The CX frontier: How future technologies are redefining the customer experience
By Maya Mort, Enterprise Architect
In the fast-paced world of customer service, organisations are constantly facing new challenges and opportunities. Customer expectations are ever-evolving and it’s clear that priorities have changed.
According to Zendesk’s Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report 2023, 72% of customers want immediate service, 70% expect anyone they have interacted with to have the full context, 62% think experiences should flow naturally between physical and digital spaces and a further 62% agree personalised recommendations are better than general ones.
With these demands, organisations can’t afford to fall behind competitors in keeping up with fast-paced, personalised and seamless digital experience strategies. So what is the future of CX and what can businesses do to ensure they meet the needs of customers, and secure their loyalty?
Key challenges in customer service
One of the primary challenges is the effective implementation of customer self-service. Both customers and businesses desire more self-service options due to the benefits it provides, but according to Gartner’s leadership vision for customer service and support 2023, nearly half (49%) of customers abandon self-service because the information was either lacking or didn’t meet their needs.
The reality is that many customers end up seeking assistance through live chat or phone calls due to lacking or unsatisfactory information in self-service channels. Organisations are thus prioritising the enhancement of customer self-service to reduce reliance on assisted channels and improve overall customer satisfaction.
Another critical challenge is empowering customer service (CS) agents to provide value in interactions. We know that working in the customer service domain isn’t exactly an easy ride due to CS agents often dealing with customers when they are facing issues or dissatisfaction. This demands a delicate balance of problem-solving and emotional support which can be taxing.
Additionally, the complexity of customer service systems can hinder efficient operations and frustrate both agents and customers. According to research, CS agents need on average seven systems to do their job well, with at least three to four systems needed to handle a typical issue from end-to-end, increasing to five for difficult issues. This simply isn’t effective. The number of systems and tools CS agents need to access slows down response times, frustrates both agents and customers and ultimately results in poor CX.
Exciting customer servicing trends
Forward-thinking companies have started shifting their perception of customer service from a mere cost centre to a critical driver of customer loyalty and revenue. Organisations that recognise the value of CX and invest in enhancing support interactions can foster customer loyalty, and in turn, drive retention and profits. Adopting a value-driven mindset, and treating customer support as an investment in customer relationships, engagement, and data, can unlock untapped potential.
Another exciting trend is the adoption of total experience (TX) strategies, which prioritise improving both CX and employee experience (EX). Traditionally, organisations have prioritised CX, but are now realising that EX is just as vital for success. By considering these facets as part of a singular experience and utilising technology to empower both customers and employees, organisations can create superior and seamless interactions.
So, with new challenges and trends emerging in the CX space, what are some of the key technologies that could change the face of the industry in the near future?
One key technology enabler in the realm of CX is knowledge management (KM) technology. KM technology is crucial in a customer service environment, enabling faster response times and enhancing both customer and agent experiences. Modern KM systems are enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), which ensures content accuracy and relevance. AI algorithms can suggest new content based on customer queries and provide on-the-spot contextual knowledge to assist agents in real-time conversations.
Conversational AI, including virtual agents, has revolutionised customer support interactions. Virtual agents powered by AI can understand user intent, learn from data, and continuously improve, providing more comprehensive and personalised support to customers.
Asynchronous messaging channels, such as WhatsApp and social media messaging, have also gained popularity for customer support. These channels enable more efficient and convenient interactions, allowing customers to engage with organisations at their preferred time and pace. Expanding into modern asynchronous messaging channels whilst also taking advantage of conversational AI and automated bots enables companies to keep customers engaged with relevant responses or automated actions, concluding the conversation without the need for human agent handoffs.
Unstructured data – such as customer emails and chat messages – has traditionally posed challenges in automating responses. However, advances in natural language processing (NLP) have given rise to AI-driven email automation solutions. These solutions use NLP text analysis to understand the email’s topic, sentiment, and context, extracting relevant information for quicker and more accurate responses.
Another technology enabler that’s reshaping CX is omni-channel technology. This approach allows organisations to integrate various communication channels into a single interface, providing a seamless and personalised CX. By adopting an omnichannel approach, businesses can enhance customer satisfaction, gain better insights into customer behaviour, and identify opportunities for improved customer service strategies.
Cloud-based call centres have emerged as a game-changer in customer support operations. Offering scalability, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility, these systems allow organisations to adapt to seasonal swings in call volume and easily hire remote agents. Additionally, cloud-based call centres facilitate easy integrations with other business applications, enhancing overall efficiency.
Voice of the customer (VoC) technologies play a pivotal role in understanding customer needs, preferences, and expectations. By regularly capturing customer feedback from various touchpoints, organisations gain valuable insights to enhance service interactions and improve customer satisfaction. Emerging VoC technologies, such as feedback management platforms, sentiment analysis software, and customer journey mapping tools, provide actionable insights in real-time, empowering businesses to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to transform customer support by providing proactive and predictive service. Businesses can receive real-time data from connected devices, allowing them to address issues before they escalate, offer personalised experiences, and effectively track goods in transit.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies offer exciting possibilities too. They enable product visualisations, immersive experiences, remote support, and coaching service agents, providing customers with better engagement and assistance. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.
Another one to watch is blockchain technology. This has the potential to enhance CX by providing secure and transparent transactions, improving payment processing, tracking goods, and enabling the use of smart contracts. These applications streamline processes and build trust with customers.
Businesses should also be prepared for the rise of machine customers, which introduces new dynamics in marketing and selling. Machines make logical and data-driven decisions, and organisations need to adapt their strategies and business models to effectively cater to this new customer ecosystem.
Looking to the future
From AI-driven solutions to IoT-enabled devices and blockchain technology, the CX frontier presents exciting opportunities for organisations to elevate their customer service to new heights. By leveraging these technologies and embracing a customer-centric mindset, businesses can position themselves as leaders in the customer service industry, driving customer loyalty, retention, and long-term profitability