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Is this the future of CX? Don't run for the hills just yet...

October 13, 2017

I've been asked to present the future of CX and the image above came to my mind. A bit dystopian I admit, however, there is no doubt that technology, in its many forms, has made things easier for us. Even to a point where there is a genuine fear that technology may replace not only the jobs that are process-driven but also the jobs where human interactions may be replaced by algorithm-driven technology. Imagine seeing the robot below coming out to deliver a package to you, helping you install it and having a conversation with you about the weather all at the same time.

 

However, the usage of technology and digital media is still in the realm of enhancing human-to-human interactions, not replacing them in its entirety (even chatbots forward questions it can't answer to a human responder - take Facebook's attempt at this as a gauge of how far we still need to go). So when asked on how technology and innovation will impact CX in the near future, I turn to what matters to consumers/customers in the near future and see how technology and innovation can enhance that.

 

So here are 3 customer/consumer trends I've observed and how innovation and org transformation can address the experience element behind them:

 

1) "Apple is releasing 3 phones at the same time? What the f***" - Customer are inundated with choice

 

Too many choices isn't always a good thing (I'd recommend reading "Paradox of choice" by American psychologist Barry Schwartz). There is a misconception that more choice for consumers results in more freedom and ultimately greater happiness for consumers, however, it can actually result in increasing consumer anxiety. Not surprisingly even in 2017, this is still an issue as we get bombarded with new products and services demanding our attention and money.

 

Inevitably, when faced with too many choices, most consumers turn to three things: our past experiences, the trusted words of our advisors (e.g. YouTube reviewers), and our trusted network (e.g. family, friends or colleagues), all in the effort to reduce the complexity of choice.

 

How does this translate to CX for companies?
 

Simplification of choice: organisations will start to look at ways to simplify their products and services to target very specific customer needs. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play an important role in this: AI has the ability to learn from past trends, behaviours and actions, understand a set of rules (e.g. product specifications and its outcomes) and when presented with a scenario it will present the best option for the customer.

 

Companies like Staples and Amazon have simplified the buying process, especially when it comes to choice. Here's a sample of what Staples is trying to do by using AI to simplify choice for customers and ML to look at previous buying behaviour and trends to supply the customer with the right product:

 

 

2) "Whenever I go there, they greet me by name" - Customers want a unique experience

Even in the age where there are plenty of choices of similar products/services, customers still want a unique experience that's tailored for them. If products or services are homogenised, individualised experiences can help an organisation differentiate their offering from their competitors, giving them a competitive advantage. This explains why the phone customisation and accessories industry are estimated to be around US$60 billion by the end of 2016 and forecasted to be around US$90 billion by 2023. People want to differentiate their phones from everyone else.

 

To provide an individualised experience, it is becoming imperative that organisations take the time to understand the behaviour of each of their customers, not just by segmentation models. That means looking at data at the lowest individual level (e.g. how many times the customer has bought from you, what they bought, what they said on their social media about your product, etc.) and will result in handling lots of data points.

 

How does this translate to CX for companies?
 

A lot of organisations are already coupling machine learning with big data to help make sense of historical transactional data and better understand their users, so this part is not new. But what is becoming more prominent is how AI is using this information to provide unique experiences for customers, especially in the realm of anticipating customer needs and wants. Banks are starting to use AI to understand customer behaviour by analysing spending habits, psychographics scoring and other behavioural data to provide a view of a customer to provide the best product and service that meets their needs. Google has been doing this for many years: if you've ever used Google to search a restaurant and nominated a booking time, it will often provide you with the traffic conditions to the restaurant from where you are at the time to make the booking. Anticipating customer needs using data collected by AI will offer a unique experience to the customer and adds value to their experience.

 

3) "Don't eat yet, I have to take a pic for Instagram..." - Customers are sharing more often

Storytelling has always been a powerful medium to share experiences and in today's era, it is no different. Customers now have different platforms to share their experiences with others, and word of mouth is now replaced with hashtags, 140-character statements, images with a limited lifespan and video bites.

 

Usage of AI in this space is not new, however, it is growing in popularity. Tools utilising AI can filter through vast amounts of stories shared on social media platforms to provide organisations with a view of what is being discussed about their products/services. Software such as Converseon uses AI and Machine Learning to assess emotional sentiment about a brand by trawling through various social media platforms and gauging the emotions behind the feedback by associating it to emotional reference models such as Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions.

 

How does this translate to CX for companies?
 

Use these platforms to your advantage. Companies should focus on creating experiences through their products/services that are worth sharing on these platforms. They should also invest in platforms to collect, analyse and interpret emotional based feedback to assess the consumer's sentiment, and adjust their strategies accordingly.

 

 

Sum it up

 

The three consumer trends, and potential solutions, that we are seeing coming up are:

  1. Customers are inundated with choice - Solution: simplify the choices for them by providing them solutions to what they need.

  2. Customers still want a unique experience - Solution: understand your customers better in order to deliver something unique.

  3. Customers are sharing more often - Solution: give them something worthwhile to share and monitor what they're sharing.

 

What do you think?

 

Are there any other emerging consumer trends you see that will impact the customer in the near future? And how would you and your organisation respond to these trends?

 

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