic process automation the ability to combine scenarios, increase understanding, and make real-time predictive decisions.
Organisations will be able to predict what future customer behaviour will look like: whether it is their propensity to take up a product, or the likelihood of a service issue arising. All this is reshaping the customer experience into a more proactive and personalised mass service.
The potential benefits are vast, whether the organisation is automating entire tasks or just using automation to enhance productivity. We can predict growth in robotic process automation, due to its power to reduce cost, speed up customer handling, and make interactions more personalised.
3. Data management is becoming an issue in its own right
As the number of channels grow – and interactions become more automated – the volume and complexity of the data being collected rises exponentially. When this happens, the organisation’s ability to capture, process, govern, and analyse that data has to evolve rapidly.
Organisations face challenges in execution, the first of which is when to stop learning and start doing something. At the moment, companies are investigating their options and trying to understand the issues. But at some point, in order to generate value, they have to execute.
One of the main barriers to execution is a distinct lack of data scientists. One solution is to acquire data management skills as part of a managed service. Good CX managed service providers have more data scientists who can help organisations answer some essential questions: what is our organisation’s data strategy; what data do we need to drive CX success; how should we collect, process, and govern this data?
4. Omnichannel will evolve into customer journey management
As the number of enabled channels continue to grow, an omnichannel strategy remains a mainstream ambition for most companies. Frustratingly, many implementations are siloed and incohesive executions, which invariably increase irritation, rather than making things easier for the customer.
Omnichannel doesn’t mean every channel. What matters is value to the customer and the organisation, not the number of channels.
Forward-thinking companies have taken a conscious decision not to offer every channel to everyone, for everything. Instead, they analyse channel preferences for different customer segments and different types of interaction, and offer only the most appropriate channels.
Inevitably, the term ‘omnichannel’ will begin to decline and the industry will start to talk more about ‘customer journey management’ to reflect this maturing of strategy and sharper focus on value.
5. Cloud customer experience will scale onto enterprise-grade hybrid platforms
Cloud-based CX has been around for many years, typically embraced by smaller organisations with simpler requirements that want to reduce cost. However, we’re now seeing larger, more complex corporate deployments moving onto more mature hybrid cloud environments.
One of the drivers is that the infrastructure and applications of some corporate on-premise deployments are facing end-of-life. But these organisations still have to jump some hurdles before they can move CX to the cloud.
Some are yet to transform their technical architecture to align with evolving business strategy. They have a general wish to evolve from traditional to automated interactions, and to move from a traditional to an on-demand cost base.
However, while consumption-based pricing seems attractive, in large organisations with stable volumes, it can end up being more expensive, especially if variable features aren’t scaled down when not needed.
Enterprises are increasingly turning to consultative managed services partners to advise on, and execute, the transformation of their CX capability, including its migration to enterprise-grade hybrid environments.
Rob Allman is senior vice president of customer experience at Dimension Data.