Blog / 19th January 2018

To accelerate the launch of new digital initiatives, Matt Hooper of IMImobile looks at the trends that are guiding customer service technology investments in 2018.

Posted by Sam Watson

In 2017, the gap between those businesses leading innovation in customer service and support, and those businesses struggling to implement new technologies and channels, grew even further. As consumers demand more, with their expectations set by the likes of Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon, businesses need to zone in on what matters most to their customers when it comes to customer service and increase the focus on putting digital at the core of customer interaction.

2018 brings opportunity and challenge in equal measure. The resolution for any consumer-facing business needs to be closing the gap between consumer expectations for customer service and the reality of what they offer – their level of success and growth this coming year will depend on it.

With the pressure to change and improve the customer service experience quickly, here are four trends that should guide technology investments this year:

Hybrid AI can give quick wins to those struggling to deploy automated CX at scale

Research we carried out in 2017 confirmed that when it comes to customer service, consumers highly value speed and how much of their time is taken up. This focus on time goes hand in hand with the hype around AI and automation to improve the customer service experience. The operational challenge is not around deploying an AI assistant or chatbot as quickly as possible, but rather integrating them successfully into customer journeys and with back-end systems of fulfilment at scale.

Hybrid AI, which allows artificial intelligence and humans to work in tandem together, is likely the approach many businesses will use to access the benefits of automation at an operational level. On the front-end, this could mean using chatbots on digital channels like Facebook Messenger to collect customer info, automate responses to common enquiries and prioritise those that most impact customer loyalty. Whereas for the agent, an AI can help guide interactions with a virtual assistant analysing a customer’s enquiry in real-time to produce recommended answers and resolutions for agents to use.

What’s crucial is that businesses develop AI virtual assistants that support a wide scope of use cases, as those that have a narrow function will struggle to be adopted beyond the pilot phase. Forrester predicts over 75% of initial AI projects will be reset to model operational considerations more closely. 

Find a vendor who can conduct the entire digital interaction orchestra

Vendor effectiveness in the contact centre space continues to be debated with CCI, CRM and best of breed vendors all bringing new digital solutions to market.  And yet, despite the strategic importance of consolidation, traditional voice-centric and CRM specialists continue to struggle to support fully integrated digital channels and automation effectively.

When evaluating vendors this year for enabling customer service transformation and digital contact centre solutions, businesses will increasingly look for vendors that can conduct the entire digital interaction orchestra.  This means not only looking at those providers that offer holistic digital channel and automation capabilities, but also to those that can provide orchestration between channels and legacy systems to create customer journeys which focus on fulfilment as much as contact.

This approach will extend the life of existing investments and help to eliminate siloes, while mitigating the need to rip and replace. For businesses struggling to make their digital transformations effective, or suffering from lack of investment, this is the ideal way to play digital catch up.

The agent desktop – gaining a single view of customer interactions

The proliferation of channels is not just a technology challenge but also an operational one. Today, an agent’s job is a lot more complicated than it was three years ago, and the ability to multi-task is valued more than ever. A lot of the efficiencies advertised from the use of digital channels come from agents being able to handle several conversations at once across multiple channels in a single thread, so providing them with the tools to do this is essential.

Having a single view of customer interactions across channels must ultimately be enabled through the agent desktop. It is the only way to equip agents to deliver that all-important 360-degree brand experience. Too often the tools that agents are equipped with are too fragmented, causing efficiency to take a hit as agent’s swivel between screens trying to find the right information, frustrating both the agent and the customer, and holding back businesses from maximising the effectiveness of agent chat.  For these reasons, businesses will look for proven providers who can create that last mile link from the technology stack to the operations team, enabling the agent desktop to become an essential part of delivering omnichannel customer service. 

CX becomes increasingly data-driven

The amount of data created by buisnesses increases exponentially year-on-year. This increase comes mainly from the volume of real-time events generated from mobile interactions, so the ability to collect more and more fine-grained data as more things become trackable is key to delivering experiences that create extra value for customers.

For example, IoT-enabled products give greater insight into customer behavior and preferences than ever before, which allows for the creation of entirely new offers and personalised services. This, in turn, means that agents can be armed with the same data to personalise recommendations and solutions for customers.

Analytics is also behind the drive towards automation and AI. Building an enhanced understanding of customer language and sentiment will help train AI based self-service systems as well as guide decision making. The risks are data security, compliance with GDPR in 2018, and fragmented BI systems that can’t crunch the insight of ‘soft’ KPIs like emotion and language. As companies come to understand the value locked away in their ever-increasing data silos in 2018, they will continue to make significant investments in data storage, processing and analytics to lay the foundation for the years ahead of using AI-driven customer interaction.

Accelerating change – the priority for 2018

Digital disrupters have set the standard for CX today and the years ahead. We hear every day how the world’s largest hotel owns no buildings, and the world’s biggest taxi service has no cars, and how digitally smart start-ups are disrupting industries. But, we also hear with increasing frequency of companies not adapting and going bust, therefore this year, investing in technology and know-how has to be more than just reactive.

Most importantly, companies must look to invest in vendors whose software and solutions compliments their current infrastructure, can support the complexity of digital communications and accelerate the rate of change, enabling them to quickly use digital CX technologies to strategically counter the undeniable impact and risk of digital market disruption.

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