Improvements in technology drive innovation in many fields, and there are few arenas where these efforts are as visible as in the customer experience. The emerging tools and techniques for customer teams provide new, insightful avenues for interaction, but are still grounded in the concept of tying a brand to a positive, happy experience.
Customers notice details, either when they are particularly good or particularly bad, so it is always in a company’s best interest to make sure they are innovating in the right way. Here are seven ways technology will aid companies in creating — and taking advantage of — compelling experiences for their customers in 2018:
1. Improved churn prediction helps companies hang on to customers.
People outside of the industry are often surprised to learn how much money companies spend to acquire customers. A tremendous cost and effort goes into the process of finding customers in the marketplace, attracting them to a specific brand over competitors and — most important — keeping them. Smart companies are also spending money figuring out how to make sure customers never leave. By the end of 2018, companies will be so good at spotting your potential defection from their brand, they may even know before you do.
2. Customers expect instant service and delivery as a standard.
Any customer experience manager will tell you that responding to customer complaints and demands needs to be as close to instantaneous as possible, and reinforced by social cues, which allows many facets of life to move faster and without friction. The next frontier in service is instant delivery, or as close to it as realistically possible. With companies like Amazon and Walmart investing heavily in same-day delivery and rapid response, many others will follow suit. As consumers begin to expect instant service, smart companies must figure out how to provide it… or provide a product of such intrinsic value that it would be worth waiting for!
3. Consumer-to-manufacturer feedback takes a step forward.
Consumers expect to provide feedback on products, but often do not expect to see improvements for months — if at all. Manufacturing costs and sophistication contribute to this delay, but one of the biggest challenges to change is what I call the “knowledge chain” of feedback. This is a process where – once feedback is shared – someone must first learn and understand the problem, then approach and convince the next link in the chain to make a change, and so on until it finally gets to the right person. To address this problem, we will see a rise in feedback mechanism on the product itself, so customer problems and defections are sent directly to the manufacturing plant and product manager in real-time. This creates urgency and transparency between these groups and will improve the speed of production and marketing in 2018. And the firm’s change management process will need to re-shape to match the new shortcuts between feedback and innovation.
4. A new era for the Internet of Things (IoT).
The next level of the IoT is smaller and more personal. Beginning in 2018, everyday products will have “smart” features, such as tech inside of containers that can determine how fast a product is being used, how soon it will run out, and add itself to an automated delivery list. The problem of “customer awareness” will cease to be a part of the process altogether. This is a step beyond a fridge with a camera in it; this is the milk carton determining that it will run out before Sunday and popping up on a shopping list today. It can also be a prescription communicating patient adherence to the doctor and pharmaceutical company, or groceries and restaurants receiving just-in-time product deliveries to ensure freshness and optimal stocking while preventing spoilage or waste. Expect to see several new patents both in the space and in-product before the end of the year.
5. Improved anomaly detection leads to better marketing.
Identifying anomalies in behavior is very easy to do, but understanding the meaning behind them is horrifically difficult. If you do not have a history of buying jewelry, it’s pretty easy to notice when a diamond necklace pops up on your customer information. But, is it fraud? Do you have a new significant other? Did you receive a raise and are trying to improve the gifts you give? Marketing firms used to simply carpet bomb potential customers with advertisements. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence will enable more complex anomaly detection in 2018, thinning out the marketing span and delivering real value opportunities that are more germane and timely to a purchasing decision.
6. DIY service for routine problems becomes the new standard.
People are increasingly impatient and refuse to accept that easy ideas should require difficult processes to execute. Entire industries — from medical care, to automotive sales, to college admissions — are ready to be disrupted by innovative methods of service delivery. Much like the self-check line at the grocery store, many customers are choosing to forego human interaction in favor of solving their own problems. The motivation is easy to understand: nobody takes care of me like me. By anticipating customer needs and implementing smart software to address issues, companies are putting routine problems into the hands of their customers and saving their customer teams for more complex issues. For companies that want to retain service as part of their value proposition, those services must significantly outpace the perceived value of the self-serve alternatives.
7. Better personalization through enhanced data.
Talking about personalized customer experience as a “north star” is nothing new in the CX space, but 2018 will see significant progress toward this goal for many firms as they finally align existing legacy systems and enhance them with better experience measurement and experience management platforms. Coalescing the data streams from operational warehouses and meshing those with attitudinal data and analytics unlocks heaps of potential within companies to get personalization right.
To put these new practices to use, most companies will need to spend time and resources building equally new systems. Flipping the switch to “on” should be the last box left unchecked. As organizations properly combine tried-and-true practices with new concepts, they will continually uncover innovative ways to reach customers and their pocketbooks.
Perhaps the single biggest key to future growth, however, is moving beyond earlier predictions and expectations. Many firms spent 2016 and 2017 trying to live up to 2015 predictions. Cutting loose any anchors of ineffectiveness will let companies simply move on to a leaner and more productive 2018.