Which customer journey predictions will come true?
At the beginning of the year, as always, we saw pundits from across the customer experience (CX) industry make predictions and assertions as to what will be seen over the next 12 months. From defining the moments that matter in customer journeys, to engaging with customers in a seamless way and empowering customer service agents, as well as creating a customer-led and digital-centric market - CX is quickly becoming the de facto measurement for consumers to evaluate brands.
But have any of the predictions made at the start of the year come to fruition? And what lies ahead for organisations in their CX efforts?
The technology revolution
Many predictions for 2017 were focused on the capabilities of technology, and how new technology could change CX efforts. A few notable technologies have had a significant impact on customer experience across a range of channels:
- There is no question that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has caused a major shift in the delivery of certain customer engagements. For customer journeys that are straightforward and transactional, AI has provided an efficient and cost-effective way to deliver customer service. Proponents of this channel see it as the holy grail of customer service, however, that remains to be seen. For now, it is making a significant impact on linear customer journeys.
- Engagement technology, which blends virtual, physical, and digital experiences together and ensures customer journeys are seamless, is playing a real role in improving CX. Some banks have made strides in leading the way on this, using video technology in branch to link up with mortgage professionals who may not be available on-site. By blending physical and digital experiences into one, customers can continue their journey without any breaks – and organisations don’t need to invest in specialists such as mortgage brokers in every branch.
- Technology that augments human customer agents with a set of tools to deliver a frictionless and faster customer journey is also transforming the customer experience. Agents are now able to use digital tools to turn a call into an omni-channel experience that allows them to show, share and sign important documentation. This technology is having a huge impact on the length and effectiveness of customer journeys. Natwest and RBS for example, have just introduced the UK’s first paperless mortgage using this very technology.
- Finally, there is technology that generates insight from the customer experience and converts the promise of personalisation and predictive analytics into reality. While big data has been a buzzword and a previously-hyped industry trend, the combination of insight and technology is enabling organisations to improve interactions with their customers – especially when customer data from contact centres is merged with that from other channels, such as web-based interactions.
A customer-centric approach
For far too long, organisations have designed customer journeys around internal processes and legacy systems. And while many stated that developing a customer-centric approach to services was a focus for this year, it has been new entrants to the market that have made the biggest impact.
We have seen disruptors enter almost all markets, and there are a few companies who are really shaking up industries with their customer-centric approach. Take Monzo for example – it has been able to disrupt the banking market because it has reimagined customer experiences without the restrictions legacy systems bring.
As we see more disruptors like Monzo enter different markets, the challenge for traditional organisations will be to overcome the problems of existing systems and processes, ensuring they keep pace with new entrants and deliver an experience that has the customer at the centre of it.
Human or humanless – what is the future?
Driven by the development and adoption of AI, many predicted that humans will be completely replaced in the customer service space by robots, and as such, we have seen heated human vs machine debates raging.
In some sectors where journeys are transactional and linear in nature, offering a humanless journey is an obvious choice that has proven itself to be a cost-efficient way to deliver a service. But contrary to popular belief, the future of humans in CX doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Success will come from the blend of human and machine, using technology where the journey allows, and using humans augmented with technology where the journey (or the customer) demands it.
Where to next?
The future of CX is one where we will be able to move the customer seamlessly between assisted and unassisted communications and even back again, using technology to facilitate and enhance both human and machine routes. By doing this, we will be able to optimise the balance between cost, service and ultimately outcomes.
As we loom closer to 2018, it is only a matter of time before we will see what industry pundits claim is the next big thing for the year to come.
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Bill is the CEO of Vizolution. He has over 12 years’ experience in managing a software business in the financial services sector. He was CEO of Trigold, a leading provider of mortgage sourcing, compliance and electronic transactions software to the UK mortgage market.