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Tech helps drive better customer engagement

Read time 3min 20sec
Don Scheibenreif, distinguished VP analyst with Gartner's customer experience research group.
Don Scheibenreif, distinguished VP analyst with Gartner's customer experience research group.

While technology was involved in less than 50% of customer experience (CX) projects in the past, now it is involved in almost two-thirds of these types of initiatives.

This is according to Don Scheibenreif, distinguished VP analyst within the customer experience research group at Gartner, commenting on the evolution of customer experience over the last 10 years. 

With technology, many organisations are realising it’s not enough to have a good customer service department or marketing department, they are thinking about the whole experience a client goes through, stated Scheibenreif.

He pointed to the fact that an airline can now offer customers 10 different ways to interact with it via technology, something that was not around five years ago.

“Technology is providing companies more choices to interact with the customer. Software vendors are also responding to those needs by creating things like data warehouses for customer data. There are more intelligent case management systems that figure out the next customer actions, as well as interactive and predictive e-commerce platforms.

“A lot of the technology has evolved to provide companies many more options to engage with customers and even potentially predict what they will do next.”

The distinguished VP analyst added Gartner believes companies like Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz-Carlton Hotel and BMW have found value in using technology.

“These are organisations that actively study customer behaviour, they understand customer journeys and they are very strategic in their use of technology to create an overall experience,” he said.

This week, Gartner hosted its annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Cape Town, where CIOs and senior IT executives heard about the technology and trends shaping the future of IT and business, including how firms cannot grow their business if they don’t give customers great experiences.

For Gartner, Scheibenreif said, CX is the sum of either the one-off or cumulative interactions that a person would have with a company, whether it’s through employees, physical location or the company Web site. When you put all of those interactions together, that is the customer experience.

Mapping out the customer journey, the Gartner analyst said it started from customer service. “It was basically improving interactions on the phone, first-call resolution and being able to provide a personalised experience.

“Over time, that discipline has been extended into other functions, such as marketing, sales, operations and to anybody that interacts with the customer.”

He added the availability of data has been significant in the evolution of CX. “You and I will create a lot of different footprints when we interact with technology, both with companies and outside of companies. Being able to collect all that information and use it leads to competitive advantage.”

Looking ahead

In terms of the future of CX, Gartner predicts artificial intelligence (AI), real-time event architectures and the Internet of things (IOT) will be the three big areas that will impact customer experience.  

“The use of AI and types of interactions, like chatbots, is certainly something we expect to see grow. Even in recommendation engines and analytics, the use of AI will be able to help identify insights faster for customers.

“The other one is the idea of real-time event processing. For example, what is the next step after you buy something?”

He concluded: “IOT is another area that will impact customer experience. When more of the things around you are connected to the Internet and you can send and receive messages, then that creates new opportunities to engage with the customer.”    

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