TECHNOLOGY

2018: The Year for Customer Experience Transformation

BY Kathy Juve

The customer experience as we know it is changing. The industry today is being transformed by some of the most significant technological developments of our generation including artificial intelligence (AI), big data, analytics and robotic process automation (RPA).

It is a fascinating and exciting time to be in the retail industry, and as we look into 2018, there are three important and transformative customer experience trends that we should be considering.

1. Rise of the Virtual Assistant
Artificial Intelligent virtual personal assistant (VPA) speakers, such as Alexa and Google Home, are going mainstream. In the first quarter of the first quarter of 2017, 710% more VPA speakers were sold than in the same quarter the year before.

Some businesses have started to use these devices to make day-to-day tasks easier, such as starting a conference call or scheduling meetings, but very soon these new “toys” used in the office will fundamentally change the way retailers across the world interact with customers.

Although Amazon has only just made it possible for third parties to create their own skills for Alexa, customer service companies are in full gear ahead. Alexa can now enable organizations to receive and respond to customer inquiries made through popular virtual personal assistant (VPA) speakers. Right now, for example, a customer can say to Alexa, “Alexa, open ABC Bank” to initiate a conversation and then the user can ask, “What was my last deposit?”

VPA speakers are going to be able to handle ever more sophisticated commands as the technology evolves and, much like the smartphone, consumers will depend more and more on these devices in everyday life.

2. Voice of the Customer (VoC)
Have you ever made business decisions based on customer feeling and emotions? You should try.

Research firm Forrester argues that in nearly every industry, emotion has a bigger influence on loyalty than that of effectiveness or ease of interaction. Forrester defines a VoC program as a systematic approach to collecting customer feedback, mining that feedback and data for insights, and then incorporating the insights into business decisions.

It is all about listening through data and analytics. Data-driven evidence from customer feedback and other data points can modify, optimize and transform every touchpoint for customers. The ability to capture customer feedback and use that to retain customers, increase revenue and grow, is causing more retailers to invest in the technology.

3. Agent of the Future
Robots are not replacing humans anytime soon, but they will continue to change the way we work.

As AI evolves, it will take on and support lower level, simple, day-to-day work, enabling agents to focus their time on resolving the trickiest customer calls. To make this effective, the agent of the future will need the knowledge and capabilities to handle more high-level conversations across various platforms and channels.

In 2018, and beyond, it will be vital that companies invest in providing the proper means for their agents to handle such calls. Training is important, but so is the technology and data available to them.

Retail is undergoing a transformation and old models, and ways of operating are being tested like never before. Get ahead of the trends above this year, and you will thrive.

Kathy Juve is senior VP marketing and product development, Convergys, a provider of customer experience outsourcing.

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