Rise of AI chatbots and virtual assistants
Gartner predicts that 85% of customer interactions will be addressed without human contact by 2020 and there are a host of websites already using chatbots to handle tasks which require little or no human intervention.
However, there has also been significant investment in more sophisticated applications including Facebook’s claim that its bots can now successfully directly negotiate with human users. As AI chatbots and virtual assistants interact with traditional contact centre staff and ingest more and more data, they should be able to answer a greater volume of sophisticated questions.
Virtual assistants can also help give customers a more personalised experience. For instance, in the hospitality industry customers could see the exact layout of their hotel rooms and make changes, use a virtual concierge, and preview the precise dish they plan to eat off the menu. Virtual reality will not only transform the way firms build relationships with customers but also the content they directly provide.
New customer data strategies
As customers continue to use a proliferation of touchpoints, data from every channel will continue to be critical for effective customer engagement. Purchase histories, communication preferences, shopping behaviour and social media can all be combined to give a 360 degree view of the customer. This helps brands provide real time targeting, the holy grail for any marketing strategy.
Yet with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force later this year, any firm with EU customers will need a radical rethink. With some studies suggesting as many as three quarters of firms are not yet compliant with the regulation, businesses will have to look at how they can continue to leverage the benefits of consumer data without losing a key competitive advantage.
Birth of blockchain
Since the fundamental advantage of blockchain technology is greater transparency and trust, it has significant power to revolutionise customer experience. For instance peer to peer transactions can be carried out directly with customers, removing the need for third party intermediaries. This gives brands a larger influence over the customer journey and means greater accountability.
Amidst headlines of significant consumer data breaches, the complex cryptography involved should also result in better security protection and ownership of personal information. Blockchain also offers the possibility of real time settlements, which for online retailers may help solve one of the biggest areas of customer complaints in terms of refund length.
2018 – the year of emotion
Measuring customer emotion has long eluded analytics specialists. Yet with a study in the Harvard Business Review suggesting that emotional connections matter more than customer satisfaction, technology is starting to solve the challenge.
Application Programme Interface technologies can mimic human ability to understand emotional behaviour through speech, text, videos and photos. Facial detection, for instance, uses algorithms which analyse the relationship between points on the face, whilst sentiment analysis can detect if a statement is positive or negative based on key words.
Capgemini suggests that effective emotional engagement can add 5% to retailers’ annual revenues. As 90% of consumers report a negative reaction to impersonal and transactional loyalty programmes, expect to see them increasingly replaced with initiatives that put emotion at the centre.