Guest Blogger

I spoke about the future of the customer experience at the Engage Customer Summit last week. It was a real pleasure to be a part of the opening keynote session with Spencer Kelly from the BBC Click TV show ahead and Patrick Lewis, director of partnerships at John Lewis (notice the name), following my session.

Spencer had opened the day by talking to Pepper the robot live on stage and talking about how technology is affecting all our lives. I followed him by taking on the changes we are seeing in the customer experience – with a view to predicting what may happen five years out.

First, I made the point that even predicting five years ahead is tough. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but look back 5 years and the customer experience was very different. When I went to Google Trends recently and checked on ‘omnichannel’ as a search term in Google I found that nobody was looking for this before early 2012, yet today it’s one of the key issues everyone is focused on.

As Spencer pointed out, there are many technologies changing the way that customers interact with brands. I listed several that I believe are starting to make an impact now and will develop further over the next few years:

  • Virtual reality; Facebook has invested in the Oculus Rift system so expect to see this technology becoming mainstream soon
  • Augmented reality; Google Glass failed for aesthetic reasons – having a computer on your face doesn’t look good – so when Google improve the look for their device this will take off
  • Wearable technology; fitness monitors are advising people on their health today and eventually wearables will replace our phones
  • Internet of Things; imagine when you car can talk to the manufacturer, diagnose a problem, and fix it without you even being aware
  • Automation and Robots; Robotic Process Automation is growing fast and will be even better when self-learning systems can develop empathy
  • Location Awareness; retailers sending customers a token valid for one hour because they know the customer is near to a store sounded like science fiction until very recently

All this is happening right now, but as I stressed in my talk, I believe that to have an idea how customers may behave over the next few years it is important to think more abstractly about communications and not just focus on new technologies. I outlined three basic layers:

  1. CX issues; how can we use the voice channel better because it remains popular with customers? How can we improve omnichannel support? How is the customer journey evolving – how do they find my brand and stay with it?
  2. Corporate changes; all companies need to change their structure to become more customer-centric. Any customer-facing department or function needs to be coordinated with all others, so marketing needs to be working with customer service seamlessly. How can corporate structure be changed so customers really love the products you are creating because the service is so great?
  3. Societal changes; think how you engage with politicians today, how you find a new partner, how you find a new job, how you improve your education or source and curate the news. The way humans communicate has dramatically changed in the past 6-7 years and all customer interactions need to take this into account.

These three areas of thought are interconnected. You cannot plan a customer service strategy without first considering how your customers are behaving and communicating. How has their behaviour changed and which tools are facilitating this change?

Communication and technological changes are moving fast. This makes CX an exciting place to be right now. With the customer experience now a number one priority in the boardroom it means that CX professionals have a bright future ahead. However, on the flip side, with change being so fast it can be easy to get your strategy wrong and there are no second chances now. If your customer service fails to support the business at a critical moment, it will be a highly visible failure.

So by focusing on these three key areas, people, organisations, and CX tools and technologies, I believe it is possible to plan for the years ahead. Five years from now I believe that all those six technologies I mentioned at the start of this article will be commonplace. How commonplace and how they are deployed depends on how people behave and what they want from the customer experience.

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