Customer service disruptors: Four trends that will change how businesses engage with customers

We live in an age where technology has become a consistent driving force behind change. Technology is disrupting every aspect of our lives - from healthcare, banking and utilities, to human labour itself. As a result, global businesses have become extremely dependent on technology as they rely more heavily on automated systems, which aim to improve the overall customer experience, whilst increasing the business output.

Today’s UK consumers are not only aware of this technological transformation, but as a result, they’re expecting businesses to implement processes that will make their experiences easier and more personal. AO, a top online household appliances retailer, for example, selects its technology with this one philosophy in mind: ‘Everything we do revolves around our devotion to happiness and amazing customer service.’ Even though many businesses still overlook the impact of technology on the end-customer, we’re seeing an increasing number of companies like AO turn to sophisticated platforms that empower their customer to find the answers they’re looking for without having to ask in the first place.

In today’s customer-centric world, customer relationships are becoming everyone’s responsibility. One of the biggest challenges companies face in this new shared responsibility is the number of employees involved in handling customer interactions.

This challenge will drive the need for digital workstreams powered by converged systems that support customer engagement, communications and collaboration. And cloud computing will play a key role. These digital workstreams will not only help break down the barriers between the contact centre and the enterprise, but also between businesses and their partners and customers for faster response times and greater knowledge sharing.

Richard Brown, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Interactive Intelligence shares his predictions for the four most exciting trends that will disrupt customer service in 2016.

1. Mobile everything

The topic of mobility is nothing new in 2016, but customers, suppliers and consumers are fast anticipating the ability to do everything via a mobile device. In fact, nearly half of all inbound calls now come from mobile devices [1]. In 2016, developing apps for mobile devices will no longer be an afterthought but a mandate up front. The challenge will be to create an experience that ensures the context of the interaction is transferred as customers move from mobile apps to live interactions.

2. IoT expands the omnichannel experience

The explosive growth of device connectivity, wireless technology, cloud computing, and advanced analytics has driven the Internet of Things from vision to reality. Today, a full one-third of companies report using IoT, with another third planning to do so in 2016 [2]. But how do companies use IoT to improve customer service without creating yet another siloed channel? Best practices for connecting IoT platforms to the contact centre will be critical if companies want to create a seamless customer experience across all interaction channels.

3. Artificial Intelligence: machine learning hits prime time

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has seen explosive growth. Advanced speech analytics, which relies heavily on AI, has been used in the contact centre for years to monitor interactions and trigger alerts for intervention. More recent AI advancements have fueled the growth of machine learning. In fact, the global market for smart machines is set to grow to nearly $15.3 billion by 2019 at a 19.7 per cent growth rate (2014-2019 CAGR) [3]. Machine learning can help companies identify patterns and predict customer behaviour. Companies will increasingly use machine learning to proactively engage with customers and manage the contact centre in far more effective and intuitive ways, including the use of conversational bots that serve as virtual agents and supervisors.

4. Digital natives finally get sophisticated DIY customer service

As the influence of millennials on the purchase process increases, the demand for DIY customer service has skyrocketed. This need for more sophisticated self-service options (think Web, SMS and mobile) has left many companies scrambling to give millennials a true multimodal experience. Despite these challenges, opportunities abound, especially for UK startups and small to mid-size companies. These companies are typically more nimble than their larger counterparts – and many foster cultures that naturally embrace DIY - thus can adopt these strategies faster.

Richard Brown, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Interactive Intelligence

[1] Dawson, Keith. 2016 Trends to Watch: Contact Centers, Ovum, Oct. 20, 2015.
[2] Gillett, Frank E.; Pelino, Michele; Shields, Tyler. Predictions 2016: IoT’s Impact Inside Companies, Forrester Research, Nov. 16, 2015
[3] Smart Machines: Technologies and Global Markets, BCC Research, May 2014.