With so many predictions and trends from industry analysts for 2017, Matt Hooper SVP at digital customer engagement specialist IMImobile, assesses what is being said of the major trends set to impact customer experience professionals in 2017 and beyond.
According to leading analysts, this year should mark a tipping point for the contact centre industry with the volume of digital interactions expected to outstrip those made by telephone for the first time.
It is very evident that industry-leading and innovative companies in 2017 will be pushing their digital advantage for all its worth in order to: A) improve and personalise offerings that deliver greater customer lifetime value in a bid to protect and grow market share; and B) reduce the cost to serve, more to maintain price competitiveness than pad margins.
Having read a number of predictions and industry trends, here are what I believe will be the main trends impacting the contact centre industry in 2017;
1. Consumers and office workers start talking to things
While consumers have been using voice search and virtual assistants like Sirion their smartphones for a few years, in 2016 these technologies made a major leap into the home with Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. With Cortana now embedded in Windows 10 it’s not just consumers that are talking to devices, people in offices are too – and more successfully than the boss from The IT Crowd managed 10 years ago.
Chatbots, embedded in mobile messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and Kik, are also becoming popular and companies are starting to deploy them to handle simple customer queries, orders and now also banks utilising
All this is powered by Gartner’s number 1 technology for 2017 – AI and Advanced Machine Learning, where “technologies such as deep learning, neural networks and natural-language processing, can also encompass more advanced systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously.”
2. Automated interactions drive the rise of conversational commerce
So-called conversational commerce – the next development beyond e-commerce and m-commerce – is built on mobile messaging services, and much of the value it creates will come from increasing levels of automation. According to Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will be automated by 2020, and messaging Chabot’s will be the number one consumer application of AI and NLP. However, automation will not be all encompassing, human interaction will always play a vital role and the contact centre industry should focus on the right balance of machine to human interaction in their digital engagement strategies.
3. Big data and analytics finally start to deliver
Just because Big Data no longer appears in Gartner’s list of technologies to watch, it doesn’t mean it is not important. After several years of perhaps flattering to deceive, Big Data has just done what all mature technologies eventually do, which is disappear into other technologies.
AI and machine learning, natural language processing, virtual assistants, intelligent things, digital twin modelling, and conversational systems all rely on the ability to collect and analyse huge data sets. We are in the age of ‘real-time Big Data’ and in the world of the Internet of Things where 4,800 devices are being connected to the network every minute today. Ten years from now, that figure will mushroom to 152,000 a minute and there will be 188 Zettabytes of data in the world according to IDC, 80 % of which will be generated by mobile devices.
4. Everything becomes a platform and is delivered as-a-service
The trend for everything to be packaged “as-a-service” will only continue to grow in 2017 as cloud consumption models mature. To take advantage of economies of scale, IT buyers are generally better off buying metered access to specialist platforms from cloud vendors than building or hosting their own. IDC predicts that by 2020 some 67% of enterprise IT spend will be on cloud-based technologies.
In the contact centre specifically, the need to deliver omni-channel customer experiences seamlessly is driving the popularity of cloud platforms like our own which orchestrates multiple channels and business processes. With mobile messaging and social media it’s important to remember that many conversations happen via a third party network, website or app, not inside the company’s “walled garden” ecosystem. Use of a contact centre platform which integrates all these channels securely at the desktop level for agents and provides the necessary risk management framework for management and IT will become a must to prevent over-fragmentation.
5. Cybersecurity becomes a bigger priority
Some of the highest profile security breaches in history happened in 2016, including one which might have swung the presidential election in the world’s most powerful country. The commercial fallout from other hacks – IRS, Snapchat, Verizon, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Yahoo, the list goes on – ran to billions of dollars.
In 2017 we expect to see businesses increase their investment in protecting their IP as well as consumers putting a higher priority towards protecting their data and communication over public networks. In addition, more companies will hire specialist security firms at the design stage of IT projects to apply advanced methods like AI-based adaptive security in order to prevent attacks.
Honourable mentions to …
Partnerships: very few companies have the scope to deliver great customer experience on their own. Partnerships with suppliers, IT vendors, outsourcing providers, affiliate networks, resellers and affinity partners will be more important than ever to capture (and share) customer value.
Blockchain: the unhackable ledger technology that powers Bitcoin is already being trialled in banks. Expect versions of it to appear to cater for different types of transactions, particularly where trusted third parties are currently required, over the next few years.
I believe we continue to enter the most exciting and transformative time for consumer and business interaction. Businesses and Line of Business operations such as contact centres need to adapt and embrace the new world just as we are all having to.
Matt Hooper is SVP Global Marketing at IMImobile
IMImobile have published a new white paper that looks at how contact centres are coping with the challenges of delivering digital and mobile engagement channels and best practices in digital customer interaction.
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