The next-gen experience: how emerging technology is changing customer service

By Shashi Nirale

In today’s digital world, the relationship between company and customer is changing dramatically, as customers face more choices and industries become increasingly commoditised. Now, consumers have the luxury of choosing where they spend their money, based on the customer experience they receive. As such, businesses are under immense pressure to get their strategy right first time to foster customer loyalty.

A strong omnichannel customer experience has been shown to retain around 89% of an audience, compared to a 33% retention rate for businesses that fail to do so. In a world full of choice, businesses must continue to improve their digital accessibility if they are to remain competitive. Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT (Internet of Things), and virtual reality (VR) can all help them to do so.

AI is upon us

Consumers are already becoming accustomed to interacting with chatbots and voice command devices – take the adoption of Amazon’s Alexa, for example. Therefore, it is only natural this should impact customer service. Many banks, for instance, are already using chatbots to provide 24-hour assistance. One example is Swedbank’s AI, ‘Nina’, trained to learn what customers want and how best to help them by assimilating website searches and contact centre enquiries. Servion predicts by 2025, three quarters of customer service interactions will be driven by such platforms.

Based on ‘learning’ from past conversations, chatbots can predict the ‘next best action’, and can also handle transactional calls that would have previously been taken by a human. By recognising customer emotions – such as anger or frustration – chatbots can transfer callers to a human when required, giving customers a seamless experience. When it comes to AI, it’s a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’. It is predicted AI will power 95% of all customer interactions within five to ten years, with consumers expected to eventually prefer interaction with machines over humans. AI can be implemented by businesses to enable a much better customer experience both in the back office (call centre) and front office (online chatbots).

IoT s a phenomenon, extending into our business and personal lives; it is predicted that by 2020 there will be around 20.8 billion connected devices in the world, all offering streamlined and efficient ways to interact with brands and services online. It is important to note that on average, people use more than one connected device – all of which collect and store personal data.

Connected devices offer huge opportunities from a data perspective; this will have significant impact on how customers expect to be treated and what they assume that businesses will know about them. Organisations must harmonise and unify the data connected through each channel to give each customer the most personalised customer experience possible. By doing so, they can piece together a more accurate profile of their customers and identify exactly what they want and need, and when they want it.

Seeing is believing

Visual technologies are currently less common in customer experience than AI, but virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and holograms, will erupt. There are many (largely untapped) opportunities here, and businesses must start to embrace visual technologies if they are to stay ahead of the curve. Doing so will allow companies to showand not just tell their stories. For example, estate agents could save time and money by showing prospective home owners properties using a VR headset.

Visual aids are also improving the usability of apps and sites, where virtual assistants can show customers through a VR interface how to use a product or service. AR can also be used to overlay advertisements to make interactions with customers more contextual, relevant and location-based. In addition, hyper-connected contact centres are another way that VR and AR will benefit customer experience. For example, connecting an AR experience with a contact centre via a mobile device, will allow a customer to access a virtual product specialist to remotely provide live customer support.

 The ‘Loyalty Factor’

Customer experience is increasingly important in today’s digital economy. By embracing AI to save customers’ time, utilising data from IoT, and investing in visual technologies to improve accessibility, companies will be able to significantly increase brand loyalty and engagement.

However, if businesses fail to adapt to the changing landscape, they will lose out on customers and therefore revenue. Our relationships with brands are irrevocably changing and businesses would do well to pay more attention to their customers’ ‘loyalty factor’.

Shashi Nirale, is SVP & GM, Europe and Middle East, of Servion.