The 7 definite trends to transform customer experience in 2018

From hyper personalisation to the hybrid workforce, here are the top CX trends to incorporate in your strategy in 2018.




We may be almost midway through the year already, but we haven’t taken our eyes of the 2018 trend watch here at CX Network. While it’s important to look further in the future too – the elusive 2020 being not that far away any more – by only doing that you risk missing what’s under your nose right here and now.  

There are disrupters, innovations and trends ensure sure you don’t lag behind. To make life easier, we’ve compiled a handy list of short-term trends that are impacting CX now. And it’s up to you to make sure you’re incorporating them in your 2018 strategy and beyond.

SEE ALSO: The Global State of Customer Experience 2018 [annual survey]

1. Customer expectations will keep rising

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of CX practitioners cite ‘rising customer expectations’ as one of the top three industry trends in The Global State of Customer Experience 2017. And customer demands are most definitely on the rise. Not only do your customers now want an emotional connection with your brand to stay loyal, they also expect each interaction to require minimum effort on their part and maximum output on your end.

After all, if at the push of a button they can order a product from an online retailer to arrive at their doorstep the next day – with clear communication and tracking along the way – it’s not unreasonable for them to assume that other organisations can deliver an equally efficient and quick service. And if they don’t get this, they will take their business elsewhere.

Customers don’t know that there might be legacy systems and processes in the way of creating such an optimised service. So to keep customers happy and loyal, all organisations need to figure out how they can keep up with the customer experience standards set by the industry disrupters – and make the necessary internal changes to make it happen sooner rather than later.

 

Customers now want an emotional connection with your brand to stay loyal.


2. Hyper-personalisation at every touch point

Personalisation is one of the biggest ways in which customer expectations have risen in recent years and hyper-personalisation takes this to the next level by utilising data and analytics for (near) real-time personalisation.

As customers are inundated with multi-media content and advertising wherever they look, it has become more important than ever to not add to the irrelevant noise but to stand out from the crowd. Mass emails are a thing of the past, to get real value out of each customer engagement it’s now all about relevancy. This means you have to segment your customers and target them at a near individual level.

Machine learning can help with this level of personalisation as well, just look at Spotify who have made it the basis for their entire platform. And hyper-personalisation doesn’t only mean looking at the right kind of content, but also where and when you share this with your customers. You have to be visible in the right channel at the right time, for each of your customers.

And by 2020, a majority of 51 per cent of consumers expect companies to go even one step further and anticipate their needs to make relevant suggestions before they make contact.

To get real value out of each customer engagement it’s now all about relevancy.


3. Turning customer data into action

The key to driving better engagement and personalisation is better use of customer data. Most companies now have established processes in place to capture data and have a wealth of customer knowledge available at their fingertips.

But it’s actually utilising this to the fullest and turning insights into action that is the more challenging aspect. The key here is to collect data with the end in mind, rather than capturing information just for the sake of it. You also need to keep it as simple as possible and only choose the most relevant indicators.

In addition to capturing data from your customers, another way to enhance your data and fill in any insight gaps you may have is through the use of predictive analysis. This approach looks at existing data and patterns to predict future trends through techniques such as machine learning and data mining.

While this was a development very much in the early stages for many organisations last year – with only tech giants such as Google using machine learning extensively – this has now become a much bigger part of the landscape. The Google development team have even released a mobile version of their open-source machine learning software TensorFlow.

The key to driving better engagement and personalisation is better use of customer data.


4. Omni-channel to conquer… at last

It’s important to offer customers a multitude of contact channels, so they can choose the one they’re most comfortable with. However, while we predicted that omni-channel would trump multi-channel in 2017, this wasn’t quite the case yet.

Multi-channel refers to offering the customer a choice of channels, whereas omni-channel takes this further by ensuring there is a consistent and seamless movement from one touch point to the next. For this to be a success you need to have a clear insight strategy, as your customer data will form the basis of creating that integrated experience across multiple touch points.

The Global State of Customer Experience 2017 shows that the majority of organisations are currently split between having just one or two channels in place and so having a multi channel model, with just 9 per cent agreeing they already have a consistent and seamless omni-channel experience.

However, the plan for the year ahead is encouraging with 49 per cent of businesses aiming to offer their customers a multitude of channel choices and 32 per cent planning to achieve a true omni-channel model. So while omni-channel didn’t mature in 2017, for 2018 the outlook is much more positive.

Omni-channel ensures there is a consistent and seamless movement from one touch point to the next.


5. Social media as a powerful CX tool

One of the newer touch points that have grown out of the multi-channel model is social media. This includes platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even Snapchat. They provide a real-time connection with the customer that can feel very personal and intimate, but they do come with their own unique challenges and opportunities to creating a desired customer experience.

While social media has become an incredibly powerful tool for CX, it can also be a tricky one. It provides a very public outlet for customers who are frustrated with a business and want to be heard, and so it’s imperative to constantly monitor your channels. The trick is to make sure that negative feelings are turned into positive ones by resolving a customer issue with care and efficiency.

You also shouldn’t just solve any issues swiftly if a customer complains via the public medium of social. Instead, you need to deliver a similar experience across traditional lines of communication such as web and phone too and not make social purely your customer’s final resort.

 

While social media has become an incredibly powerful tool for CX, it can also be a tricky one.


6. The next level of AI: The hybrid workforce

At a recent artificial intelligence conference an interesting question was asked: are you Team Terminator or Team Iron Man? In other words, do you fear AI and believe the doom and gloom future that they’ll first take all of our jobs before they will take over the world? Or do you have a more positive outlook and think that it can actually help us to become better at what we do?

We’re very much in Team Iron Man here at CX Network and see the machines as partners rather than future overlords. Sure there are examples of AI having to be shut down because they start communicating with one another in their own language, but that’s just some early-stage hiccups, right? Ultimately, a hybrid workforce can be a good thing because machines can take over tasks that are repetitive and dull or even dangerous to perform by their human counterparts.

The biggest conundrum for customer experience at the moment is finding the right balance between live agents and AI. It’s not about replacing humans with robots, but instead about building a mutually beneficial relationship. The AI can analyse endless streams of data and interactions at super speed to identify potential actions and desired outcomes, and this is then presented as a suggestion to a human colleague who will take the next steps. This is called the human-in-the-loop approach.

 

Machines can take over tasks that are repetitive and dull or even dangerous to perform by their human counterparts.

 

7. The rise of the intelligent enterprise

So the next stage of artificial intelligence is one prediction for 2018, but we’re taking this one step further and also predict the rise of the entire intelligent enterprise (IE). We use this term to refer to the suite of new technologies that are revolutionising how companies operate, both internally and externally, which includes AI alongside machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA) and data analysis procedures such as predictive analytics and cognitive computing.

Our research into IE and how it’ll impact customer experience for our AI 2020: The Future of Customer Experience report, found that 36 per cent of businesses are already at the beginning/planning phase of their IE journey. But in less than two years – by 2020 – more than half (53 per cent) of organisations anticipate their AI operations will be “established”.

It’s obvious that AI will be a primary focus in the next few years. There is a general sense of optimism about the impact it will have, with 82 per cent of CX leaders saying they are “excited” about the impact of IE and – tellingly given the ominous drumbeat of foreboding in the mass media – only 8 per cent feel “worried” about the impending changes.

AI will be a primary focus in the next few years.


This article is an excerpt from our Customer Experience Predictions for 2018 report. Click the banner below to download the full report.

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