Will this be the year of the engagement platform?
Not so long ago, the customer experience was an afterthought for the majority of business leaders. A great customer experience happened almost by chance when your employees chose to go above and beyond for a client, or a good go-to-market decision paid off. Now, customer experience is the foundation of all business growth and ongoing success.
Today, every important business discussion generally includes some reference to the value of customer experience, and what teams can do to preserve high levels of satisfaction. By the end of next year (2022), global CX technology spending is set to reach $641 billion, and a huge 87% of business leaders now define CX as their leading growth engine.
So, what does it mean to ensure good CX both now, and in the future? As we look towards 2022, following two complexes, and unpredictable years, what do we need to keep in mind to serve the needs of our evolving customers? Here are my predictions.
A great customer experience begins with the right customer service team. The people we rely on to serve and delight clients today have changed somewhat since 2020. The post-pandemic world is increasingly made up of more distributed specialists, working from hybrid environments to deal with more complex customer problems.
In this new arena, the discussion of “humans vs bots” has evolved to become “humans with bots”. The brands driving the best outcomes in CX are the ones capable of combining automation and intelligent tools with human creativity and empathy. Technology can be a valuable tool for enhancing agent performance, which subsequently improves customer experience. In an environment where agents are working from anywhere, free from the traditional constraints contact centres once had, we need to find new ways of empowering modern workers.
Complemented with smart technology, agents can access information in an instant, create more personalised experiences for customers, and deliver omnichannel service, all while collaborating with a global team.
One thing I and many others have noticed in the last couple of years, is companies are beginning to recognise just how much employee experience influences the customer experience. The two concepts are intrinsically connected. If your employees don’t have a good experience when it comes to finding information and completing crucial tasks, they can’t deliver an excellent outcome to customers.
When the pandemic hit, many brands began to notice just how important it is to ensure employees have everything they need to be as productive and efficient as possible. CX suffered temporarily in the pandemic, as agents didn’t have the right tools available to enable hybrid work. Fortunately, companies are now beginning to focus more on creating happy, supported, and empowered employees. Going forward, this will drive higher investment in easy-to-use tools, flexible workplace environments (like Teams), and solutions that help managers to supervise distributed staff.
Every year, it seems that customers are becoming more and more demanding. 80% of customers say they consider the experience provided by a company to be just as important as its products and services. A further 66% of clients say they expect companies to understand their needs and expectations from day one.
In a world of rapid digital transformation, your customers now expect answers to their problems in an instant, and they want to access the help they need on the channels they like – no excuses. Not only are your customers more demanding, but they’re less forgiving too. There are countless alternative brands for clients to switch to if they’re unhappy with your service. Customers aren’t taking any prisoners. In exchange for their loyalty, your clients expect service to be on par with the most impressive CX strategies they’ve encountered – in any industry.
This increase in expectations means agents need to be able to access information quickly, collaborate with team leaders, and source help from specialists quickly if they’re going to ensure customer satisfaction stays high.
Salesforce says 52% of customers now expect offers and services to always be personalised, an increase from 49% in 2019. Gradually, the demand for more relevant, personal experiences is increasing, because your customers know you have the tools required to deliver customised moments.
Artificial Intelligence can easily collect huge amounts of information about a customer during a conversation, leverage details from CRM software for agents, and even deliver context to conversations. There’s no excuse for generic experiences. Showing you understand your customer’s pain points and tailoring your service to suit them will improve the trust and loyalty displayed towards your brand.
The most important thing to remember here is you need to use the data available to you effectively. Get permission to collect information from your customers. Make sure you’re sharing data between clouds securely and carefully when creating consistent experiences. Finding the right balance between personalised and creepy can be tough here. For instance, social media and voice assistants can help with collecting information, but customers don’t like the idea of feeling “spied on”.
Interactional and conversational analytics need to be accessed with care, or you risk scaring clients away.
As customer service trends continue to evolve, customers are becoming increasingly enamoured by the potential of self-service. We’re living in a world where the digital natives have taken over, and they’re all confident using tools and technology to solve their own problems. The majority of your customers rely on their tech to research tools and decide what they’re going to buy. They’re happy to stick with the same services when they have a problem to solve.
Around 91% of customers say they would use an online knowledge base if it was tailored to their needs, and around 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. If you’re not offering self-service solutions already, you could be missing out on increased customers satisfaction.
Make sure you plan your self-service strategy carefully. Intelligent virtual agents and machine learning tools are excellent for enabling this avenue, as they can operate 24/7 and become increasingly effective over time. People are becoming more comfortable with the idea of speaking to bots too, provided they’re tried, tested, and capable of delivering real help.
Video is yet another trend that began taking hold over the past two years, but still has additional growing to do. The appetite for video in the contact centre is greater than ever. Companies are relying on video tools to bring teams together so they can have contextual discussions about complex customer issues and solve problems in real-time.
However, the video doesn’t have to be a tool exclusively used for collaboration. The rise of programmable CCaaS and SDKs are paving the way to more video enabled workflows which involves serving customers and clients through video too. Zoom, one of the market leaders in video-first communication, recently released its own video engagement centre to serve this trend.
Success in the contact centre and CX environment of the future could require a deeper investment in emotional, meaningful, and immersive video interactions.
Finally, consolidation and partnerships seem to be particularly common trends in the communication industry. As the landscape grows more complex, vendors are discovering how difficult it is to provide a full end-to-end solution for every customer. This means we’re starting to see more companies fusing their technology with other best-in-class providers.
Microsoft Teams, among other leading brands for team collaboration and UCaaS, are likely to continue fusing their offering with other solutions to build more extensive toolkits. We’ll see UCaaS, and CCaaS coming together like Yin and Yang, to empower next-gen CX.
With better connections between CCaaS and UCaaS, it will be easier for tomorrow’s customer support and service agents to access the specialist knowledge and guidance they need from back-end professionals at the moment, enabling a better level of customer service.
It’s hard to know for certain what the future holds in any industry, but I can definitely see several trends making their impact on the CX environment right now. In my view, the future of CX will be personal, automated, and intelligent. Customer interactions will shift beyond the contact centre, and engagement platforms will become the new heart of the CX landscape.
Companies will also have to recognise just how diverse the customer journey is becoming, with new channels and modes of communication appearing all the time.
Agents will need to get accustomed to working alongside bots, and companies will need to be prepared to evolve at the same speed of their customer’s expectations. The brands ready to make the transition will have endless opportunities ahead.
Watch out for CX Awards 2022 in February 2022, our debut event that will be celebrating the leading leaders from across the customer experience technology landscape.
Celebrate the leading CX Technology vendors at CX Awards 2022 – register to attend here
We’ve got an even better line-up of CX focus topics for the year ahead, here’s the 2022 editorial calendar:
Plus, for vendors in the CX technology space, we have a range of enhanced media opportunities. To find out more, request our media kit.