Rising customer expectations around a personalised Customer Experience (CX), and an effective omnichannel delivery, connecting retail experiences between digital, social and in-store, remain the main drivers for innovation in Customer Experience Management (CEM) this year.
High customer expectations present key challenges
A need for acute personalisation of customer interactions will be a key trend in the CX industry in 2018. A recent Salesforce research study stated that 70% of consumers expected companies to understand and anticipate their needs, and this year we can expect even more focus in this area from leading brands. More than before, consumers will demand that interactions are not only timely, relevant, contextual and consistent, but that the information is delivered via an omnichannel environment, that is seamless in its delivery.
Success in delivering an effective multichannel experience, however, remains a challenge for many key retail brands and ecosystem players. On average, most companies handle nine potential customer contact channels. Many of these are unconnected, providing an even greater challenge for the large incumbents, who have existing operational siloes between sales, marketing and distribution channels to contend with.
Innovation in CX technologies
Luckily, 2018 is set to provide some solace for retail brands wishing to improve their CX strategies. The uptake of key technologies will transform how brands communicate with consumers, both retail and enterprise environments.
The use of big data and analytics will become more prevalent in CX, and indeed paramount in driving a more personalised brand experience with consumers. New location-based technologies, such as wireless beacon technology, will aid targeted communications, and can be used by brands to gain significant competitive advantage. Similar to Bluetooth, beacon uses mobile technology to alert downloaded apps of your whereabouts when you move into a certain geographical area, allowing for highly accurate, personalised brand communications when near or in-store.
One slight snag with this approach, is the upcoming regulatory changes expected in May, when the EU is set to launch its General Data Protection Regulation, thereby placing heavily regulated restraints on how data is collected and used. Consumers will soon be able to ask that companies delete their data, which creates further pressure for brands to create sticky, meaningful customer interactions. Although this presents a challenge for brands when communicating with customers, and developing new Customer Experience Management (CEM) strategies, their success will ultimately lie in the value that the customer places on the individual interactions. A happy customer is not likely to unsubscribe from all communications if they have gained, even in a small way, from communications linked to the brand.
Robotic software, chatbots and automation systems will gain traction in enterprises everywhere in 2018, where devices and systems powered by Siri and Alexa will aid sales and service delivery efficiency. These systems will be able to speak to business-created bots in order to solve the mundane customer issues employees, and companies, become bogged down by. Another welcome advantage of AI and automation is that companies can become much slicker internally; enterprise systems and departments can become connected in new ways so that customer enquiries can be handled in one go. With less disparity between different parts of the business, front and back offices can work interchangeably with one another – the customer-facing department can do everything the back office does, and back office staff can become more customer-centric in their approach.
Automation will also be seen in the increase of IoT and the Smart City environment. The increased opportunity to collect data from a growing number of data sources will facilitate the ease of brands predicting when there’s an issue with your household appliance, and even fixing the problem remotely, leading to significantly improved brand interactions and
proactive customer experience service.
Thoughts around CX strategies as a whole
2018 will see a divide in brands leading and losing, depending on how advanced their CX strategy is.
Increased data points, connected experiences and more efficient internal performance will mean that in 2018, retail brands are well equipped to demand a larger slice of the customer journey. Powered by social, mobile and consumer location data, the customer ecosystem is for every brand to own, and allows them to move in circles different to that of their usual product set. This can be intrinsic for gaining market share and competitive advantage – how powerful is a bank that can offer you a loan, or any other banking product, versus a bank that can offer you banking products, plus insight into reputable estate agents if you are house hunting, or caterers when planning your 60th party?
Lastly, perhaps one of the toughest challenges facing CX development this year is the potential road block of losing the human touch with customers. The fact is, consumers are still accustomed to a human element in customer services delivery. Although we are by no means AI-centric, and even, at times, are “hybrid” in our approach to AI application in sales and service; it is key to retain transparency with customers around where and how robotic assistants are being deployed. Although companies using AI are reaping the benefits of automation in their overall performance, communications with customers will need to be handled cleverly in order to maintain, and build on, consumer trust.