Whenever the topic of customer engagement or service comes up, technology often dominates the discussion. Artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, interactive video and real-time texting are but a few examples.
What’s driving it? For one, “customers today operate with a digital-first mentality,” according to Bob Segert, executive chairman of Aspect Software, in a recent Forbes online interview.
“These digital channels—social, messaging apps, SMS, chatbots—are becoming the first entry point into the entire customer experience,” said Segert, whose company provides customer-contact software solutions.
With large-scale change comes big expectations of how people want to live, work and engage. No one willing to wait—or settle for less.
Such responsiveness requires touchpoint technology to better connect with customers, whatever business you’re in.
That said, let’s focus on a few tech trends that will continue to grow in 2018.
Market insight can be elusive if you can’t get your arms around the data to achieve it.
Accenture and Salesforce address that and customer-centric trends affecting it in their survey, “Retail Organizations: The Next Stage of Transformation.”
In their research, they found the personalized experiences customers seek occur when organizations combine AI with machine learning.
The survey cites True Religion Brand Jeans, which “leverages data intelligence throughout the virtual and physical shopping experiences.”
To create those experiences, the company integrates mobile devices, predictive intelligence and geo-location.
The survey states: “Store associates are armed with Apple Watches containing customer profiles, preferences, and shopping histories for a more personalized and engaging experience.”
Such applied insight separates industry leaders from laggards, according to Accenture and Salesforce.
Live chat is an essential engagement tool today—and its importance will increase for many businesses. After using live chat, industry surveys report that customers buy more and return to those websites to shop again.
On the road, c/net tech today reports: “Uber is adding a chat function into its app so that riders no longer have to receive calls and texts from random numbers.”
c/net tech today video reporting “Uber is adding a chat function”
This technology cuts across all kinds of industries. For instance, to better connect with sports fans, New York Times reporters Jay Schreiber and Benjamin Hoffman held a live chat as the 2017 baseball season began. You can read the entire chat here.
The exchange went on for almost 90 minutes. Live chat, no doubt, will continue to engage fans and be a customer business forum for The New York Times—whatever the sport or event.
Along with live chat, the popularity of video chat is increasing as a real-time, business-to-consumer (B2C) tool. It’s a natural fit for a digital-first mindset.
A few years ago, industry analyst Gartner predicted by 2018 that 20% out of the Global 500 companies would video chat to engage customers. Its full potential has yet to be tapped.
By its very nature, video chat provides the personalization and immediacy of service that millennial consumers seek.
Chatbots, shorthand for chat and robots, are coming of age. A site dedicated to them, Chatbots Magazine, even designated 2017 the “Year of Chatbots,” based on several global trends.
1. Mobile messenger rules: “Preferred means of communication” are now Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and others.
2. Apps wearing thin: Users are “tired of installing, updating and learning how to use mobile apps.” Businesses are done investing in apps since “very few people actually use them.”
3. Major players back them: Chatbots are “a long-term strategic initiative” for Facebook and Microsoft.
4. Development costs down: Improvements in “artificial intelligence, natural language understanding and speech recognition” all contribute to creating quality chatbots at a reduced cost.
Next year, chatbots will gain a greater “voice” among consumers and businesses. As this occurs, there has to be a proper balance and integration between machines and humans, Segert of Aspect Software believes.
While his company’s research shows 44% of consumers prefer chatbots for routine customer service, they “do not want the experience to be in isolation.”
Here’s why. Segert told Forbes “86% of consumers expect to have the ability to transfer to a live agent should the interaction become too complicated.”
In 2018, it seems a digital-first mentality will need both: high tech and high touch.