Today, nearly every customer experience in nearly every industry is driven or supported by ever-more-quickly-evolving digital technology. The landscape is changing so rapidly that customer experiences are already being radically reshaped by technologies that are cutting edge today - but will be mainstream tomorrow.
In our work as a customer experience and digital experience strategy firm, we’ve long enjoyed a multi-industry, cross-border view of the issues executives are fascinated with or scared by - and have a front-row seat to where they are placing technology bets in 2017 and beyond. And while there are hundreds of technology solutions clamoring for executive attention (and investment dollars), only some will dominate the budget cycles between now and 2020. Curious?
Here’s a peek - our summary of the top 11 technologies customer experience leaders are considering or deploying now, to deliver (in some cases radical) competitive advantage tomorrow. Their goals? Likely similar to yours - to help drive delivery of the “digital first but not digital only,” multichannel experiences their (and your) customers are demanding.
- Mobile is becoming (already is?) the primary channel for customer engagement. According to a recent Adobe survey report, 92% of respondents said their smartphone is their primary device. Smartphones have also overtaken computers as the top e-commerce source. The reality is, if you’re not considering your ability to deliver great mobile experiences at least equal to (but better yet, ahead of) all other digital devices, then you’re already in trouble.
- Goodbye content management platforms: hello digital experience management platforms. The content management systems of today are light years ahead of early efforts. But they’re falling behind already, as experience leaders to look to next-gen “DX platforms” that manage, deliver, and optimize experiences consistently across all digital touchpoints. Among other things, they coordinate content, customer data and core services, and unify marketing, commerce and service processes.
- Descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics drive better customer experience design and delivery. All that “Big Data” hype? Here’s where it’s heading. Emerging analytics tools make it easier than ever to mine the flood of available data to provide customer experience leaders insights into the past to learn “what happened?”, a look into the future to understand “what could happen?” and link these and other data sources together to help understand and prioritize “what should we do?”
- Say hello to multichannel, multi-party, continuous improvement “Voice-of-X” programmes. Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes have long been the critical “listening” component of CX management. But as CX matures, so too does the need to understand (not just listen to) customers and their actions, spanning channels (call centre, physical, digital, social, etc.), data sources (reactive, proactive, operational and more) and audiences (workforce, partners, distributors, etc.)
- “AI” is already both more intelligent and less artificial than you may think. Thankfully, there is no match for the human brain - yet. But AI will continue to accelerate, as its already impressive ability to do things like access and apply data, streamline processes, focus actions and model future scenarios gets ever better. A “CX enabler,” AI increases the ability to personalize and customize interactions by making them more “human”, and in many cases, without humans at all.
- It’s time for company to learn to talk - and listen. (Thank you, Alexa…). Yup. Very soon, a digital, computerized persona will speak on behalf of your firm. It will take orders, provide support and answer questions. It will upsell, and issue refunds. All of this, and more, in response to verbal requests by customers and employees. But the toughest part isn’t technical (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and the like aren’t perfect, but they’re continuously learning and getting better by the day), it’s operational and political.
- Customer-centric virtual and augmented reality add (yet another) channel. With AR/VR revenue set to top $160B by 2020, the rich, immersive and deeply personalized experiences they unlock moves the technology well beyond gaming - reimagining things like ecommerce (think high-end retail, or auto buying), education (from higher education to workplace safety and employee training), and healthcare (physical therapy, surgical simulation), among others.
- It’s time to understand the impact of IoT on customer experience. Made up of billions of smart, connected devices, the IoT gives any “thing” a voice through the data it gathers, produces and distributes. With around 26 “smart objects” for every human being on Earth predicted by 2020, the ability to leverage connected products and other sensor-generated data to enhance the customer experience is unprecedented, and a growing opportunity no CXO can ignore.
- Cybersecurity now impacts customer loyalty (not to mention your electability…). Recent election results aside, fraud is a top customer and executive concern for e-commerce, banking and other online activities. Adding this to customers’ digital-first preferences and the real threat of fraud (nearly 40% of consumers have fallen victim) makes cybersecurity critical in no small part because breaches cause customers to run and brand loyalty and confidence to erode.
- Why you must understand—and embrace—the API economy. API’s can give your organisation the ability to respond more profitably and intelligently to customer interactions, by becoming more responsive, flexible and efficient. They can create new, more personalised and richer experiences, for example sending one customer to video or text chat, and another to a special offer or “help” article in part by making it easier to integrate and connect people, places, data and more, delivering agile, reactive content from legacy and cloud systems.
- The robots are coming, and they’re here to help. No, really… In 2014, Starwood introduced their newest staff member at an Aloft hotel in Cupertino, a robot named “Botlr,” who checks in guests and delivers amenities. Banks are adding “robot bank tellers” and Pepper the android is selling Nespresso at retail for Nestlé. A gimmick? Maybe. Unless you’re a customer wanting an answer or a delivery and “real” people are too busy or scarce to help. Or, an executive looking for a way to scale and reliably deliver low-cost, consistent service.
About Michael Hinshaw
Michael Hinshaw is President / CEO of McorpCX, a customer experience research, brand and strategy consultancy based in the San Francisco area. An innovative executive, consultant and educator, he has over 20 years’ experience in marketing, brand and management consulting. His perspectives on creativity and business performance measurement have been honed through the lenses of brand, touchpoint and customer experience mapping. For more information, view his blog on Customer Experience, or follow Michael on Twitter.