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Customer experience trends in 2019

Rob Allman

Senior Vice President - Customer Experience, Dimension Data

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Trend 1: Conversational AI is giving speech a voice again

The overall trend of automation is growing in pace, and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is an area that companies are prioritising.

Technical capabilities have improved greatly. The ability to process natural language has become very sophisticated and normalised. 

The penetration of voice AI in the consumer sphere with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home is beginning to transfer to corporate interactions, with Google Duplex and Alexa-driven bots for corporate access now appearing.

Messaging is also massive, with WeChat and WhatsApp proliferating, and Apple moving into business messaging. All this allows consumers to interact with organisations the way they do socially.

The trend toward conversational AI is causing a corresponding growth in knowledge management. Organisations are using the data generated to understand the context and content of customer interactions. It’s allowing them to develop increasingly accurate algorithms and models to drive more effective interactions.

Voice analytics is generating a huge volume of data that can fuel the development of proactive decisioning and recommendations.

Companies are harmonising human and virtual agents

The issue for companies is how to limit risk. Generally, organisations mitigate risk by initially using bots alongside live agents. The bots learn from the agents and gradually enhance their productivity. This allows the organisation to assess the effectiveness of introducing bots. The general strategy is to harmonise human and virtual agents.

Digital-native entrants tend to have a mindset that humanless interaction should be the norm. They see interactions that include humans as value-added propositions.

How is #AI voice going to impact the #CX market in 2019? Is it time you looked at Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home in your CX channel strategy? @DimensionData believe you should be. Tweet this

Trend 2: Robotic process automation is reshaping customer experience

We expect to see exponential growth in robotic process automation as capabilities advance. Machine learning, AI, and heuristic neural networks are giving this technology the ability to combine scenarios, increase understanding, and make real-time predictive decisions.

It’s giving organisations the ability to predict what customers’ future behaviour is likely to be, whether it’s their propensity to take up a product, or the likelihood of a service issue arising. The Tour de France is already using machine learning to revolutionise the viewing experience.

All this is reshaping customer experience (CX), making it less like a mass service, and more proactive and personalised.

There are also huge productivity benefits. Machines can be more capable and accurate than people. They can cope with multiple geographical compliance issues and address them dynamically. 

This, in turn, is impacting the organisation’s knowledge management capabilities, as rules about governance and compliance need to be built into the automation in order to benefit from it. How they do this depends on whether they’re using automation in a controlled or more open way.

The potential benefits are huge, whether the organisation is automating entire tasks or just using automation to enhance productivity. We foresee huge growth in robotic process automation, due to its power to reduce cost, speed up customer handling, and make interactions more personalised. According to our recent research into the evolution of CX over the next two years, 71% of businesses anticipate increases to fully automated contact volumes, while 56% expect transaction via telephone to fall.

Robots are reshaping #CX, and conversational AI is finally giving speech a voice again. Discover the 5 trends that will transform the B2B customer experience next year in @DimensionData’s Technology Trends 2019 report. Tweet this

Trend 3: Data management is becoming an issue in its own right

The increase in automation is producing a lot more data, and this is adding to the complexity of managing data within organisations. 

As the number of channels grow, and interactions are becoming more automated, the volume and complexity of the data being collected rises exponentially. When this happens the organisation’s ability to capture, process, govern, and analyse that data has to evolve rapidly.

The adage that ‘the customer is king, but data is the emperor’ has never been more accurate. 

But organisations face challenges in execution, the first of which is when to stop learning and start doing something. At the moment companies are investigating their options and trying to understand the issues. But at some point, to generate value, they have to execute.

Lack of data science skills is a barrier

One of the barriers to execution is the shortage of data scientists. Organisations are hungry to acquire capabilities, but they’re finding that skills in this field are in short supply.

One way of addressing this issue is to access data management skills as part of a managed service. Good CX managed service providers have more data scientists who can help organisations answer some essential questions: What is our organisation’s data strategy? What data do we need to drive CX success? How should we collect, process, and govern this data?

A managed service will incorporate this sort of consultancy and then go on to implement it to drive prospecting, acquisition, retention, and growth in customer value.

Trend 4: Omnichannel is evolving into customer journey management

The intent to follow an omnichannel strategy is still mainstream and the number of enabled channels continues to grow. But many implementations are siloed and incohesive executions can actually increase frustration rather than make things easier for the customer (and the agent).

Designing effective customer journeys across multiple channels remains a challenge. Where maturity is improving, it focuses on what drives the greatest value for the customer and the organisation. 

Omnichannel doesn’t mean every channel. What matters is value to the customer and the organisation, not the number of channels.

Some of the clients we’re working with have taken a conscious decision not to offer every channel to everyone, for everything. Instead they analyse channel preferences for different customer segments and different types of interaction, and offer only the most appropriate channels.

In the past we saw that the immature execution of automated channels caused issues for customers and agents. As organisations try to execute the next wave of conversational AI and robotic process automation, there’s a risk that this may happen again.

Not only would this cause frustration for customers but it would add to the ‘automation anxiety’ agents are experiencing, and consequent employee mistrust and churn.

We anticipate that the use of the term ‘omnichannel’ will begin to decline and the industry will start to talk more about ‘customer journey management’ to reflect this maturing of strategy and sharper focus on value.

Reliance Securities has already adopted technology that enables omnichannel customer communication. And they're revolutionising the brokering industry by giving traders the just-in-time information they need to make informed decisions, wherever they are.

Trend 5: Cloud customer experience is scaling onto enterprise-grade hybrid platforms

Cloud-based CX has been around for many years, typically to reduce cost in smaller organisations with simpler requirements. We’re now seeing larger, more complex corporate deployments moving onto more mature hybrid cloud environments.

One of the drivers is that the infrastructure and applications of some corporate on-premise deployments are facing end-of-life. But these organisations still have to jump some hurdles before they can move CX to the cloud.

Some of them haven’t yet transformed their technical architecture to align with evolving business strategy. They have a general wish to evolve from traditional to automated interactions, and to move from a traditional to an on-demand cost base.

But while consumption-based pricing seems attractive, in large organisations with stable volumes, it can end up being more expensive, especially if variable features aren’t scaled down when not needed.

Many companies see that hyperscale cloud providers can now meet their security requirements, but aren’t sure if they are the answer to all their complex corporate requirements.

They’re also cautious around the risk of change. They wonder whether a self-service commodity environment can be customised and managed to meet their particular CX strategy requirements. They also realise that hyperscale public cloud wasn’t necessarily designed for mission critical performance.

Questions remain for these companies around the risk of change: How will cloud CX work in our scenario? What are the operational implications? And how will we manage governance and compliance?

As a result of all these issues we’re seeing steep growth in deployments both on hyperscale public cloud as well as in more hybrid environments that include the hyperscalers, alongside on-premise elements and enterprise-grade private cloud platforms.

Enterprises are increasingly turning to consultative managed services partners to advise on, and execute, the transformation of their CX capability, including its migration to enterprise-grade hybrid environments.

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