What does 2018 hold for the customer experience?

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2017 has been a transformative year for customer experience, with artificial intelligence and digital assistants at the forefront of the transformation. With the emergence of new channels, organisations also spent much of 2017 grappling with how to handle and analyse the sheer volume of data they were able to collect on customers.   

These emerging technologies will inevitably play a more integral part in how businesses deliver the customer experience. Other technologies such as VR and AR, as well as IoT, also have potential to affect customer experience. As we look towards 2018, we’ve put together some thoughts on what 2018 might bring for the customer experience. 

The End of Customer Service (as we know it)   

For a while, brands have known that they need to be thinking about customer experience, but in 2018, we will begin to see the full effect of companies that have not acted on it.  Amazon is disrupting industry after industry through a hyper-focus on disruptive business models and sustained growth.  However, a concerted focus on customer experience and customer loyalty – like Apple’s model -- can be a better path to long-term profitability.  .Businesses have the opportunity to put customers above all else and distinguish themselves through better more personalized customer engagements.  Through this, business can create higher customer value and can build durable customer relationships that will grow over time.    

Rapid Adoption of Automation Technologies 

While automation technologies made a big splash in recent years, there are still a lot of questions and some fear around adoption.  How hard are these technologies to implement with my legacy systems?  Are the benefits real?  How long until we see value?  In 2018, as more and more successful use cases come to light and pilot programs will show ROI, the path to success will be more clearly paved and confidence in investing in the technology will grow.   Companies will also start to feel the pressure that the first-mover advantage of AI will begin disappearing and will drive more widespread adoption.   In addition, the technology will also see it’s next big step in maturity.  We’ll see reactive automation move to proactive use cases that will help turn service engagements into sales opportunities and see deeper contact center integrations.  In 2017 most AI deployments were siloed – think the standalone Facebook chatbot – but now the bar has been raised to ensure frictionless transitions between AI and human agents.    

Augmented & Virtual Reality Technology Could Move Beyond the Hype

The technology will become more mainstream and the use cases will become more interesting, but its impact on CX remains to be seen.  To be truly valuable, AR/VR implementations need to be viewed as another fully functioning channel.  An AR or VR implementation can’t be a standalone, disconnected experience – for example, laying out a room with new furniture, without having the ability to seamlessly ask an agent questions or make a purchase within the same experience.  While the technology is undoubtedly cool, if it’s not seamlessly integrated into the full customer experience, it will become more of a fad than an investment that will drive new customer value and drive incremental revenue for the company. 

The Middle Market Will Continue to Disappear 

We’re on a path where the market is segmenting into two types of businesses – mass market and experiential.  The mass market will hold strong with the likes of Amazon continuing to take the lead and give customers what you want, when you want it – all with free shipping.  The other option for companies is creating a truly personalized, high-touch business that creates an emotional connection with the customer and offers significantly more value than low prices and endless options.  Technology is enabling both of these business models and companies need to choose which one they want to be.    

No, Artificial Intelligence Won’t Replace Humans 

There is a lot of discussion around the idea that AI will eliminate the need for human agents.  History shows us that automation can disrupt the job market, but AI should be looked at differently.  Automation is not anti-engagement.  There will always be a need for human-to-human interactions – it’s just that the roles of those agents may change.  They’ll become more challenging and require different hiring, training and retention processes.    While bots will be able to offload lower-value, repetitive queries, companies will still need to staff a customer support center where agents can focus on higher value customer interactions.  Companies that have implemented AI solutions quickly realize that while AI can help streamline work processes and take some of the burden off overloaded agents, the most successful ones will take a hybrid approach.  AI technology empowers both the customer and the agent.  Customers have the power to self-serve where they see fit while agents are using AI insights to offer a more personalized experience when a human connection is valuable. 

Last year was a groundbreaking one for the customer service industry.  There was a significantly stronger focus on making customer experience a key competitive differentiator – a directive that was led from the board-level and adopted on down.  We saw rapid maturity of new technologies, and customers – not cost – driving strategies.    As consumers continue to demand more from the companies they do business with, this will be a year of reinvention for brands fighting to stay relevant in today’s landscape. 

Dave Campbell, Vice President, Customer Engagement & Support Solutions at LogMeIn 

Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock