Delivering a great customer experience doesn’t just mean providing excellent products and services. It means knowing the customer well enough to predict what they want and proactively offer it to them. A few years ago, that may have sounded fanciful but with big data and the rise of automation, a genuinely effortless experience is now a real possibility.
Customer experience will look different in a few years from now. Here are the top five factors that I think will change it.
1. The rise of bot assistants
Customers still have to chase-up orders, check apps to see where a delivery driver is, and confirm appointments. Over the next few years, we’ll start to see virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa take a lot of this work off their hands.
By 2020, customers will expect retailers and delivery companies to feed information to their assistants. Bots will communicate with other bots to schedule and track deliveries, as well as reminding people of sales or product releases they might like to know about.
The rise of bot assistants will remove much of the friction in the relationship between customer and brand and make way for more meaningful and engaging interactions.
2. More customers will expect a 24/7 service
Technology is changing the way we work. High-speed broadband and mobile technology let us work from where we want, when we want. As our working hours change, people will expect the organisations they deal with to adapt. They’ll expect to be able to contact brands earlier in the morning and later in the evening than they do now. Businesses that don’t adapt to this will lose out.
For example, if a local supermarket closes at 6pm on a Sunday, customers will use its rival’s 24/7 ‘express’ store. If the bank is closed every time a person finishes work, they’ll switch to the one that’s open.
3. Text-based messaging will overtake voice
This may be a controversial opinion, but I believe that text-based messaging (I don’t mean SMS) will overtake voice by 2020. Services like Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp for Business will change the way business and their customers communicate.
Ofcom’s 2018 Communications Market Report found that our total outgoing monthly calls per person fell by 7% in 2017 (18% for fixed lines and 2% for mobile). We’re also sending fewer text messages via SMS (monthly messages per person fell by 16%). Meanwhile, our data usage is going through the roof.
Recent figures show that businesses are already abandoning the landline – with the average time spent on calls dropping from 38 minutes in 2010 to under 19 minutes in 2017. With major businesses like PwC getting rid of landlines completely, it’s only a matter of time until calls are almost phased out.
Businesses that have established ways to conduct customer service, marketing, and sales via text-based platforms will be in a prime position to thrive in a post-call world.
4. The rise of the customer service specialist
Despite all the headlines, human interaction won’t vanish by 2020. More businesses will use automated technology to make their services more efficient and support their staff and customers, but this isn’t necessarily a threat to the human workforce.
Those routine chase-ups I mentioned earlier will be handled by bots (possibly on both sides of the exchange). But customers will still need to talk to people for situations that require greater emotional intelligence and creative input.
By 2020, it’s likely that many businesses will be using on highly-skilled, well-trained employees, supported by automated solutions, to provide the best service for their customers.
5. The popularity of remote working will expand the talent pool
By 2020, remote working will become more popular among customer service agents. Businesses will have a wider choice of employees and access to people with a broader range of skills and experience. Businesses don’t have to restrict themselves to hiring locally, and they can use overseas teams to cover shifts later in the day. And they’ll take the money they save in overheads and invest it in further improvements to the customer experience. With the right technology in place, remote teams can collaborate just as easily (or even more efficiently) than they would do in an office.
We all know how important it is to get customer experience right. It is, and will continue to be, a competitive differentiator. By 2020 customers’ expectations will have soared when it comes to experience. Businesses that fail to deliver a frictionless, engaging, and effortless experience could see themselves left behind.
About Jack Barmby
Jack Barmby is the founder and CEO of Gnatta, a customer communication platform that enables companies such as ASOS and AO, to talk to their customers over any system or channel. Gnatta pulls together all the various systems and channels a company uses to communicate with customers, connecting the data from those systems to provide everything a company needs to have informed and intelligent conversations with them.