When it comes to customer experience technology, 2017 was the year of AI and Chatbots. Their rising popularity – driven by customer demand – has been a catalyst for enterprises to expand their offerings and adopt new tools that transform capabilities and processes.
Looking ahead to 2018, what should be on your agenda? Here are our top 5 predictions:
1. More intelligent AI will improve the customer experience
This year saw a boom in the use of AI in marketing, and a Salesforce survey found that it’s set to grow more than 50% in the next 2 years. As adoption of AI and chatbots increases, so are demands from both organisations and customers. And this is driving technology developments in conversational AI. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is improving, with consumers abandoning their keyboards and Chatbots becoming more intelligent and enabling consumers to have more complex, ‘human’ conversations with brands – whether it’s using a keyboard or voice recognition (like Amazon Alexa).
These innovations will increase service levels while making it easier for you to manage resource in the most effective way.
AI use cases scale in our daily lives. Far from Elon Musk’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s disagreement on the future of AI, a large number of us will witness practical uses of artificial intelligence in our daily lives. From health-care to managing parking spaces, AI will enter our lives slowly but surely.
2. Machine learning will offer new opportunities for automation and operational efficiencies
So far, machine learning has been held back largely because it’s been difficult to get data, tools have been too young and there have been too few practitioners.
These barriers are evaporating. Deloitte predicts that the number of machine learning implementations will double in 2018 compared to 2017, and will double yet again by 2020. This is because it’s becoming easier, cheaper and faster, which means it’s becoming mainstream. As a result, organisations with the appetite, know-how, infrastructure and data will win in 2018 as they benefit from automated processes and valuable efficiencies.
Voice will become ubiquitous. Thanks for machine learning, speech is now in all our home devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple Siri. The same technology will become used by an increasing number of devices and systems.
3. Data-driven brands will thrive
Data underpins all these technologies. We talk a lot about data on the Engage Hub blog (check out this article on measurementand this article on using data to create a seamless customer experience for popular examples). And for good reason – to optimise your customer experience across channels, you need to make evidence-based decisions about what changes to make and where to invest.
Beyond the use of new tools and solutions, 2018 will see businesses move to the next stage of data-driven decision making. Experimentation in workflows and personalisation will transition to full-fledged digital transformation, and we’ll see this in 2 key ways.
First of all, GDPR preparations are driving major change across people, processes and technology. It’s clear that compliance is more than a tick-box exercise – it’s about an evolution of corporate data culture. Steve White from Digital Marketing Magazine put it very well when he described the change as being to “a culture that involves respect for data privacy, data subject consent and organisational transparency.”
Secondly, data-related processes will move beyond customer experience, marketing and customer service to IT, and data stewardship will become a core competence. This is part of a wider recognition that getting the most value from data means having the right infrastructure and dataflows – and that not having these in place means you’ll hit a ceiling when it comes to technology adoption and business growth.
With the introduction of GDPR and PSD2, usage of personal data will shift. Companies will try to keep consent in their customer base in order to market to it, and change as little as they can get away with in the marketing strategies. Other companies will do more heavy lifting and substantially review their policies to offer very granular consent options to their customers and prospects which in return will be better engaged.
4. People, process and technology – do enterprise organisations have what it takes?
Keeping up to speed with the latest developments in technology is a big task for enterprises. Businesses are looking out for ways to cope whether that be through new hires or technology, although, finding the right expertise to manage the most innovate tech is getting more and more difficult, with top researchers luring away AI scientists.
That being said, there are definitely ways to alleviate pressures of digital transformation whether that be budget concerns, fear of change or legacy systems. Whilst it’s a big challenged there are ways to overcome barriers to digital transformation.
As the pace of emerging technology quickens, businesses must be prepared to not only manage these advancements, but find ways that they can use them as an advantage to benefit the business. Ultimately, enterprises need to have what it takes in order to survive.
5. Real-time communication and personalisation will help optimise the cross-channel experience
Consumer behaviour is constantly evolving, and if you haven’t analysed your customer base and the touchpoints along their journey, it should be the first item on your 2018 to-do list.
The most effective communications in 2018 will be hyper-targeted and factor in the way different customers interact with your business. Now this isn’t about having that elusive 360-degree customer view everyone was talking about this year. Rather, it’s about sending automated communications in real-time using customers’ preferred channel – be it social media, SMS, email, push notifications, messenger apps or voice – and working continuously to make it as easy as possible for them to interact with you.
After all, research in Harvard Business Review found that “delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty, but reducing work they must do to get their problem solved does.” In other words, “when it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.”
The more personalised and relevant your communications are, the faster and simpler it will be to solve those problems.
In short – you need to prepare for digital change
If you’re not proactive about recognising your customers’ evolving behaviour and adopting technology to improve their experience, you’ll find yourself on the back foot. And that will have a measurable financial impact. (After all, this year ASOS overtook M&S in market valuation – and the online retailer has only been going for 17 years, compared to M&S’ 133.)
The change is happening. The question is: will you be prepared?
To learn more about preparing for 2018, download our free report on Managing the Fragile Customer Experience in the Information Age.