Customer experience is the one area where a business can truly differentiate itself from competitors. We’re already seeing some exciting innovations in 2016 as businesses continue to realize the value exceptional customer experiences (CX) yield for their bottom line. With technology driving innovation, consumers can expect to see major brands going to great lengths to ensure expectations are met, and exceeded.
Here are 4 exciting CX technology trends that will play an increasingly important role for companies in 2016:
1. Omnichannel Service
One of the most common frustrations expressed by customers is repeating a problem to multiple customer service agents. Omnichannel service has been developed to solve this.
While not a new concept, omnichannel service is still in its infancy. Moving beyond merely channel integration, effective omnichannel service of the future will draw on past interactions and customer data to deliver a seamless experience across all service channels.
In short, it’s no longer satisfactory for companies to merely respond. They must do so quickly, and with the relevant information required to ensure the customer is satisfied. Most importantly, companies must deliver this experience in a way that’s ‘human’ and nurtures a meaningful connection with the customer.
Zappos rose to fame thanks to the extreme lengths they would go to to please customers. They are a poster-child for exceptional omnichannel service. Essentially, Zappos was available to customers across platforms and solved for their problems quickly and consistently. This strategy generated so much word-of-mouth that the brand became synonymous with customer service, and drove customer advocacy for the Zappos brand.
2. Individualization Through Big Data
Big data analytics is changing how businesses operate and communicate with customers. The availability and democratization of information is bringing insights into customer behavior, preferences, and issues that impact the customer experience.
By leveraging big data, brands have an opportunity to treat customers more like individuals — and build meaningful long-term relationships. The result is a customer more likely to buy services or products over time. Big data serves brands by enabling them to anticipate what customers will ask for in advance helping them improve customer interactions, and identify customer pain and passion points more effectively.
Low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines is a company well-known for its impressive customer service. They continually gather and analyze data to improve the experience of flying. More recently, Southwest Airlines started using speech analytics to extract value-rich data from live-recorded interactions with customers. This enabled them to explore sentiment – what customers really feel and how their experience with Southwest Airlines is compared to competitors.
3. Artificial Intelligence
Along with virtual reality and driverless cars, artificial intelligence (AI) is possibly the hottest thing in technology right now. The development of AI will have huge implications for the customer care industry as it enables businesses to scale through individually-relevant conversations and at the same time scale business process automation.
With AI, companies can learn more from their interactions with customers, and further empower the customer care team with more useful information. Ultimately, more advanced AI systems will imitate the decision-making ability of a human to provide proactive, actionable responses to each customer.
A great example of this is Pypestream. The emerging tech company has created a new B2C messaging app that improves customer experiences by allowing businesses to securely chat with customers via mobile. With Pypestream’s platform, consumers can switch on “Pypes” for businesses they want to connect with. These Pypes let businesses message customers through subject-specific channels called ‘Streams’. The conversations in these Streams are private and secure between a business and its customer, not shared publicly on social news feeds.
Soon Pypestream will also begin using artificial intelligence to automate routine customer service inquiries for businesses while also providing a means for customers to connect in real-time with brands. The objective is to reduce time wasted waiting on hold or searching for customer service email addresses.
4. Leveraging Messaging to Provide Transparent, Real-Time Communication
Truly great customer experiences rely heavily on a brand’s capability to communicate with its customers in a conversational way. But to also act in real time.
By leveraging the key insights available through big data combined with artificial intelligence, brands have an opportunity to collect feedback and more effectively communicate with customers in real-time. But companies will also need to shift how they communicate to stay relevant with customers.
In addition to providing customer support online and via social media, mobile messaging, which has quickly become the dominant form of communication for consumers, is a critical channel for brands. Today 2.5 billion people around the world use messaging apps – and that number is expected to exceed 3.6 billion by 2018. Despite this trend, companies have been slow to adopt messaging as a way to diversify customer communication. In fact, 90% of consumers said they have had poor experiences seeking customer support on mobile, according to a recent survey.
As the preferred communication method for today’s consumers, mobile messaging represents a huge opportunity for businesses across all industries in 2016.
These CX innovations are among many that can be expected in the coming year. As brands progress further into a customer-centric model, they will continue to seek out new ways to delight customers at every opportunity. The end result looks to be a positive experience for both brands and consumers alike. On one hand, consumers will get more of what they want and less of what they don’t, while businesses will benefit through a deeper understanding of their customer needs and wants driving enhanced business results.
Whenever I read articles on the latest and greatest trends in CX, I’m just amazed.Today we have so many amazing tools/technologies available to us, and the four trends mentioned in this article should be considered by just about every type of business. As businesses learn to use the tools that enhance the customer’s experience, and the customer learns how to take advantage of some of the technologies that companies offer to make their experience better, I can ‘t think of a more exciting time to be in business.
I’ll echo Shep’s comments, and add one of my own. While all of this exciting customer experience technology is rolling out, organizations should be careful not to let the humanity of their enterprise and the emotional response of customers be left behind. As banks, for example, increasingly close branches and opt for electronic and mobile interaction, they are in dangers of losing the personal touch in the relationship and communication with customers.
I’ll put this bluntly. You CANNOT use technology to replace human contact. it’s an illusion that technology can improve the customer experience.
People in our social media world are craving face-to-face contact, and the immediacy of it, or at least some sorts of human interactions. If you look at the best of class in customer service, you’ll see they are doing it through PEOPLE interactions.
Yes, technology can inform those interactions, but the danger comes, as we see after years of attempts to provide social media based service, that it does NOT provide a competitive advantage.
What drives the desire to use technology is NOT better customer experiences, but to cut the costs of real humans interacting with customers.
There is no better tool than CRM when it comes to delivering stellar omnichannel service. CRM applications streamline all customer-company interactions in one centralized platform which empowers businesses to get a 360-degree view of customers, understand the context of past interactions in a few seconds and deliver seamless experience at all channels and touchpoints. Customers can smoothly traverse from one channel to the other without any loophole in between the experience.
Robert I agree with your thoughts on human interaction being the ultimate solution. And I agree that many companies think of technology as a surrogate of sorts. These companies use technology to make “service” efficient rather than meaningful.But to say it is an illusion that technology can improve the customer experience is far from true. It can and does, as long as people see it as an enabler and not the end goal. Technology represents the mixer and double oven that help make the brownies faster so I can spend quality time enjoying them with the family over meaningful and engaging conversations. Sadly companies forget too often that the time they have gained from technology efficiency is not for them, but for the customer.
I’ll say live video chat using WebRTC technology is an excellent tool for instant communication with customers through the web browser. It is one of the best ways to show that you value your customer by providing them what they want – a more human touch. While sharing a screen, you can actually see what your customers are browsing during the interaction and thus guide them well about any product or service through the same browser.