The Top Customer Experience (CX) Trends in 2019
OUT WITH THE OLD: CX IMPERATIVE DISRUPTS OLD MODELS
EXPECTATIONS: Brands strive to meet the extraordinary expectations of today’s connected customer.
More than ever before, customer experience (CX) will be king. Companies worldwide are putting significant effort and technology investments into improving the customer experience, providing the people, process, and technology to support an omnichannel environment. However, many organizations are challenged to find the right solutions and partners, both from a technology and customer care outsourcing perspective. Consumers will be more empowered and knowledgeable than ever before. Expectations for excellent customer service, sales knowledge, and technical support have soared. More and more customers are insisting that businesses anticipate their every need. Customers wish to be treated as a “segment of one,” with products, offers, and services tailored to their every need, delivered on their terms and preferred communications channel.
MODEL: 2019 has been the beginning of the end of the “factory floor” model of CX management.
This year, we’ll see the old, “factory floor” model of service management (such as, scripted resolution, checklist-driven QA) fall apart, as service issues become increasingly complex, varied, and nuanced. What’s the reason for this? As self-service finally takes over and completely siphons off the easy issues from the call queue, what’s left is more complex. Watch for companies to turn the structure of service upside down. Rather than management issuing directives as to what to say and do, reps will be put in charge. These brand ambassadors will be fully empowered to manage customers and resolve issues as they see fit—with senior management in service to the front line (removing obstacles and supporting them to do their jobs). As an example, take a look at T-Mobile as the first company to have moved in this direction and have achieved remarkable results as a first-mover. This year and in the near future, many other companies will follow their lead.
SERVICE: Customer service evolves to answer the unique needs of the subscription economy.
In today’s subscription economy, customer service is a true differentiator. What started with newspapers and magazines has now evolved to real-time, contextual, and personalized product ownership experiences. Think Stitch Fix, Blue Apron, and Zipcar. Customers are buying differently these days. That means evolving service to reflect the changing drivers and outcomes, as related to customer journey touchpoints of awareness, purchase, service, payment, warranty/returns, and retention. Subscription service customers are looking for a seamless frictionless experience. Customers often take their experience from one subscription company and port over their expectations to the next one. For example, they expect free two-day shipping, and expect the brand to tell them when they need to reorder vs. them telling the brand. While the brand can set up automated emails to share reminder refills with the consumers, the customer service agents need to be kept in the loop to ensure they readily answer any questions. Case in point: a brand specializing in customization and personalization can send alerts to customers letting them know it’s time to reorder or re-up their subscription. A customer service team uninformed about promotions being run by the marketing team can damage a brand’s reputation if they can’t answer consumer questions about the promotion. It is key for marketing and customer service to work hand-in-hand for subscription services to be successful. Brands that contract out their customer service can have a leg up on nonoutsourcing brands. Business process outsourcers typically invest in and incubate the latest technology and can more easily scale support in alignment with seasonal needs.
IN WITH THE NEW: BRAND-NEW CAPABILITES ARE REQUIRED TO ADDRESS CONSUMERS
APPROACH: In the age of brave new consumerism, personalization is more important than ever.
Technology advancements continue to support smarter insights. The use of that data at major brands has evolved to become shared and applied across a multitude of internal teams. Brands now leverage new technologies such as AI, chatbots, dark chats, and point-of-contact data to create stronger insights that build more accurate consumer journey stories that showcase the strength and value of the relationship between the brand and customer. For example, McDonald’s uses social enterprise tools with AI capabilities to filter and sort social media mentions and provide timely and informed customer service. That social data is shared across teams to further understand the volume and trends of customer feedback at any time.
ASSISTANT: Smart speakers become digital CX voice assistants.
We saw consumers embracing smart speakers, with adoption of the channel stronger than expected. The installed base of Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod is growing rapidly in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, as well as in Korea (Naver, LG) and China (Alibaba Genie). In fact, its usage is underestimated because multiple users interact with the same device, unlike the smartphone. This year, tech investments in the area will continue with the launch of Facebook Portal and Samsung Galaxy Home Smart. The focal point of this home consumer technology ecosystem will be digital voice assistants, which provide a low-effort and cost-effective control point for managing the connected home. Think of this tool as tomorrow’s remote control—with less risk of losing it. Use cases abound, as with the most mature device, Amazon Echo, where the number of developed skills has surpassed 30,000. Current CX implementations range from product promotion, new sales, repeat sales, account management, account notifications and status updates, order tracking, and escalations to live support. Additionally, with the integration of video (YouTube), technical support with visual guides has a lot of potential. There is significant untapped potential for this innovation. In fact, entire consumer segments can be opened with digital voice assistants, (such as, visually impaired, limited mobility, computer illiterate). Its business uses are growing with current opportunities for scheduling, simple tasks assignment, email, and message typing. The breadth of applications in the home is growing further as users become accustomed to using the devices for multiple purposes from basic search and discovery to more complex tasks, and serving as an entry point for a business (such as getting help from Task Rabbit, starting a smart device, or shopping). Verticals with existing or planned implementations include e-commerce, telecom, security, retail banking, travel, utilities, and charities.
CHANNEL: Social media is the highest-value consumer engagement channel.
Influencers will increasingly become the fastest-growing marketing channel, as audiences rely on peer consumer recommendations to drive upsurges in conversion rates for brands. Brands can leverage social media influencers to tell a story and drive brand awareness and recall. Influencers can also help brands to reach core demographics and drive strong brand perception shifts. Influencers can enhance the customer experience while driving engagement, consideration, and purchase intent. Influencers are using ephemeral content on social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook to increase user engagement and content volume to reach wider audiences. Stories and live streaming videos are some examples of ephemeral content. The short-term nature of engaging ephemeral content produced by influencers forms a sense of urgency among the audience that is driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO). Ephemeral content can help a brand in introducing a new service or product in a way that captures the imagination of a larger audience. Social listening enables brands to know their audiences better and find the right influencers for them. Social media monitoring can assist brands in identifying and targeting social media influencers who advocate for specific genres. Specific tools have influencer and outreach features that are made specifically for finding bloggers, vloggers, and publications in the related field using similar keywords that the brands are trying to reach. These tools also give the brands an option to sort via influencers, bloggers, companies, and regular users who might or might not have the status of an influencer. Metrics like total number of followers, shares per article, retweet ratio, site domain, and page authority are taken into consideration to find the right influencer for the right brand. Twitter analytics tools can be used to find trending topics and hashtags related to a brand. Once that step is complete, it becomes easy to search for influencers with the key topics. For these reasons, we will see more brands leaning on social media influencer content to enhance the customer
experience while driving engagement.
INTELLIGENCE: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will augment human interaction.
Today’s bots increasingly provide a strong sense of reliability, consistency, and ease of use, which are critical to meet the demand for a unified customer experience strategy. In 2019, talking to a bot will be more and more akin to a human and will help to automate and supplement human interactions. Improvements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) mean that AI can understand the aspects of speech and text. As a result, AI is getting better at problem solving and can understand complex queries and find solutions to them. This will help to improve experiences by augmenting what we do in our day-to-day lives. It will not be the bot replacing the human element but standing side-by-side with us in our everyday lives.
INSIGHT: Data analytics are everywhere.
Today, we have advanced capabilities in terms of getting the right customer data to optimize experience. Now the question is: How do we use this data in a meaningful way? CX expectations are so high while customer preferences and other data are “everywhere.” Processing speed has become faster because of the cloud, meaning on-the-move customers and their needs can be tracked. Customers and their preferences are on the map, literally. It has almost become intrusive, although it does make customers’ lives more convenient. The key is in achieving the balance—today’s brands must respect privacy but add to convenience. In 2019, companies have been leveraging all of these analytics, tools and capabilities to grow and evolve their business.
EMPOWERMENT: Consumers are more empowered with access to their aggregated electronic health data.
In 2019, we have seen a maturation of consumer access to health data—supported by initiatives like the MyHealthEData initiative, which aims to empower patients by ensuring that they control their healthcare data and can decide how their data is going to be used, all while keeping that information safe and secure. MyHealthEData will help to break down the barriers that prevent patients from having electronic access and true control of their health records from the device or application of their choice. This effort approaches healthcare data from the patient’s perspective. Additionally, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will further access to data with refined focus on Blue Button 2.0 and the requirement that Medicare Advantage health plans meet or exceed “Blue Button” 2.0 data sharing. The CMS Blue Button API enables beneficiaries to connect their Medicare claims data to the applications, services, and research programs they trust. There has also been more promotion of the interoperability requirement that providers publish an API that enables third-party applications for consumers to access health data via any application of their choice. Healthcare industry alliances—such as Creating Access to Real-Time Information Now through Consumer-Directed Exchange (CARIN)—will continue to support the release of more data, and there will be intense industry focus on Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) application programming interfaces (APIs), across all healthcare sectors.
OUTSOURCING, EVOLVED: BPO MATURES TO LEAD TRANSFORMATION
TRANSFORMATION: BPO will address business complexity and digital transformation in 2019.
The complexity of the modern customer experience (CX) has changed the dynamics of the BPO supplier and client relationship. As a result, CX expertise is needed more than ever. Suppliers that can help a brand to deliver great CX will increasingly be in demand for their innovation and expertise, not for offering low-cost services. Almost all industries are facing a challenge to the status quo as digital business models mean that your usual competitors may not be your competition in 2019. Digital disruption is changing how entire industries work, and BPOs are playing an increasingly consultative role to help companies meet the challenges of a changing business environment. In 2019, leading BPOs will offer new services based on emerging technology such as AI and automation, along with process maturity and design thinking. Effective deployment of these new tools and strategies will require a new profile of employee armed with a higher-level skill set. As the customer relationship becomes more important than ever and “customer service” is seen as a 50-year relationship, not just a phone call, the design of your entire organization may change to become customer-centric. This may require folding sales, marketing, and service into a single CX hub. Is the contact center about to become a valued career choice? I believe so. In 2019, we’ll see more advanced BPO resources in a consultative role to drive more significant outcomes for their clients.
ACCELERATION: The move toward nearshoring accelerates.
Automation and customer experience mandates, as well as currency fluctuations, are driving organizations to revisit traditional contact center locations. At a recent HGS webinar, we conducted a poll “What is your preferred contact center delivery model?” A total of 43% answered Onshore, while 14% picked Offshore, 29% chose Nearshore, and the remaining 14% preferred home-based agents. What are the reasons why nearshore will continue to increase in 2019? Here’s my take: Buyers want to be closer to their contact center deployments. The days of flying literally one day to get to a site are fading fast, as executives push back against jet lag, time zone changes, working through the night and time away from loved ones. The objective today is to find the right balance of cost management with the ability to access sites quickly. Value speaks loudly. In many cases, nearshore agents are using the same products and services as the consumers they are supporting, building rapport and empathy. This means high-quality interactions at a price point lower than that of an onshore deployment. There are more options than ever! The nearshore counts over a dozen countries that can service consumers in English, Spanish, and French. With such a choice, clients of outsourcers have better options than ever in terms of looking to offshore centers. While no two nearshore locations are alike, enterprises and outsourcers can find the right value in one or multiple points of delivery. Diversification is a key benefit. Adding one or more nearshore centers to a delivery platform that includes domestic, offshore, and virtual agents means sharing risk across more locations, essentially ensuring continuity of service provision. Today, enterprise decision-makers want to reduce risk as much as possible and are looking to BPO partners with solid nearshore footprints to do so.