2017’s Five Key Technology Trends for effective customer engagement
AI, Conversational Commerce, Messaging, Data-Driven Engagement and Social Customer Service at the heart of 2017’s contact agenda
Sabio, the leading customer contact technology specialist, has highlighted the five key technology trends that it believes will be instrumental in delivering an improved customer experience during 2017.
“At Sabio we believe that customer experience should be brilliant. There really is no excuse today for brands that don’t step up to meet customers’ service expectations given the multiple technologies and expertise that’s available,” commented Sabio’s CEO Andy Roberts. “However, it’s hardly surprising that customers get frustrated when so many organisations still operate and manage digital and contact centre strategies separately. That simply doesn’t make sense when we know that over 60% of customers today go online before engaging with a contact centre.”
“2017’s winning organisations will be those that work to close the gap between digital and traditional customer contact channels – effectively building their Digital Front Door and evolving their contact centres into true relationship hubs,” he added. “In a world where the customer service and the actual experience offered is often the only differentiator, it’s imperative that organisations do as much as they can to get this right. To achieve this, organisations need to work on fixing the disconnects between their disparate marketing, digital and operational contact centre services – and that means the end-to-end mapping of customer journeys across all digital and human-assisted activities. Customer service needs to be embedded throughout the digital experience – not just left to deal with the fallout when things go wrong.”
Sabio’s Top 2017 Technology Trends for effective customer engagement are:
- AI and Machine Learning take centre stage – 2017 will see AI and Machine Learning start to have a much more meaningful impact in terms of intelligent customer contact. While previous generation virtual assistants were little more than front-ends to a knowledge base, today’s intelligent assistants are taking things to the next level with full conversational interactions – whether via chatbots in messaging threads or through virtual assistants embedded into the web journey. What will have a significant impact in 2017, however, will be how organisations equip their assistants with the intelligence needed to reach out for live support as and when necessary. Improving the links between the traditional contact centre and digital marketing will be a prerequisite to successfully take advantage of Artificial Intelligence across contact operations.
- Smart brands start to take Messaging seriously – We all use applications such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger to communicate with our families and friends. What’s stopping us doing the same with the businesses that we deal with? The rise of Conversational Commerce is driving a growing number of organisations to recognise that the latest messaging platforms – with their powerful threads and the ability to extend capabilities with dedicated chatbot functionality – will prove an essential channel for customers during 2017 and beyond. It makes sense to be where your customers are and, with Facebook’s combined WhatsApp and Messenger throughput alone now processing three times as many messages as traditional daily SMS volumes, it’s clear that messaging has an important role to play in the end-to-end customer journey, however the quality of the integration with other digital and assisted channels will prove critical.
- Placing Conversation at the heart of integrated customer engagement – Building on the theme of conversational commerce, we will increasingly be using our voices to communicate with machines to get answers to our questions. With speech recognition continuing to improve, voice control is on its way to becoming ubiquitous. Research suggests that being able to converse with automated systems can significantly improve the customer experience. Indeed with voice control going mainstream, and millions of customers already actively communicating via Siri, Cortana, Alexa and other voice assistants, it’s increasingly clear that customers are getting ready to engage via conversational commerce. Brands in 2017 will need to ask themselves: ‘do we have a strategy in place to provide our customers with seamless access to relevant contextual experiences via a conversational interface?’ Having access to the right IVR, natural language, UX and customer journey design skills will be vital if organisations are to successfully deliver transformational conversational commerce experiences.
- Data-driven Customer Engagement – As the amount of data generated continues to grow at exponential rates, talk of data becoming the ‘new oil’ powering the fourth industrial revolution are no longer hyperbole. While the customer contact sector may have talked a good Big Data game for the last five years, it’s probably fair to say that in terms of really powering an end-to-end, data-driven customer experience the actual results delivered have often been patchy. Instead of concentrating just on mining web stats or harvesting customer feedback, organisations will need a more comprehensive data-driven approach in 2017, drawing together a broad range of data inputs from across both digital and human assisted elements of the customer journey. It’s only by adopting a true customer engagement analytics approach – one that brings together web analysis, self-service analysis, WFO data, speech and text analytics, and customer feedback – that organisations can effectively map the whole customer journey from a reporting perspective. Identifying bottlenecks in multi-channel journeys is a key goal here, particularly when combined with broader contact centre metadata to come up with specific actions for service improvement.
- Social Customer Service starts to get serious – Social networks are already busy building out their messaging platforms, and will increasingly start to open them up to commercial brands who recognise that’s increasingly where their customers are likely to be. With platforms like Facebook Messenger already supporting voice for peer to peer communication it is only a matter of time until this extends to businesses. Organisations therefore need to be ready to support voice, video and messaging communication arriving directly from their social messaging applications. This is being pushed heavily by the leading social networks who are transitioning quickly to provide customers with more direct communication options, with many seeing features such as click-to-chat or click-to-call as a great way of getting users to spend more time within specific social networks. To manage this demand, expect to see more social chatbot integration during 2017, as well as an increase in direct feedback and ‘Provides Support’ style indicators that allow brands to clearly signal those social media accounts that are dedicated to customer service support.