The Year of the Customer: trends defining customer engagement in 2018

To stay ahead of the customer experience curve, companies can no longer rely on voice and telephone services alone, says Stephen Ball, Senior VP Europe and Africa, Aspect Software.

Johannesburg, 06 Mar 2018
Read time 6min 20sec

Recent times have seen some hugely significant developments in industry, with these advances now coming to define how we approach the world of technology. Bitcoin, blockchain and big data have well and truly come to the fore, and AI, automation and chatbots are showing promise on a commercial scale.

These developments are having a huge impact on the ways in which businesses engage with their customers. Here, Stephen Ball, Senior VP Europe and Africa, Aspect Software, looks at the key customer experience trends that we will see developing in the coming months.

1. The rise of automated self-service

Leading customer watchdog Which? made 552 calls to 23 energy suppliers in September and October 2017 and timed how long it took to get through to a real person. They called each firm's customer service number 12 times, and its sales number 12 times (or made 24 calls to one, if it doesn't have both) at set times of day and calculated the average time on hold or in menus as the median of the calls. This incredible report not only proved that energy suppliers are valuing sales calls more than existing customers, but shows that we need a better way to help with our enquiries.

More people are now turning to social media, Webchat and text for help as these are the systems they are comfortable with, meaning businesses need to adapt to this trend to ensure their channel choices meet this need. Self-service enables customers to avoid long waiting times, but contact centres need to develop a robust self-service platform that employs modern technology such as chatbots that make use of advanced capability like natural language processing. To deliver an effective omni-channel experience and ensure that customers have their queries answered in a timely fashion, it is crucial that companies leverage context and natural language understanding, and make an informed hand-off to a live human agent easier and quicker.

2. Video kills the customer service helpline

The most recent annual survey from Deloitte, designed to respond to the rapidly evolving contact centre landscape, brought in leaders representing more than 450 contact centres from around the world. According to the findings, 31% of all organisations surveyed expect to be using video chat within the next two years, for an average of 8% of their interactions.

This means an incredible leap forward for the customer experience. This opens up opportunities to streamline the verification process, as well as enabling consumers to visually express their issues, for example showing a damaged product to a customer advisor, or follow more complex instructions.

Live video chat will positively impact the speed and success of customer engagement and add another layer of personalisation. The fact that the customer can see the agent with whom they are speaking makes the interaction more human, and even goes some way to increase trust in the business. While a customer service advisor who is engaging in a phone call or a live chat situation might be multitasking, or even sending texts from their desktop, customers will appreciate the personal, attentive one-on-one help that video chat offers and could be extremely beneficial to services such as banking and healthcare.

3. Imperceptible verification

New technologies designed to halt sophisticated digital identity fraud are leading to significant advances in fraud prevention. These new solutions can eradicate cumbersome verification processes in online banking and mobile apps, and halt the ongoing issue of social engineering in its tracks.

New developments between the mobile network operators, banks and technology providers have meant that they are well on their way to striking that elusive balance between ease of use/convenience and appropriate levels of security that will stop social engineering at the start of a compromise. Publicly available data can be leveraged to help banks to step up authentication by determining variables such as geo-location of the user, call divert and SIM Swap detection. This reduces customer friction and provides both enhanced security and extra flexibility for the modern digital citizen.

4. WhatsApping with my order?

As consumers, we are constantly checking our WhatsApp and Messenger notifications. 72% of consumers prefer to be contacted by businesses on their smartphone apps. We are unfailingly in tune with these alerts and use these platforms on a near hourly basis. And for any modern business, being where your customers are most makes sense for both businesses and consumers.

With 1.2 billion users, WhatsApp has become the king of messaging. It is a platform that many customers trust, as conversations are personal and private with end-to-end encryption. That means that customer complaints and personal data won't be visible to the outside world, making it a better stage for both the advisor and the customer.

What also helps is that users are always "on" and alert to notifications. This means customers are more likely to see messages and become engaged with them, as well as with WhatsApp's own broadcast lists. We are also seeing platforms already used far more regularly than a traditional telephone call to help businesses market to, and appease customers, on their turf and their terms.

5. Proactive customer care

In today's digital age, where consumers control the customer-company relationship, proactive care is a necessity for delivering a differentiated customer experience. Customers also require brands to know them, to know their preferences, their history with the brand and translate that into a personalised service. Optimal control over customer contact strategies and agile operations to address changing business requirements is fast becoming essential.

For example, if there is a charge or piece of information that wasn't made clear by an advisor, organisations should not wait for an angry customer to get in touch and complain. Simple voice or text analytics in the contact centre can spot that the exchange was not compliant, and inform the team leader or manager before the customer even finds out. Firms can then proactively contact the customer before a complaint is raised, which can go a long way to defusing what could be a negative customer experience. This sort of approach is also critical for developing the skills of advisors and agents - if information is not mentioned frequently, then training needs are identified quickly.

Anticipating customer needs and engaging customers more efficiently and effectively through multiple channels and choices, means simplifying operations and driving return on investment.

To stay ahead of the customer experience curve, companies can no longer rely on voice and telephone services alone. Customer experience trends will continue to be driven by the customers themselves, as companies use technologies that consumers more regularly use in their day to day life. Companies will need to engage customers with self-service and cutting-edge technologies that provide fast, accurate service on the communication channels customers want to use.

Editorial contacts
Spreckley Tim Barutcu (+44) 020 7388 9988
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