The customer experience industry is changing at an unprecedented pace and businesses must prepare for dynamic developments throughout the coming year.
Mandy Holford, director of customer service at leading contact center Echo-U, has highlighted the major trends shaping the industry in 2018 in order to help businesses to understand the current challenges and develop strategic plans to enhance customer experience.
1. Brexit will drive consolidation
Many industry-leading companies with a European presence are reviewing the impact of Brexit on their profitability post-2020. As a result, they are planning a more efficient consumer experience by consolidating their channels and service centers to a single multi-lingual operation that provides a ‘follow the sun’ service.
This year, businesses should echo this technique in order to enable a more enhanced customer journey, reduced costs, improved efficiencies and far better consumer insight. Here at Echo-U, we have noticed a significant uplift in enquiries about working 24/7 and multi-lingual advisors for both existing and new clients, and we expect that trend to continue as consumers expect more round-the-clock access to their favourite brands.
In addition, because of the uncertainty that Brexit brings, there is a huge gap between those companies that have confidence in their industry and are continuing to invest in their customer service experience, and those who do not. The gap between the leaders and the laggards is widening, with leaders increasingly investing in technology and culture to drive the customer experience, while the laggards choose to stand still. We foresee that Brexit will only continue to fuel this gap.
2. The future is not all chatbots – we need to blend our technology for best effect
Last year’s hot topic was Artificial Intelligence (AI) / digital self-serve and there was a focus on the advantages that digitisation can offer to customer service provision; it allows our industry to reduce costs whilst growing our service and is critical to remaining competitive.
Looking ahead, we believe that there will be a further shift, not just to advanced digitisation, but to a hybrid workforce which combines existing customer service advisors with digital solutions. Contact centers will be able to combine the strengths of their teams and digital solutions whilst using them to compensate for their respective weaknesses.
The 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report reveals that many businesses are facing an ‘uncomfortable truth’ when it comes to the digital transformation of their customer experience. While the overwhelming majority (89%) of organisations claim that this is critical to their survival, over half (51%) are failing to act.
At Echo-U, our customer service advisors engage best with intuitive and flowing technologies. Today’s consumer does not want to wait, and our clients have a need to service their consumers well and efficiently. Therefore, the trend will be for technology to support swift, effective processes to ensure the most efficient interaction times; this will then free up the advisor to serve the next consumer or concentrate on more complex enquiries.
Outsourcing customer experience provision can offer a business a cost effective and cutting-edge solution without the ongoing investment in strategy, people, technology and premises.
3. Open all hours (and all channels!)
Today, businesses are supporting an average of nine customer contact channels to deliver a multi-channel experience, a number we predict will rise to 11 this year. It’s therefore not surprising that delivering a seamless customer experience across all of these channels is an ongoing struggle for most organisations.
In order to provide efficient customer service, organisations must be able to react to communication that doesn’t fit into their traditional contact center model. When adopting a mobile first strategy, businesses need to consider whether their networks can support an increase in this kind of traffic. These channels need reliable and highly secure network connections, rapid response times and must be available beyond the traditional ‘opening hours’.
4. Show me you know me
Gone are the days of ‘one-size fits all’ marketing. This year, there is a need for businesses to focus on the buying habits and behaviours of the individual customer. Customers invest a lot of time and money in their buying decisions, and want to know that they are valued, so it’s important for a business to be aware of who and where its customers are, what time zone they are in and what preferences they have as well as what channels they like to use. This will drive greater customer engagement and help to create more targeted marketing campaigns.
We predict that increased use of wireless beacon technology will enable businesses to take customer experience to new heights in 2018. Already being used in the retail sector, this technology allows stores to track customers in real-time and then push timely, personalised messages and content to them. Going forward, it’s all about showing customers that you know them.
5. Keep it simple
We know that today’s customers expect superior service, a plethora of channels, the opportunity to choose when to speak to an advisor and 24/7 service. But what happens when they can’t get an answer?
One of the top 3 customer service challenges today is when customers expend moderate-high effort trying to resolve an issue. A customer may not be able to find the information that they need online, might be passed around on the phone between numerous advisors or receive no response from webchat or email enquiries. A simple enquiry can therefore escalate into frustration and potentially even a complaint from the customer.
Businesses should take time to examine the customer journey and experience it through the customers’ eyes. At Echo-U, we are increasingly reporting on how to better design customer journeys, which enables us to refine the points at which our technology and teams interact with the customer to ensure it’s a seamless and simple process.
About the Author
Echo-U is an established owner-managed contact center based in Newcastle and Bournemouth, UK. The company provides customer contact solutions across inbound and outbound call centers, social media and webchat channels.