What customer contact technologies should service leaders be focusing their attention on in 2019? We asked a panel of experts.
According to Statista research, legacy technology is one of the four leading challenges customer service professionals currently face in their organisation.
Yet such is the pace at which innovation moves in the sector, even the most advanced businesses can find themselves out of touch, without a clear understanding of how the tools and systems they use are set to evolve in the near future.
With this in mind, we spoke to a number of experts in the customer service vendor space to establish where business leaders should (and shouldn't) focus their attention in the coming year.
Beyond a continued migration from on-premise to the cloud, and a tearing down of the walls that separate the traditional contact centre from the rest of the business, we see a whole class of data analytics technologies coming in.
These will allow a contact centre manager or agent to enrich (beyond basic caller or chat ID) who exactly is on the other end of the interaction, what that person’s relative value is, anticipate why this person is interacting with the contact centre, and then both optimally route or escalate the interaction and provide the receiving agent with the right context and breadth of longitudinal data to better serve that customer.
These capabilities will move from the lab to the real world and thereby create a solid business case for a contact centre to move to cloud-based platforms. It will no longer be an option to stay on-premise, it will in fact be contact centre malpractice to stay with legacy, on-premise systems.
Give AI more of a strategic role in service
Devang Sachdev, director of product marketing, Twilio
Customer service agents often get a bad rap for simply reading a script or transferring customers from person to person without a resolution. This is largely due to the outdated tools they are using to find information and present it to the customer.
As machine learning is applied and AI becomes integrated into contact centre technology systems, customer service agents will be able to focus on having more intelligent, authentic conversations with customers, rather than performing rote actions.
Rather than being replaced by presumed artificially intelligent technology, human agents will be critical members of the broader team bringing interactions to life. Agents will participate by training new machine learning based applications built to complement them, leading to better services experiences for consumers.
It will no longer be an option to stay on-premise, it will in fact be contact centre malpractice to stay with legacy, on-premise systems.
Make messaging channels more customer-focused
Julien Rio, head of marketing at Dimelo by RingCentral
The growth of business messaging platforms was part of our predictions last year. In 2019 we expect the use of messaging in customer care to increase even further. The growing number of customers using messenger platforms (1.5 billion on WhatsApp and 1.3 billion on Messenger - Statista) and the rollout of business apps, will encourage companies to adopt this means of communication.
One of the key announcements made this year was the launch of Apple Business Chat, which enables customers to talk to businesses via the Messages App. With its particular focus on privacy and integration into Apple’s ecosystem, this new feature empowers companies to connect with customers on a much more personal level.
Another expected 2018 launch was WhatsApp for Businesses. Last year WhatsApp rolled out its dedicated version for SMBs, allowing companies to manage customer interactions on a smaller scale. The next step will be the launch of its Enterprise API, allowing large companies to manage much more significant volumes of interactions on this hugely popular messaging app.
In addition to these external channels, including the opportunity to reduce dependency on GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), a number of companies are also implementing in-app messaging strategies. Among the advantages of this approach is the ability to identify customers, thereby offering a smoother experience, by avoiding redirections outside of the app. Adding more features in-app helps to increase customer retention.
Time to end chatbot experimentation
PV Kannan, chairman, 7.ai
2017 and 2018 were the years of chatbot experimentation and early adopters, but in 2019 enterprises will mature into more mainstream chatbot implementations. The c-suite is aware of the importance of CX and executives are involved in making chatbots/virtual agents a key part of their company’s customer experience.
According to the Gartner’s 2018 CIO Survey featured in Hype Cycle for Contact Center Infrastructure, 2018, 38% of enterprises are planning or actively exploring chatbots, and as a result we will see more enterprise grade chatbots being deployed. At the same time, many projects will fail as companies are still underestimating the complexity of enterprise chatbots.
Companies will become educated on what an “enterprise grade” platform needs to provide, such as: cross-channel capabilities, scalability, security, reliability, ability to integrate with enterprise systems of record and systems of engagement, pre-built industry intent models, and sophisticated tools for optimisation.
Many projects will fail as companies are still underestimating the complexity of enterprise chatbots.
Time for communications to become truly unified
Brian Martin, chairman and CTO, 8x8
We have already seen several contact centre acquisitions in the UC space as other players try to catch up to our vision that UC and contact centre should never have developed as separate products.
They belong together on a single platform, not only so that every interaction and conversation anywhere in the enterprise is captured globally for analytics and business improvement, but also because a single platform drives simplicity and ease-of-use for both the business administrator and the end-user.
Approach Alexa & Google Home with caution
Julien Rio, head of marketing at Dimelo by RingCentral
These voice technologies have been a major trend and discussion point over the last few years. It’s reported that by 2021 1.8 billion people will be using digital assistants such as Alexa and Google Home.
In the coming months, we’ll hear a lot about these new technologies and their applications. By being present in smartphones and smart home devices, their use will grow significantly in consumers’ lives.
However, their use at the moment is for specific purposes such as receiving news, checking the weather and controlling music or video content. So there will be a strong focus on these technologies in 2019, but it is still too early to see any application for customer care so this shouldn't necessarily be the chief focus for customer service leaders.
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.