If you’re starting to forge a customer experience (CX) strategy for 2019, you’re not alone. Most companies realize that CX will increasingly impact business results. In fact, Gartner reports 81% of company leaders predict they’ll compete primarily on customer experience in the near future, but only 22% have claimed to create an experience that exceeds customer expectations. As companies try to close that gap in 2019, we’ll see trends toward end-to-end convenience, innovative perspectives and increased security.
Omni-channel service is already trending, but few companies have truly delivered on it, and it’ll become even more important in 2019. More than simply offering several service channels, an omni-channel CX captures a single customer view and creates a consistent experience as people leap from touchpoint to touchpoint.
Omni-channel CX will also expand to provide sales and support over social media, like Twitter DM and Facebook Messenger. And as the internet of things (IoT) infiltrates more of our lives, customers will connect via watches, TVs, cars and appliances.
As personalized CX becomes ever more essential, it will get easier in 2019 with machine learning technology. Spotify, for example, has garnered millions of fans with their music recommendation algorithms that curate Discover Weekly playlists calibrated to individual listeners’ preferences.
CX professionals already know that people don’t like to wait for results, and customer-centric companies are squeezing out lag time wherever possible. Sluggish tasks, such as shipping and refunds, will shift to more efficient processes over the next months. And smart technologies like chatbots will instantly respond to inquiries any time of the day.
Next year, CX professionals will shift away from building their strategies around products, departments or functions and start managing customer episodes. Episodes include all the customer-facing and back-office actions associated with achieving one customer goal. For example, if someone loses a credit card, the episode begins with realizing the card is gone and ends when the customer makes a purchase with a new card. Customer journeys consist of strings of episodes, which gives CX strategists insight into how each element of an organization fits into the overall experience.
In Bain & Company research, episode management proved to be one of the top three most effective CX techniques, even though few have yet adopted it. They site a European telecommunications company that switched to an episode approach for debt collection and decreased bad debt by half.
Machine learning has improved in both the accuracy of results and the time it takes to train a system. In the coming year, as companies look for better ways to manage call volume, they’ll turn to predictive analytics. These systems will also identify common scenarios that generate support calls, opening opportunities to address issues before they arise.
For example, software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies can monitor settings configurations that may cause glitches. The company can then steer customers to better options through simple pop-up messages or emails. The proactive support increases customer loyalty while avoiding support calls.
Augmented Reality (AR) overlays information or images onto a real-world scene. Innovative businesses will be following the AR trend to demonstrate products or help people get support. For example, L’Oreal is deploying an AR service in which shoppers can “try on” makeup colors and different looks. They can tell how furnishings will look in their homes with apps that impose a product image over their own space. For service calls, AR tools can snap a picture of a disabled product and relay key details, such as part numbers, to technicians.
Natural Language Processing
Natural Language Processing (NLP) turns masses of daily communications into a holistic understanding of customers’ emotions, goals and behavior. As 2019 brings more and more interaction channels to bear, CX professionals will turn to NLP to uncover areas for improvement and measure the impact of changes. For example, NLP systems can assess whether customer complaints are increasing or decreasing across all communications.
With increased personalization, companies have more and more data about individuals, which makes people nervous. In 2019, they’ll find ways to protect that data by firming up security protocols or moving to a cloud-based infrastructure that provides more comprehensive data management.
Many companies will also incorporate machine learning to dig up data anomalies which can flag insider threats, malware and authentication fraud. And biometrics, such as voice biometrics, fingerprint ID or facial recognition, will continue to make customers’ lives easier and safer.
Before you place orders for any new technology, remember that implementing a world-class customer experience takes more than the latest toys. Success requires prioritizing customer interactions across the enterprise, organizing departments around touchpoints and reworking processes to maximize agility. Begin the groundwork today, and you can ride the trends to a stellar CX in 2019.