What are the technologies that will define the future of customer experience?

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As companies become more competitive, their customer experience practitioners are becoming more experienced and more specialised. To take a company to the next level, CX practitioners need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in technology. New technologies can enable companies to make better decisions in customer experience that will help drive growth, profitability and market share. Here we’ll run through some of the new and emerging technologies that you will need to consider in this changing landscape.

Sentiment analysis and text analytics 

Sentiment analysis and text analytics have been, in the past, technologies fraught with difficulties. For decades, companies have asked open-ended questions on marketing and customer experience surveys. Companies increasingly maintain customer interactions through chat logs, among other sources of textual data. In the early days, we relied on human beings to make sense of and summarise comment topics because it was difficult for software to fully understand the nuances of human speech and writing. But the technology of understanding human feelings is getting more and more sophisticated.

The increasing sophistication of text analysis algorithms are able to detect positive and negative customer sentiment, or customer feelings, via open-ended survey responses, chat logs, call logs and service reviews.

Customer sentiment in these archives will help companies understand the importance of particular customer experiences in creating anger or delight.

Voice stress analysis

Understanding customer sentiment through the unique changes in the tone, pitch and timbre of the human voice brings a whole new dimension to Voice of Customer. Today, technology has focused on understanding the level of stress present in the human voice for the purposes of law enforcement and lie detection.

As the technology progresses, its usefulness is being expanded to forensic sentiment analysis from recorded calls, understanding how customers felt at the end of a call vs. the beginning. Sometimes it’s not just about the words that are said, but how someone is saying it. The future of this technology is real-time feedback that allows agents an additional source of information to help advance the cause of surprising and delighting customers.

Operational data

Customer experience surveys of the past might have asked a question about how long a customer waited on hold, whether a passenger’s flight was delayed or specific product satisfaction details. Companies gather and share this data all around the enterprise for a variety of operational reasons. However, operational data is critical to complete the CX picture.

Now it’s easy for a call centre system to tie the number of seconds of hold time to a customer record. Today’s airplanes can upload in-air experiences like turbulence, unusual technical events and flight times to operational databases that can be tied to customer records.

Using new advanced software solutions these data points will allow metrics to be devised to pinpoint the exact circumstances that, whether in or out of control of the company, that lead to customer churn. Allowing companies to be proactive in addressing these challenges and issues as soon as they arise. 

Smartphone tracking and wearables

Retailers love your phone even though they’ll never call you. Companies like RetailNext, Nomi and ShopperTrak make a business out of knowing which store displays consumers pause to look at, which paths they take through stores and how often they stop in stores without purchasing anything. They do this by tracking unique signals from the communication signature of consumers’ phones via the cell network, Bluetooth and other communication protocols. They don’t listen to consumers’ calls, but they don’t need to. Stores need to know only that a consumer’s mobile phone is pausing a little longer than average in front of a mannequin featuring a specific outfit.

This incredible source of behavioural information will help retailers tailor their displays, store layouts and even the propensity of customer service reps to be attentive to customer needs. Building location-oriented data into CX is a bright frontier for the industry.

Automatic analysis

Data analysts the world over quiver in their boots when they hear that Google is backing a startup called Automatic Statistician. IBM backed the Watson project that promises a computer that can read natural language, as well as learn and generate a hypothesis. To believe the marketing, one might think experts, from statisticians to doctors and lawyers, should be worried about super computers taking over their jobs.

In reality, tools like Automatic Statistician and Watson still require a subject matter expert. These high-tech tools just take the mundane part out of the work. For CX data analysts, that means no longer having to link data together, export data to an external tool built for statistical processing and create custom visualizations that decision-makers can understand.

Data-sharing relationships

As the saying goes, “If the product is free, then you’re the product.” No place is this more obvious than in the multibillion dollar startups like Google and Facebook, whose free service to consumers presents paid advertisements based on individual interests. Companies increasingly discover unanticipated value in customer data. Strategic data-sharing partnerships are an important aspect of the coming landscape of CX.

Partners that can help us understand customers’ tastes, preferences and expectations of customer experience will prove incredibly valuable in the hyper-competitive world of today’s marketplace.

The future of customer experience is a very exciting. New technologies are being created that will transform the way we look at and analyse data. In the not too distant future every consumer touchpoint will be recorded and set against millions of other data points fed by a legion of sources, all analysed by machines that will provide the user the relevant actions to make a real impact on the top line. This means that those in competitive markets that delay implementing CX programmes are playing a dangerous game, one they may not recover from. 

Mark Magee is VP product management, at MaritzCX.

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