We reached out to: Microsoft, LogMeIn, Oracle, Verint and Flamingo - Here's what the CX experts had to say.
Each year our team of customer experience (CX) experts look to the future and make their predictions on how they see CX evolving. Attempting to peer into long-term technological and economic development is often a futile exercise considering the sheer amount of disruption various industries have gone through in the last decade, so we’ve generally found looking at the next couple of years is a bit more reasonable. Surely even Nostradamus today would find the changing tech world a serious hindrance to his ability to effectively predict the future.
This year we decided to cast a wider net. Based on our own internal research and the work many of our clients are currently engaged in, we asked not only our own experts but also a few of Australia’s CX Thought Leaders:
How will CX evolve in 2017 and what technologies and innovations will enable this evolution?
We are pleased to be able to share responses from some leading tech companies, all of which have both a very strong Australian contingent and an expert grasp of the local market and technology space. The following thought leaders are behind the CX changes we’re seeing today in Australia and globally. Here’s what they had to say.
To start things off, Martyn Riddle, Marketing Director APJ, at Verint offered, “Many organisations are struggling with the demand delta, the gap between the customer wants of personalised, timely, multi-channel access and the company wants of efficiency and profitability. This has driven a lot of focus and investment in digital service channels that are often seen as an instrument to meet the needs of both sides. However, we are now witnessing the realisation that most consumers still prefer the 1:1 engagement delivered over the telephone or face-to-face and, accordingly, expect many organisations to invest in these channels to deliver superior customer service as a component of their competitive positioning.”
"...underscored by platforms that bring a singular and holistic view to the entire customer and workforce experience." - Martyn Riddle
Considering both customer and workforce, Martyn concluded with this, “Specifically, tools such as Speech (and Text) Analytics, Workforce Engagement, Process Automation and advanced Knowledge Management solutions should all feature strongly this year. This does not mean though, that investment in digital channels will be abandoned; the accelerated emergence of tools that utilise forms of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to provide a more natural and complete customer experience should also feature prominently, underscored by platforms that bring a singular and holistic view to the entire customer and workforce experience.”
BoldChat by LogMeIn are certainly positioned to take advantage as the company already has a firm presence in online and mobile chat. BoldChat’s focus has been on enhancing and smoothing out the omni-channel experience and improving overall conversion rates for clients through use of their chat platform. Paddy Srinivasan, VP and General Manager, Customer Engagement and Support at LogMeIn had this to include, “The level of consumer connectivity today is unprecedented. Australians now spend over 10 hours on their internet-connected devices while 80 percent of the population owns a smartphone (according to research by Ernst & Young). And with consumer expectations on the rise, businesses are needing to attract new markets, as well as reduce customer churn by engaging effectively with buyers on their mobile devices.”
BoldChat is clearly focusing on first getting the channels right. Which is good news considering that your customers’ experience with your brand is only as strong as the channels you have in place. For that matter, missing channels or even ignored channels can have a negative impact on customer experience and further negatively effect your bottom line as Paddy outlines here, “According to a recent study conducted by research firm Vanson Bourne, 91 percent of customers in Australia and New Zealand are unlikely to do business with the same company following a bad mobile experience.”
Paddy had this to say about mobile and data insights that lead to better personalisation, “In the year ahead, companies must approach mobile engagement as an opportunity to interact purposefully and proactively with customers. By understanding purchasing behaviours that are unique to mobile, businesses will be armed with the necessary insights to identify areas of friction within the customer journey, and create tailored experiences – proactively. Businesses that work to develop genuine customer engagement on mobile, not treating it as an add-on, will reap the rewards of customer retention and satisfaction, securing a leg-up on the competition."
The above sentiment was further echoed by thought leader, Catriona Wallace. Towards the end of 2016, Flamingo Customer Experience was listed on the ASX and became only the second female led company to achieve listing status. Catriona Wallace, Founder and CEO of Flamingo has been a key driver of customer experience (CX) in Australia for over a decade. Her journey has led her to the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and when we posed our question to Catriona, she had this insight to share, “2017 is predicted by the Analyst community as being the year of Artificial Intelligence and Bot Strategy. 2018 is then predicted as being the year when companies invest heavily in implementing AI, Bots, chatbots and Conversational Commerce,” to which we couldn’t agree more.
Tech news of late has been awash with articles on AI. With major players such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook to name a few bringing their own digital assistants online, companies like Flamingo are working to differentiate themselves by introducing Bots that are highly specialised in areas such as fintech. Exactly where this will lead the industry, and what impact it will have on consumer markets will surely become clearer over the next couple of quarters.
Catriona went on to add, “This [AI, Bots, chatbots and Conversational Commerce] has significant implications for the CX community as the AI providers, such as Flamingo with its Cognitive Virtual Assistant (called ‘Rosie’), that sells insurance and banking products to customers, are now able to provide affordable AI for enterprise. The great benefit of using AI and Bots for customer experience is that it allows for individualised customer experiences at scale. Essentially the machines learn how to respond to customers’ questions and then can guide customers through purchasing and other decisions. Hence we are at a new juncture in the CX field where machine learning will start to play a significant role. This is hugely exciting."
This focus on AI will surely make our experiences with brands online much more individualised. Yet the road to personalisation and individualisation hasn’t been easy for some and getting a plan in place has been a challenge. This is understandable considering the number of competitive products and services available today that make digital and cloud offerings that contribute to businesses’ strategies to offer greater personalisation. When we asked Oracle about the future of CX, Kristi Mansfield stepped up. Kristi is Director of CX Strategy and Transformation, APAC at Oracle and she is also a respected Australian CX thought leader, author and CX commentator. Kristi had these insights to share, “Individualisation is achieved when customer intention is anticipated, understood, and actioned in the moment.”
Kristi went on to add, “This means giving the customer the experience they want and desire — to a segment of one. This has been talked about for some time, but true individualisation occurs at a level of Customer Experience (CX) maturity that very few organisations have been able to achieve.”
A recent Oracle report found that AI and Virtual Reality (VR) are set to reshape customer experiences by 2020. More than three quarters (78 percent) of brands say they have already implemented, or are planning to implement, AI and VR by 2020 to better serve customers.
The stage is set for something really big! Catherine Thomas, Customer and Partner Experience Director at Microsoft has helped countless businesses and organisations in Australia achieve a greater level of integration and success with Microsoft’s family of products and when we asked, she had this to include, “We are entering a new era broadly recognised as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution." An era characterised by the broad application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and sensors. In the field of customer experience, this means an incredible opportunity for organisations and businesses, coupled with higher expectations from customers.”
“Walking in a customer’s shoes is key to designing great experiences.” - Catherine Thomas
Catherine contributed these three examples:
- Big Data - The ability to capture and process large amounts of data in real time will enhance companies’ ability to gain better insights as well as predict customer behaviours. Censors can help understand and respond to customers’ reactions in real time. Data scientists will become an in-demand profession!
- Robots - Software robots will be providing first line customer service and support, not only reducing costs for companies but delivering a better service by continuously learning and getting better through AI, and allowing real agents to focus on the more complex problems.
- VR & AR - Virtual and mixed reality [Augmented Reality] provide new exciting opportunities. For example customers will be able to trial before they buy, test drive a car, visit an apartment, try on new clothes. Conversely, companies will have the ability to more deeply empathise with customers, for example devices like Microsoft HoloLens can help simulate the experience of an individual with a disability in a health care facility. Walking in a customer’s shoes is key to designing great experiences.
“Companies that innovate to take advantage of these amazing opportunities will have a real competitive edge. In fact we have already seen many examples of digital innovators disrupting established markets by focusing on the customer experience” added Catherine.
Recent article: How digital transformation can re-invent customer experience by Catherine Thomas.
Consumers and Business to Business (B2B) decision-makers want relevant content at the right time — that is the promise of AI, which, in turn, is powered by data. Whether it’s an AI chatbot or a social community manager acting on behalf of the brand, the customer data profile that is being drawn on to inform customer interactions, must be complete and accurate. With information on a customer’s previous purchases, recent service issues, social media interactions, and preferred channels for interaction, a brand is better prepared to serve them.
To wrap things up and bring all of the above thoughts together, we asked Dr. Steve Nuttall, Head of CX Research at Fifth Quadrant the same question and here’s what he had to say, “No doubt 2017 will be the year of AI as we stand to witness the beginning of a great shift in the way business and the consumer interact with one another. But in order for any of this technology to be fully adopted and accepted by both businesses and consumers, we must place a great deal more attention on our infrastructure and the blending of human and machine capabilities.
The success of AI in Australia will rest squarely on the shoulders of fully integrated, best in class technologies supported by a strong backbone of high speed infrastructure. The roll out of the National Broadband Network and the introduction of 5G connectivity are critical dependencies. More importantly, AI is not a substitute for human interactions. Customers will still crave the personal touch and the challenge for brands is how to effectively blend human and machine capabilities to deliver the optimal customer experience."
2017 is going to be an exciting, change-filled year of evolving technologies. To succeed in this CX-obsessed world, companies must get closer to their customers and put in place the right processes to empower data and analytic driven decisions. In the end, the companies that show a deep understanding of their customers will be set to win the CX race.
For more information about our contributors:
- Martyn Riddle, Marketing Director APJ at Verint
- Paddy Srinivasan,
VP & General Manager, Customer Engagement & Support
- Dr. Catriona Wallace, Founder and CEO of Flamingo
- Kristi Mansfield, Director of CX Strategy and Transformation, APAC at Oracle
- Catherine Thomas, Customer and Partner Experience Director at Microsoft
- Dr. Steve Nuttall, Head of CX Research at Fifth Quadrant
I'd like to personally thank each of the above thought leaders for contributing their commentary. ~ Brad Arsenault, Marketing Manager at Fifth Quadrant