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Customer experience in 2016: Data, mobile and A.I.

2015 was another fascinating year in the field of technology - and particularly when it comes to my own field of expertise: the use of technology to improve customer experience (CX).

The introduction of Apple Pay in the UK saw mobile payments break into the mainstream. A whole raft of new smartwatch launches made them this year’s must-have gadget. After a brief interval, Moore’s Law also celebrated its 50th anniversary by resuming its steady march towards our Internet of Things future. After a year like that, it’s hard not to be excited about the future possibilities for technology and CX.

But what exactly does this future look like? Here are my predictions for CX in 2016:

  1. Data will raise its game

For many years, we’ve been hearing about the potential of big data to revolutionise business performance. This has happened to a point, but I believe that over the next year, data will raise its game to a whole new level as the gap between data collection and data analysis merges into a real-time feedback loop. What will the effect of this be? More efficiently run business and more precisely targeted marketing will make for more immediate, personalised customer experiences.

As an example, Apple Watch customers can look at their own health data at the push of a button. At the same time, their iPhones are able to locate them with increasingly precise GPS. Currently that GPS data is giving users localised information for their Siri requests, but what happens when younger millennials share their health and fitness data, like they do with their Venmo payments? Local sport shops, for example, could text these Apple Watch customers with special offers “rewarding” them the moment they hit their daily fitness goals.

That’s just one possible scenario, but you get the picture.

  1. The evolution of mobile will continue

While it may seem an obvious statement, the fact is mobile has dramatically altered the world around us and driven huge change in customer experience. In 2016, mobile experiences will evolve for customers in newly integrated ways.

After the introduction of Apple Pay, everyone’s now getting in on the mPayments craze. The popularity of mobile payments among businesses is a sign that they are realising the tremendous value inherent in customers carrying portable computers with them everywhere they go. The smartphone is not only now a digital wallet, but also an information and entertainment platform, GPS navigational tool, and all of the main customer engagement channels - voice, text, web, native app, email, social media, video - rolled into one.

It is now the primary way to reach and interact with one’s customers. And we’re going to be seeing more businesses designing integrated customer journeys accordingly. If your business isn’t already working on evolving your customers’ mobile experience in this way, why wait? If your retail store intends to accept mobile payments, then follow Starbucks’ lead and build your loyalty program around it.

Automatically email customers their receipts along with special offers. Offer them incentives for posting about their experience on social media. Create a fast, optimised mobile app that allows them to browse a graphical menu and make a purchase before they arrive. With mobile, the options are endless.s

  1. A.I. Will Play a Larger Role in Customer Engagement

Amazon’s focus on improving CX continued to impress in 2015. This summer’s launch of its new A.I. tabletop assistant, Amazon Echo, is no exception. As smart as Siri, Google Now and Cortana are, Echo is the most intelligent cloud-based “personal assistant” I’ve yet seen in a consumer device. It can play music, answer questions, control smart home devices and help customers make Amazon purchases all through simple voice commands. But even Echo - or “Alexa,” as the Amazon A.I. prefers to be addressed - pales in comparison to the reigning champion of cognitive-computing: IBM Watson.

At Genesys, we’ve been working with the IBM Watson team to find ways to put its A.I. smarts to use in enterprise contact centers, and the results have been incredibly promising. Watson’s ability to quickly process tremendous amounts of unstructured data allows it to search databases for answers to customers’ questions far quicker than human agents ever could. As a result, it’s an ideal agent for handling many of the enquiries that businesses receive through their websites. As IBM Watson and other systems like it continue to develop, they’ll begin to replace more of the jobs once held by human customer service agents, such as engaging in simple live chats with customers online. Human agents will still be needed to address more complicated, high-level customer inquiries, yet slowly but surely the machines are joining the contact centre team.

In 2016, more customer engagements will begin with the words “Siri” or “Hello, Alexa” as their novelty value is finally outstripped by their actual usefulness.

In 2016, we will see the predictions above come together simultaneously for a data-driven, computer-assisted and mobile-optimised customer experience that still feels, for all the technology involved, deeply personal to each customer.

Merijn te Booij, Executive Vice President, Product and Solution Strategy at Genesys

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