The ball has just dropped on a new decade—and it’s still hard to believe how much technology has transformed the customer experience in the past ten years, with the growth of self-checkout stations, real-time virtual assistant support, and robust CRMs to track and manage every phase of the customer experience, to name just a few.
Ordering pizza shows how times have changed: Back in 2010, Domino’s had recently introduced its web and smartphone ordering platforms, but most customers would still pick up a phone to order a pizza. Today, the company—which now considers itself “an ecommerce company that sells pizza”—offers no less than 11 different device integrations for instant pizza delivery, including Google Home, Alexa, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, a “zero-click” mobile app, a car app, and a smartwatch app. (Not to mention, your order may come to you via a self-driving car.) It’s never been faster or easier to get a box of Buffalo Chicken Pizza with extra ranch to your grumbling belly.
So, hangry pizza lovers are already resting easy. But what impact are new technologies likely to have on the customer experience over the coming decade?
Here’s a look at some of the other advances we’re likely to see in the coming decade to facilitate better customer support.
The rise of customer self-service
We’ve already seen self-service take off in brick-and-mortar shopping: Think of the self-checkout booths at McDonald’s and Walmart, enabling customers to make their selections and complete their purchases faster and more efficiently, with help from an in-store associate when needed.
Now, we’re beginning to see a rise in ecommerce self-service too: While many ecommerce customer support inquiries previously required a customer to talk to a customer support agent for commonly asked questions like finding your size or tracking a package, customers can now make use of artificial intelligence-based self-service platforms that understand the context of their questions and provides relevant information from the company’s knowledge base. In the decade to come, we’ll see companies transition away from email support to adopt a self-service model that provides flexible, real-time support to customers across multiple channels, which might include social media, in-app, SMS, phone, web chat, and any number of other software integrations, with access to a customer support agent for more advanced questions when needed. As more companies move towards self-service and real-time support, we’re likely to see the death of email (which currently handles 54% of customer service inquiries) as a channel for customer support.
Innovations in artificial intelligence
Many companies are already using some form of artificial intelligence to improve their customer interactions, but we’re likely to see such technologies gain mass adoption in the coming decade. For example, voice recognition technology has improved to the extent that the AI-driven Google Duplex virtual assistant can call to make restaurant reservations on your behalf and can immediately respond to questions from live humans on the other end—even if they are speaking with incorrect grammar or are using sentence fragments. We’ll likely see many companies begin using artificial intelligence voice technology to provide a more seamless experience with real-time phone support, going beyond voice recognition-driven menus to provide answers and support for nearly any type of customer interaction.
Real-time translation technology has also grown by leaps and bounds: Google has just released “interpreter mode” on its virtual assistant software, offering real-time translation services across 44 different languages. Over the coming years, we’re likely to see organizations implement similar technology to provide real-time interpretation during customer interactions, making it possible for customer support teams to provide seamless support to customers in their own language, and making it easier to serve customers on a global scale.
A strong focus on knowledge management and access
Most companies are already beginning to see the importance of building a robust knowledge base, both for internal employee training and for use in customer support. Instead of customers asking the same questions hundreds of times a day and getting the same answers from customer support representatives, companies can make it easy for customers to find those answers themselves.
Fifty one percent of customers prefer to help themselves and get their information from a detailed FAQ or knowledge base, and with the drive towards self-service customer support, we’re only likely to see that number grow. We’ll likely see further advances in knowledge management technology to support searches for natural language queries, multimedia content that can be accessed across multiple platforms, and customer support tools to help customers take full advantage of a company’s knowledge base through self-service support. We’ll also see companies able to innovate by tracking and analyzing the information that customers are most frequently accessing, and using data-driven insights to support customer needs and preferences.
Using data-driven insights to personalize the customer experience
Today, companies are able to collect deep consumer insights to understand what their customers want, when they want to make purchases, how they use a product, and how they want to engage with your customer support team. Customer support teams are finding ways to use this data to drive increased customer loyalty and customer engagement by proactively providing them with the information they need to make the most of a product, and providing loyalty rewards for customers who make purchases frequently.
For example, companies like the ecommerce eyewear store Warby Parker provide customers with sequenced messages that are highly relevant to their path on the buyer’s journey and their unique experience: A customer who’s just made an appointment for an in-store eye exam will receive tips about when to arrive and what to expect; one who’s just ordered a pair of glasses will receive an order confirmation; a shipping notification with tracking details; and, once the order has arrived, tips on getting reimbursed out of an HSA and a video on keeping the glasses clean.
As more companies add IoT sensors and internal diagnostics to their products, they’ll be able to understand the full history of product usage and provide detailed guidance on how to correct issues without guesswork. Customer support teams will also be able to automatically transition their support in line with the customer’s preferences across channels, whether in-app, phone, chat, or SMS. Companies are recognizing the need for a 360-degree customer view, collecting data about them from all available sources to help improve the customer experience.
Building a best-in-class customer experience is essential for companies that want to rise above their competitors. By making the most of new technologies designed to simplify and scale customer support with the help of artificial intelligence and data-driven insights, companies can differentiate their brands and create a laser-focus on customer success.
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