Ten emerging trends in customer experience management
Gautam Borah, VP of Vodafone Idea pinpoints a series of trends shaping the future of customer experience management.
Customer experience management
Leaning on his primary research and pragmatic field experience, CX Network Advisory Board member Gautam Borah, author, speaker and VP of customer operations at Vodafone Idea Ltd pinpoints a series of industry agnostic trends set to impact the future of customer experience management.
The Mozart in the machine
Recently, I have gleaned some insights from diversified unanticipated sources that seemingly defining the innards of the future landscape of business.
The first is a write-up from Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of World Economic Forum delineating the traits of the fourth industrial revolution. According to him: ‘now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.’1
The second is the book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harrari. The book mentions a remarkable day, December 17, 2017 when Google’s AlphaZero program defeated Stockfish 8 in a game of chess. The interesting fact was Stockfish 8 was the world’s computer chess champion in 2016 and could calculate 70 million chess positions per second. In contrast, AlphaZero had learnt chess principles using the principles of machine learning, that too in mere four hours.2 It is expected that big data and artificial intelligence (AI) enabled by the application of digital technologies could affect fifty percent of the world economy.3 Similarly, cross-border flows of digitally transmitted data accounted for one third of increase of global GDP in 2014 and is still on the increase.
In fact the tagline of this section, which I picked up from the above mentioned book by Yuval Noah Harrari, summarizes the digital landscape of future - machines will cross the border of logic into the region of intuition.
So, how will this maturing landscape impact customer experience management?
Here I outline emerging trends that one can expect in customer experience management in the next few years. These trends are industry agnostic and so are likely to impact businesses irrespective of the industry they belong to.
1. A connected and powerful customer is emerging
Connectedness will push the boundaries of customer requirements at an exponential rate. This is seen in the fact that the majority of today’s individuals own mobiles. In a world population of 7.7 billion, there are more than 5.1 billion unique mobile users and 4.3 billion internet users. By 2022, there will be 1.5 billion IoT devices with cellular connections.4 As more individuals across the globe gain internet access, especially those seeing a growth in disposable incomes, brands will be forced to keep raising standards for online customer experiences if they want to hold a competitive edge.
- Digital age customers are impatient and know what they want
This connectedness is encouraging the customer to dwell in the zone of impatience because of the countless options they have at their fingertips. If your brand is not hitting the mark for them, another brand certainly will. It is understood that 29 per cent of smartphone users will switch to another app or website if they fail to find what they are looking for within three seconds.5 When customers have a desired concept in mind, they are unlikely to settle for anything less.
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- Customization will be key for the segment of one
As customers become less willing to settle for anything that is not a complete match for their expectations, firms will have to shift focus to product individualization. This will be similar to what I dub as a ‘patient model’ when each patient in a medical center requires different types of care. This level of customization has been referred to as N=1 by C K Prahalad, meaning that firms will have to tailor products and communication efforts to individual preferences.6
- Customer service will define brand choice
The years to come will see customers decide on a particular brand depending on the quality of the service provided. Already 26 per cent of customers surveyed are happy to pay a premium for a service which is AI assisted, guarantees quick resolution and offers direct access to humans.7 According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer 2017 8, customer service is becoming more of a deal-breaker in buying decisions. As per the survey, the top three countries with customers that refused to buy a product because of bad customer service were India (66 per cent), Singapore (66 per cent) and Mexico (63 per cent).
- Real-time responsiveness will be crucial for service excellence
While conversion rates on mobiles have increased significantly in recent years, average time spent per session by consumers has, in fact, reduced by 18 per cent. This implies that the consumer journey is shifting from sessions to spurts, often referred to as micro moments.5 Success within micro moments will depend on the creation of relevant and personalized real time experiences in the right moments. This trend will transform the battleground for market share as it becomes an ultimate necessity in customer experience for brands: to be there, be useful and be quick5.
- Big data and strong analytics will be key to build efficiency
Real-time responsiveness will rely on businesses having the capability to process a huge influx of data almost instantly. Analytics orientation will mature from a horizontal view – touch point based to a holistic view – lifecycle based. In this context, big data will be applied in four stages:
Data is collected from relevant touch points and interactions > data is then processed and analyzed in conjunction with historical data > the extraction and rollout of actionable insights > measuring impact.
- Digital channels will gradually outshine traditional CX channels
Recent research suggests that 87 per cent of smartphone users keep their phone by their side at any time and 91 per cent often turn to their phones for ideas even in the middle of another task.5 This tiny, portable gadget is gradually becoming an integral part of many lives and more people will use it to make informed buying decisions. Owing to this, traditional channels like call centers could be gradually pushed into oblivion by the faster and effective means of service like Conversational UI and app based solutions.
- AI will bring about accuracy and speed in CX
It is important to be cognizant of the fact that AI is not a single technology, rather it refers to discrete technologies or platforms which individually or in combination can add intelligence to applications. There are five ways AI will turbo charge customer experiences9:
- Increased efficiency,
- Reduced friction,
- Enhanced customer empowerment,
- Proactive action
- Pre-emptive service.
One example being the application of AI to empower businesses to pre-empt customer complaints, so they can resolve situations before they even occur.
- Companies will shift from resolution to relationship
A recent study saw consumers agree that query resolution has the power to overturn brand loyalty. While surfing the web, 65 per cent of respondents flagged they are purely focused on locating the desired information regardless of the company that provides the answer.5 This insinuates the transient nature of the brand-customer relationship with consumers being more preoccupied with ‘What’ rather than ‘Who’. This exposes the need for firms to invest in strengthening the value of the relationships they provide to customers rather than being seen as just a firm that provides a solution. This is where predictive modelling fit with AI and analytics will play a part to lock in sustainable customer loyalty.
- Companies will have to repair the skill gap
In the face of impressive technological progression over recent years, many businesses are encountering a skill mismatch in their staff bases that will only widen. Soon, the quantum of mismatch will be overwhelming. In addition to technical knowledge, requirements for cognitive and emotional intelligence in business are projected to increase by eight per cent in 2022 and 30 per cent by 2030 10. To provide the pre-emptive experiences and proactive care that customers desire, and will soon come to expect, firms need to have a structured focus to bridge the skill gap or risk losing market share to more agile peers.
Remember, adapt to survive
The winds of change in the digital space are fast turning into a whistling tempest. The critical mission for businesses is to adapt in meaningful ways to stay relevant and drive value for customers in the moments that matter to them.
To conclude, I quote 18th Century poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to exemplify the imperative for the organizations to stay relevant:
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If winter comes, can spring be far behind.
The views expressed in the article are of the author’s and do not reflect the views of anyone else including the organization he is working for.
Schwab, Klaus, World Economic Forum (2016): The Fourth Industrial Revolution – What it means, how to respond : Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/
Harrari Yuval Noah (2018): Monetising Innovation: Penguin Random House, London p. 31
Chaturvedi Ravi, Bhalla Ajay, Chakravorti Bhaskar (2017): These are the world’s most digitally advanced countries: World Economic Forum
Ericsson: Internet of Things Forecast : Available at: https://www.ericsson.com/en/mobility-report/internet-of-things-forecast
Adams Laura, Burkholder Elizabeth, Hamilton Katie : Micro-Moments – Your Guide to Winning the shift to Mobile :Google
Prahalad C K, Krishnan M S (2008): New Age of Innovation, Driving Co-created Value Through Global Networks, Mc-Graw Hill
PWC (2018) : Artificial Intelligence in India – Hype or Reality
American Express Global Customer Barometer, 2017
Legget Kate (2017) : How AI will Transform Customer Service : Forrester
McKinsey Global Institute (2018) : Automation and Future of the Workforce