2016: Which way is the wind blowing?

Talk of market disruption is generally characterised in terms of David toppling Goliath: agility and flight of foot trump sheer heft.

While the analogy has some appeal it misses the point that these ‘disruptors’ are probably winning because they are closer to what consumers today really want. Larger organisations, by contrast, have to contend with organisational structures that don’t automatically foster responsiveness.

Brands in telecoms, utilities, financial services and beyond in 2016 have got to evolve both a keener sense of hearing, and the ability to respond to the clues they pick up. What does this look like in practice? Trendwatchers LS:N Global have coined the term Revelation Brands to describe the new dynamic between brands and consumers – the “revelation” being afforded through open-ended, unmanaged dialogue, rather than targeted, highly optimised interactions.

Smaller, younger organisations are better positioned to become revelation brands, but there are ways that larger organisations can play the disrupters at their own game. Here are six of them.

Service gets smarter

“Data” and “connectivity’ have long been buzzwords in tech and this is set to become further embedded in the world of customer service.

From real-time queue monitoring informing smarter staff allocation, to increasing connectivity between cards and mobile devices, alerting you to targeted offers based on previous purchases, data and connectivity will inform smarter service. This is being driven by consumer demand for speed and efficiency when interacting with organisations.

Even more channels to contend with

Consumer devices will become more connected than ever before. The demand on businesses will be to support this with what Gartner are calling, a new “continuous and ambient user experience”. That is to say, providing a consumer experience that is not just available across multiple channels and devices, but that moves seamlessly between them.

This requires intelligent use of customer data and, with almost half of consumers being suspicious of how their data is used by companies, the challenge here will be to temper these concerns through engagement and transparency on how this personal information is collected and used.

App madness and virtual assistants

From smartphones to smart watches, from apps to ApplePay, consumers will increasingly require support for new digital innovations as they continue to come thick and fast in 2016.

Businesses need to be able to handle any issues or unexpected side effects of these new devices or apps as efficiently as any other customer enquiry. To support this we expect to see the growth of ever smarter virtual assistants, joining the ranks of Siri, Cortana and Facebook’s M. It’s all about smarter engagement.

Slow death of the password

We can already see this in motion but the plethora of, and sharp rise in, fraud is resulting in a surge in improving security. But there is a fine balance to be struck between strengthening security while at the same time enhancing the user experience – additional layers of security seldom lead to the speed and efficiency consumers crave. Across devices, industries and organisations, progress is being made in harnessing the power of voice biometrics and authentication and 2016 will see this become increasingly mainstream.

Don’t alienate different generations

The rise of digital is often associated with younger generations and as GenZ (born late 1990s onwards) comes of age in 2016-2020, with a truly habitual affinity with digital concepts, peer-to-peer engagement and online communities. Brands need to ensure that they build key advocates in this space. However, with spending power still set to be largely owned by the established older generations, a single minded focus on GenZ could potentially alienate a core customer base that may be older – so a careful balance needs to be struck.

The oracle of reviews

Organisations everywhere are realising that nobody is better at engaging and supporting customers than other customers. Businesses need to ensure that happy customers contribute their positive feedback, helping to generate further business. To achieve this, they need to provide quick and easy means to do so. Removing barriers and reducing effort is crucial here.

And so ends our glimpse into what we can expect in 2016 from a customer service perspective. One thing we can be certain of is that digitalisation will continue to influence and change how businesses operate.

Though we cannot be sure of the specifics, we can get a sense of which direction the wind is blowing.

Rachel Lane, Director, Voice of the Customer Analytics EMEA and Michiel Lely, VP of Practices, EMEA at Verint Systems

Image source: Shutterstock/Bacho