For a handful of companies, the alarm clock has already gone off when it comes to the future of customer care. Where will your own company be when the alarm goes off for the rest of your peers?
The answer depends largely on how quickly and fully you embrace seven trends that are transforming today’s customer experience and, by extension, customer care. While some of these trends aren’t new, few brands are substantially capitalizing on them, putting their companies in the vanguard. Here’s how your own brand can get a leg up:
Trend 1: Perfect automation
Frustrating versions of interactive voice response tools will be old school by 2030. Instead, contact centers will make sophisticated use of speech recognition, natural language processing and conversational AI to deploy chatbots and enhanced automation for routine self-service options that customers find easy and gratifying to use.
Some future-facing companies are doing this already. One of them, a top entertainment provider of gaming consoles, got its wakeup call when it found that it was fielding 80,000 service requests each month, 20 percent of them about password resets alone. Overwhelmed, the company automated resets by having digital assistants guide customers through the process (including via short help videos). That way, players could return to their games sooner and live agents could be freed up to focus on more complex requests.
Within the first 60 days, chatbots had handled 250,000 resets. In nearly 40,000 of those cases, players didn’t even need to leave their gaming consoles. Meanwhile, the company saw a 70 percent savings per interaction, higher customer satisfaction and increased retention. It hasn’t looked back, further accelerating and expanding its automation.
Trend 2: Integrate omnichannel communication
In the future, “seamless” will be more than just a catchword when it comes to customer contact across all touchpoints. Today, however, omnichannel often just means siloed channels — leading to a fragmented view of the customer, who in turn ends up having a disjointed experience.
Consider, for instance, an international airline that couldn’t obtain a consistent view of its passengers because it was pulling information from disconnected channels. This created a frustrating customer care experience for passengers seeking the airline’s assistance, including long waits at certain touchpoints and the need for customers to repeat information. The airline removed this friction by bringing its customer care channels (chat, phone, social media, email, web, etc.) all onto one platform and integrating them with its customer relationship management system. This gave agents a 360-degree view of the customer in every interaction regardless of touchpoint. Soon after the airline implemented these changes, average call handling time fell by 32 percent and first call resolution improved by nearly 20 percent, with a corresponding uptick in customer satisfaction. By 2030, this sort of customer care at airlines and everywhere else will be the rule, not the exception.
Trend 3: Hone hyper-personalization
For too many brands personalization remains a blunt instrument, especially when it comes to customer care. A chief culprit is poor data analytics. The better the data is analyzed and leveraged, the more targeted and relevant the communication. This pays back with improved customer satisfaction, increased conversion and higher average order value. However, most companies analyze a mere 3 percent of their customer interactions, leaving huge quantities of free customer intelligence untapped.
By 2030, companies will use cognitive AI to analyze 100 percent of their customer interactions. Obtaining volumes of unstructured data, they’ll combine it with other customer information such as demographic details, past purchase behavior and loyalty data, and then apply a blend of predictive and prescriptive analytics to that intelligence. The resultant insights will help live agents and digital assistants better understand individual customers (including their churn propensity and likely lifetime value), anticipate their concerns, readily find the best solutions and make tailored purchasing suggestions that customers find intuitive, not invasive. Anything less will feel generic in 2030.
Trend 4: Prioritize proactive contact
A decade from now, agents standing by as reactive handlers of customer queries will be a thing of the past. Instead, outbound predictive contact will predominate customer care.
Leveraging machine learning at exceptional speed, brands will swiftly assess emerging issues and just as rapidly push out spot-on solutions, using real-time digital engineering to connect the dots between omnichannel intelligence, content moderation and customer care.
Customer care will also focus more on value proposition. For instance, agents won’t check in with a customer two weeks before a security subscription expires, by which time the customer will probably already have shopped alternatives, be in churn mode and require a discount enticement. Instead, an agent will get in touch a month earlier to emphasize better value, pointing out that the customer’s protection covers five devices but he’s using it for only two. As 2030 draws closer, brands proactively engaging with this panoramic view of the customer will have a distinct advantage over their competitors, commanding higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Trend 5: Groom relationship agents
With an emphasis on building customer relationships rather than just fixing problems, contact centers of the future will be less about transacting and more about connecting.
Gone will be the days when customer queries are automatically routed to agents specializing in rebates or product exchanges, for example. Instead, agents will be paired with customers based on relationship compatibility over the customer’s lifetime, as indicated by the customer’s profile and journey map and by the agent’s experience with certain customer personas. With this information, companies will make the most appropriate matches and then adjust them as needed, after monitoring customer-agent interactions and then running them through speech-to-text recognition analytics to determine which pairings work best.
Trend 6: Gauge real CSAT in real time
In 2030, brands will favor real-time, AI-powered sentiment analysis over post-interaction customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys. Augmenting agents’ intelligence with cognitive AI, companies will convert interaction-specific CSAT into actionable insight during a customer interaction, not just afterwards. Instead of digesting CSAT survey responses with a should’ve/would’ve/could’ve perspective days after the interaction at best, companies will be able to turn the ship around while the customer is still on board.
And, because AI-powered sentiment analytics can detect and record a wide range of nuanced customer feelings while a call is happening, agents will no longer have to rely on human memory and perception to discern insights and derive best practices. In short, CSAT surveys will become obsolete, with agents receiving dynamic real-time scores throughout the call itself and adjusting strategy while the interaction is still underway.
Trend 7: Pay for outcomes
In the future, companies will adopt a performance-based payment model, treating contact-center providers as partners that are compensated for generating business outcomes rather than paid on a standard fee basis. They’ll also focus less on their total cost of ownership and more on the net ROI, factoring in benefits like sales conversions, reduced churn and higher customer lifetime value. By 2030, companies will prefer partnering with customer care providers that can confidently enter into service agreements contingent on delivering quantifiable top and bottom line results.
As your own company embraces these trends, keep the following tips in mind:
Do more with less: Operational savings from automation can fuel growth along the seven trend lines, transforming customer care from a cost center to a profit center.
Reduce complexity: Consider putting your omnichannel platform in the cloud where you can easily add and remove features at minimal cost and effort.
Get in touch: Give customers peace of mind before they give you a piece of theirs. Proactive engagement is always better than reactive defense.
Stay human: Provide your agents with the right training, personalized data and recommendations so they can translate digital accelerators into high-value person-to-person interactions.
For a more in-depth look at the seven trends, please see our whitepaper Customer Care in 2030: Top Trends Driving the Future. To start capitalizing on those trends today, let’s talk.