For the second year running, artificial intelligence (AI) was the hottest topic in the world of customer experience (CX) in 2019.
You don’t have to look far to find major players touting AI-driven CX as the next big thing. For example, IBM recently published a report which predicts that AI will unleash a new approach to CX strategy, design and development. IBM calls the shift a ‘seismic’ one, comparing it to the changes that were ushered in during the 1990s at the advent of the internet.
“[AI systems] not only consume vast amounts of data with far greater speed, they learn from interactions. And because AI systems can see, talk and hear, CX teams are entering a new era: creating AI-powered experiences that feel like natural human engagement,” IBM said.
However, while many acknowledge the rising importance of AI, we're still in the early days and there is much work to be done before the full potential of this nascent technology will be realised. And as I've often heard uttered by our own CX expert, Steve Nuttall, "Artificial Intelligence is neither artificial nor intelligent."
Approximately three quarters (74%) of executives surveyed by IBM said that the believe AI will fundamentally change how they approach CX. But at the same time, just under half (41%) said they have an AI strategy in place.
Throughout the year, Fifth Quadrant has attended a number of events and also interviewed professionals from leading global companies working within the Australian technology space. Along the way, we have asked the experts to give us their thoughts on where they think CX is going and for their predictions for the years ahead. Not surprisingly, AI figures heavily in these musings. But no one risked venturing too far into the future. After all if you had asked the experts in 2006 what they thought the future help for technology and communications, none would have predicted the meteoric rise of the smartphone and introduction of the Apple iPhone.
(As an example, check out this predictions article from January 2006, aptly entitled Predictions for 2006, by Ed Felton at Freedom to Tinker. Some of these points are still a challenge and a story today, but check out prediction #5 and #22.)
However, AI was by no means the only thing on their minds. Cybersecurity, privacy concerns, cloud computing, regulation, and some of the key challenges the CX industry is facing were also hot topics. What follows is perhaps the most comprehensive list of predictions for CX that we've ever put together. So a BIG thanks to all the amazing CX thought leaders who took the time to send over their best guesses for what's to come and a special BIG thanks to those of you who took the time to chat with us directly.
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & Data Governance
When we asked friends from Australia’s top tech organisations to contribute to this year’s predictions article, we weren’t sure exactly what would come back. We thought a couple of trends might emerge. And to some degree they did. Brendan Maree, Peter Chidiac and Nicholas Lambrou came back with similar predictions around AI and data. Here’s what they had to say about the sure to occur challenges around managing data.
Brendan Maree, VP of APAC at 8x8
AI is going to play a major role in 2020. And the key is that the data must be correct – what you are inputting and how the machine learning capabilities use the data to teach itself are important.
Another trend is that companies want a single communications provider no matter where they are located. For a global organisation to be able to procure in Holland just as they procure in Brazil, with one vendor providing voice, video, chat, etc.
This goes together with AI. It's easier to obtain and analyse data when it's all in one place for the entire communications stack. For example, how many people were on a video conference? How many people tuned out? How many were on mute the whole time? You can start running analytics on things like video conferences and tying it back to the data.
Peter Chidiac, Managing Director A/NZ, Avaya
2019 was the year CX was put on notice, with consumers eager to expose poor services from the brands they rely on in their everyday lives. The Royal Commission had the financial sector licking its wounds, and the aged care industry is set for the same. Meanwhile, both the ACMA and TIO highlighted ongoing issues in the telco industry. Although many Australian organisations have made significant strides in enhancing their CX capabilities, we continue to see examples of outdated processes and customer service at a time when simply responding to an angry tweet doesn’t cut it.
Advanced technologies have been around for a while now. But while solutions like AI-powered chatbots and live chat aren’t new, organisations will turn their attention to learning how to use the data from those services to anticipate and better serve consumer needs. That data will also empower employees to better understand, contextualise and resolve issues. Leading airlines, digital banks and hospitals are already on the front foot, having converged their vast touch points into succinct experiences for their customers.
The evolution of CX will continue to be driven by customers, and influenced heavily by increased awareness around the potential use of their data. No one wants to be another The Great Hack victim, and we will see governance take centre stage in the mainstream, not just within industry, to squelch a Cambridge Analytica clone.
While technological progress pertaining to CX will be steady, the next five years will see organisations augment whatever remaining legacy systems they have, such as large CRM suites and databases, as these inhibit the ability to analyse data to improve experiences. CX investment will, at least in part, come in the form applications that use next generation AI technologies as well as best-of-breed SaaS, helping organisations address their operational challenges so they can align to their increasingly-demanding customers.
Nicholas Lambrou, Managing Director A/NZ at Boomi
For years, organisations have been obsessed with allocating resources to every possible touch point through which a customer might engage them. This proved powerful fodder for the CX market, which has seen healthy gains, and is expected to be valued at US$508 billion globally in 2019 and $641bn in 2022 based on recent figures from IDC.
But these investments also introduced significant operational disparity. The pressure to deliver digital services, operate more efficiently, and predict customer expectations had organisations spending big on software-as-a-service (SaaS). However, many organisations are now left to battle systems that can’t communicate with one another, making it almost impossible to accurately analyse the data flowing through them.
The outlook will become more complicated as Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives move from concept to reality, adding new devices and data to the mix. Similarly, organisations will face new pressure from savvy consumers who understand the value of their data, and pushback from those who prefer privacy over personalised engagements. Meanwhile, budgets will begin to be viewed differently, with many companies likely to further align their investments based on the forecast impact on CX specifically, rather than the bottom line generally
Forrester figures reveal that companies which figure out how to use data to enhance CX will expand five times faster than those that don’t, and customers with a positive experience are predicted to spend 4.5 times more as a result. The road to 2025 will therefore become a balancing act between crunching numbers and protecting privacy as organisations deploy new services while keeping a close eye on compliance with data governance sovereignty requirements.
For a pulls-no-punches perspective, Chris Gibbs at Acquia peeled back the layers even further on the expectations that more data will be breached and stolen and how a CX led approach could backfire wildly for organisations if left unchecked.
Chris Gibbs, General Manager Asia Pacific and Japan, Acquia
Over the past five years, marketers have been gathering data from disparate platforms, but have had a hard time connecting and reconciling this data to build a seamless customer experience across every channel. The result has been a fragmented experience for the customer across chats, websites, SMS notifications, emails, and more -- which leads to frustration and mistrust in brands.
This year was a reckoning for marketers -- we don’t always get a second chance at getting the CX right. If you look at “cancel culture” in the celebrity world, you’ll see that the phenomenon of customers turning on a dime translates to brand culture as well. In 2020 and beyond, marketers will need to get a lot more creative about how they deliver value for customers, and start thinking about the data collection process itself as an opportunity to deliver instant value.
2019 was the year that consumers woke up to the long-running, hidden data abuses of the marketing industry. For me, it’s interesting to think about what an opt-in only world will look like on the road to 2025. The best marketers will think beyond the standard GDPR disclosures and start getting creative.
Brands like Stitch Fix have already made the experience of gathering marketing data 100% opt-in, useful, and fun for consumers. There’s a direct exchange of customer information for value from the brand. I believe other brands -- both B2B and consumer -- will use Stitch Fix as an example of smart machine learning algorithms combined with value-driven user experiences.
Digital transformation is still more than just a buzz term. And it seems is becoming as lofty a challenge as CX is in achieving. As new technologies are added to the stack of technologies available to organisations, having an overarching, end-to-end digital transformation strategy is nearly impossible since the goal posts keep moving further and further away. Jamie Humphrey explains.
Jamie Humphrey, Managing Director Australia and New Zealand for Nutanix
One of the greatest CX challenges for businesses in Australia and New Zealand is addressing the growing expectations for digital transformation and lack of patience for technology failure. While any logical organisation would adopt a CX-first approach, failure in meeting digital needs could leave organisations falling short as we enter the next decade.
While the energy and desire for improving CX through digital transformation is alive and well, with various sectors including healthcare, government, mining and utilities driving important innovation projects, confusion over how to deliver the right experiences and on what platforms presents a challenge.
Cloud, for example, is a huge enabler for CX, and its proliferation in A/NZ has seen it fast become a multi-billion-dollar industry and key cornerstone of the region’s wider $100 billion plus IT market.
However, many businesses have blindly moved too many services and applications to the public cloud without modernising their own data centres or developing a more optimal hybrid cloud strategy first, meaning they can’t deliver the digital services their customers crave in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
This trend, if left unchecked, will only worsen as the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) – and of course Industrial IoT (IIoT) – smart cities, our growing dependence on data and more expands. Without the right underlying infrastructure, the technology fails, and if the technology fails so does the CX in any modern organisation.
This sentiment was felt directly by the organisations represented in the findings of our second Enterprise Cloud Index, which measures enterprise progress with adopting private, hybrid and public clouds. 85 per cent of respondents selected hybrid cloud as their ideal IT operating model, with digital transformation the top business priority in their organisations.
Overall, the road to 2025 looks positive from a CX perspective, but the limitations in our IT infrastructure and cloud perspectives could cause roadblocks and even affect A/NZ’s global digital and CX competitiveness. Improving flexibility, letting business drive the technology rather than the other way around, and taking back control of IT is important to mitigate this and see us reach our potential.
Aaarrgghh! Digital complexity is driving CIOs mad. Luke McGoldrick chimes in with his predictions on the impending failure of legacy systems and lack of tools for employees to do their jobs properly.
Luke McGoldrick, Country Manager A/NZ at Rubrik
CX has reached an impasse which won’t blow over for several years. Organisations have been singing from rooftops about their desire to enhance customer engagements, but the appetite for modernisation has caused an as-a-service binge that’s left CIOs sick with complexity.
Although the royal commissions and industry regulators have revealed sinister practices, we find most organisations have a real desire to improve CX, but are stuck with clunky, legacy IT environments incapable of supporting new platforms and processes.
But trying to enhance CX under the weight of outdated technology and a flood of new software entering enterprises is inefficient and unsustainable. Not the type to sit on their hands, Australian organisations have recognised the need to strengthen their back-end in order to successfully power the front-end through which they transact with customers.
After all, without a stable foundation to power CX, interactions will be siloed and restricted as employees are let down by the resources they need to do their jobs.
This hurdle will grow taller as automation and IoT matures beyond the nascency to which it has been confined for a couple of years now. A major unknown is the potential impact that a cyber attack or outage will have in a world of digitally connected things, especially once Australians become accustomed to AI-supplemented living.
Just as ships are built to cruise after impact, we expect a spike in the number of organisations that develop contingencies around the concept of passive survivability. This approach to cyber security and business continuity provides a defensible infrastructure to ‘hold the fort’ so that services are maintained and customers’ personal data protected.
At the same time, historical naivety will disappear – technology will never be immune to external threats. But establishing a technological framework for CX around the principle of passive survivability will ensure your customers receive the services they expect, while reducing complexity for organisations and their employers.
The team at LogRhythm Labs couldn’t resist presenting us with a series of potential news headlines all of which we’ll be watching closely and perhaps even betting on. But these predictions are all about data security and it’s clear to us that security is going to continue upstaging all of the other tech innovations to come over the next few years. Perhaps technology developers are beginning to realise that security isn’t a post-design phone call to a security engineer, “hey we created a new piece of tech or software, can you help protect it?” But rather involving security in the design process from the very beginning. The sentiments around security are further echoed by Carolyn Crandall and Richard Bird below.
The LogRhythm Labs team
An insider will manipulate AI to wrongly put an innocent person in prison: Because people train artificial intelligence (AI), AI adopts the same human biases we thought it would ignore. However, this hasn’t stopped the legal system from employing it. Just last year, a judge ordered Amazon to turn over Echo recordings in a double murder case. With AI already primed to make biased decisions based on the information it receives, an insider could exploit this to feed it false information to more directly implicate someone of a crime. In making AI more human, the likelihood that it makes mistakes will increase.
The U.S. election will definitely be hacked and influenced: After the revelation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, election tampering is at the forefront of the news as we approach the 2020 elections. Hackers (nation state or others) won’t have to do much more than infiltrate the system – or make it seems like they’ve infiltrated the system – to undermine people’s confidence in the election and exacerbate the current state of turmoil.
We’ll see the consequences of increased adoption of biometrics: Before we see adequate regulation and security to protect biometric data, there are going to be some unlucky people whose biometric information is stolen and used for repeat fraud. If your credit card details are stolen, you can easily change your account number. But what if your face gets stolen? Once that information is compromised, there’s no swapping it out. Before the industry catches up and understands how to properly protect it, we’re going to see the consequences of the increased adoption of biometrics.
Iran’s offensive cyber operations will grow at a faster rate than China’s: While China has been seen as one of the top nation state threats in recent year, we’re going to see Iran outpace the country in 2020. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have increased since the multiple incidents seen over the summer, and unlike China, Iran doesn’t have formal diplomatic relations with the U.S. It’s also not a big trade partner. Combined, these factors mean they have less to lose.
Quantum computing will break out of the lab and see use by users and threat actors alike: Google’s “Sycamore” project was heralded as a breakthrough for quantum computing earlier this year. And while we’re certainly still far off from the advanced quantum computing that could change the way we perform standard cryptography; we are already seeing quantum computing make its way into the mainstream. For example, Microsoft announced its new Azure Quantum service, which will soon allow select customers to run quantum code and use quantum hardware. These developments in quantum computing will likely have a significant impact on modern AI as well, helping to speed up AI’s data analysis and subsequent decision making. And by offering quantum technology to the masses, we’re sure to see an uptick in the development, adoption, and usefulness of quantum and modern AI throughout 2020 – both among legitimate users and malicious hackers.
Deepfakes will become convenient scapegoats: Hackers have successfully been using deepfakes to impersonate executives to get large sums of money transferred to them. But in 2020, deepfakes will become a tool for not just hackers; regular people will start using them — but not to steal. Instead, we’ll see “deepfake as a defense” — a convenient scapegoat to avoid professional or even legal repercussions.
Carolyn Crandall, Chief Marketing Officer at Attivo Networks
2020 will be the year of API connectivity. Driven by the need for on-demand services and automation, there will be a surge in requirements for the use of technology that interconnects through APIs. Vendors that don’t interconnect may find themselves passed over for selection in favour of others with API access that add value to existing solutions.
DevOps capabilities will continue to increase their significance in moving projects to products, as more organisations fully embrace DevOps each year. This will drive an increased awareness of security risks and put an additional focus on DevSecOps and how open-source software is managed within projects.
We will begin to see more examples of the theft of encrypted data as cybercriminals begin to stockpile information in preparation for the benefits of quantum-computing where traditional encryption will become easy to crack. The advances in quantum computing that Google has recently published bring this possibility closer to becoming reality.
Significant issues will surface around the lack of adequate detection of threats that have bypassed prevention defences. To combat this, in 2020, we will see the addition of deception technology into security framework guidelines, compliance requirements, and as a factor in cyber insurance premiums and coverage.
Richard Bird, Chief Customer Officer at Ping Identity
Authentication Means Everything: With the recent and continued failings of companies to secure customer access, 2020 will likely see the rise of large-scale multi-factor authentication adoption by enterprises and consumers. Companies who are truly looking to protect their customers and most importantly their revenues, will embrace higher forms of authentication to achieve those ends.
America Gets Serious: The U.S. is one of the few developed countries without a national data privacy standard. Not only is it hurting America economically and commercially, it has started to raise concerns relative to national security and the protection of American citizens. Congress will likely finally step up to address this gap and ideally take the lead by protecting more than just data, but the digital identities of all Americans.
Privacy and Security Become Competitive Advantages: In 2019 we saw the very beginnings of commercial enterprises promoting their privacy and security practices to their customers as a competitive advantage. In 2020, this trend will accelerate as companies begin to adjust to the new reality. A reality where more than 60% of customers hold companies responsible for protecting their data.
Rise of the Digital Identity: Digital identities were a thing of fiction just a few years ago. In 2020, commercial and government interests will begin to intersect as governments, as well as various sectors of business (ie: financial services, social media, healthcare) rush to build “digital identity standards”. Some standards will be built with the needs of the consumer/citizen in mind, but time will tell if others attempt to capitalise and commercialise the value of these digital identities.
Consumers and Citizens' Patience Runs Out: In 2019 consumers and citizens began to voice their concerns over companies' repeated data breaches and security failures that have exposed their data, finances, families and services to greater and greater risks. In 2020, we’ll see true and substantial consequences for organisations that do not keep their customers, employees, partners and citizens safe in the digital world. With over 80% of consumers reporting they would stop engaging with a brand online following a data breach, it's clear that people are ready to walk away from companies that can’t get identity and security right.
To round out this year’s CX predictions, Steve Singer and Angelique Medina take a broad global look at AI, security and present us with a few more potential news headlines. Specifically, how AI will permeate our lives even more to how we'll see more DNS snafus and internet blackouts as outdated systems try to cope with the unchecked proliferation of cat videos.
Steve Singer, ANZ Country Manager at Talend
Open source technologies will spur multi-cloud adoption: Open source technologies enable a common environment across different cloud environments because they are cloud agnostic, and easy to run. The ability to accommodate an array of applications and host them in any cloud or open source containers will help spur multi-cloud adoption. Public cloud providers; like Azure ARC, Google Anthos and Amazon Outposts; will leverage multi-cloud deployments powered by their stacks. While the use case is still rare today, the movement will pick up in 2020, as more enterprises realise the capabilities of open source technologies in cloud environments.
AI, the delicate balance between human and automation: With the rise of automation to carry out day to day business functions, leveraging AI to augment human capabilities will continue to be a delicate balance. Whether being used to automate repetitive tasks (data prep, etc.) or connecting pipelines through contextual information from you and your peers, AI will begin to infiltrate all areas of business functions.
Data Responsibility, Data Sovereignty, & Increased Data Governance Regulations: 2020 will bring an even stronger need to trace everything you do with your data as GDPR and the newly implemented CCPA are carried out. There are a number of new data privacy regulations popping up around the US and 2020 shows no signs of slowing down. This will make it more important than ever for companies to have a clear way to account for every bit of data they house, down to how it was obtained, to protect everyone who touched it.
A trend toward using best of breed technologies for enterprise cloud deployments: Rather than consolidation, organisations will look to best of breed cloud technologies to provide the services that they need for their enterprise deployments. The agility provided through the flow and exchange of data across companies will become more critical as organisations are looking to optimise their operations and maximise ROI. We will see a trend of the top cloud providers joining forces to house their applications in each other’s environments.
Organisations are going to double down on enriching their customer experiences this upcoming year: More and more brand interactions are happening through digital services so it’s paramount that companies find ways to improve updates and deliver new products and services faster than they have every have before. This will lead many to adopt a modern cloud native mindset that promotes containerised deployments using modern mini/microservice architectures that are developed and managed using the latest DevOps methodologies, ensuring businesses have the speed and agility required to keep up with their competition.
Angelique Medina, ThousandEyes Product Marketing DirectorThousandEyes Fearless Forecast: 2020 Predictions
The ‘Splinternet’ becomes more splintered: In 2019, Russia passed its ‘Sovereign Internet’ law to block off its Internet from the rest of the world, and Iran implemented a near-total Internet shutdown. In 2020, this “Splinternet” trend of a fragmented Internet will accelerate, as more countries will attempt to create restrictions of their Internet using government control overflows of traffic and internet-based services. The most likely candidates to extend these restrictions? Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Saudi Arabia.
A Chinese ISP causes major global collateral damage: The Great Firewall doesn’t just isolate Internet users in China, the way many people think. A major Chinese ISP will demonstrate the impact of Chinese government censorship far beyond its borders, as hundreds of sites and services around the world get knocked offline for a significant period of time as a result of routing policies meant to only impact users within China.
DNS Snafus will be responsible for the most outages in 2020: Many things can be responsible for future outages, including natural disasters, attacks or even simple human errors. Attacks are also a major cause of outages. DNS is a fragile infrastructure that is often overlooked and has been a target for major attacks. Past DNS attacks such as Dyn have had a huge blast radius causing widespread outages, creating a devastating impact on businesses. BGP is another weak point in the fabric of the Internet that has been subject to past attacks. User error, such as “fat fingering” can also result in outages, as well as internal misconfigurations or infrastructure failures, with symptoms that manifest themselves on the network layer. BGP-related outages caused major collateral damage in 2019, leading many ISPs to adopt better Internet routing security measures, which will dramatically decline these issues in 2020. Similarly, DDoS attacks will decline overall, particularly in the US and Europe. Ironically, often overlooked DNS services may be ripe for a major service disruption or compromise that could cause ripple effects across the wider Internet.
The Internet becomes more important than ever before: This may seem like a no-brainer, but as the cloud has become the new data center and the Internet is the new network, the number of enterprises that rely on the cloud (insert Gartner metric here) increases every year, so does the reliance by the world’s biggest brands to keep their businesses online and keep the revenue chugging in. Fortunately, faster remediation of service outages improves the overall quality and performance of the global Internet, making worldwide connectivity more reliable than ever.
Backbone networks increase dramatically: As the amount of Internet traffic grows by the minute with every TikTok video, business traffic is competing against cat videos on a network that it wasn’t designed for. Just as the ThousandEyes Cloud Performance Benchmark report found Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure preferring to use their own private backbone networks (with AWS and IBM also offering this option), we’ll see more SaaS companies and cloud-based service providers creating private backbone networks to optimise their own network traffic instead of relying on the unpredictable public Internet.
Phew! You made it to the end. It’s not all fire and brimstone. Although, certainly some of the predictions above may paint a dreary picture, I reckon this is largely a period of growing pains in the Customer Experience space as we (customers, businesses and government) collectively come to terms with managing security in an increasingly connected digital world. And let’s keep in mind that although it’s easy to suggest that government needs to step in to establish rules and ethics for AI or that businesses need better security measures surrounding our personal data, the simple fact is that even the microcosm of the average family household are struggling to figure out what their kids are doing online. We all need to step up and be responsible for our own digital security. Organisations need to realise that Digital Transformation Strategy is a living strategy that will evolve as the channels evolve and as customer needs change.
Stayed tuned in January 2020 as the Fifth Quadrant team release their predictions for 2020 and for the road ahead to 2030.
Have a safe and prosperous 2020 and be nice to each other! ~B
Brad Arsenault - Marketer
Fifth Quadrant conducts innovative CX research that empowers Australian organisations across a range of verticals to stay ahead of curve. To learn how we can help your business improve its CX in the decade ahead, contact us today.