Customer engagement experienced quite an evolution in the past year. New technologies paved the way for both seamless and increasingly innovative customer experiences, redefining the role of human agents in customer service. But the power of the personal touch is still essential: In 2017, customer engagement will be marked by a need to balance the cutting-edge technologies that drive optimized experiences with the human touch that inspires and wins the loyalty of customers. Here are seven customer engagement trends to follow in 2017.
In 2017, artificial intelligence will continue to play a key role in delivering faster and more optimized customer experiences. This past year saw the rise of chat bots and intelligent assistants as conversational commerce took customer service by storm. AI technology is making it possible to deliver personalized customer experiences by using customer data to offer tailor-made recommendations, enhancing the product research experience, and ultimately allowing customers to make purchases and resolve issues with greater speed and precision than ever. From luxury brands like Louis Vuitton to fast food chains like Domino’s Pizza, artificial intelligence is rapidly reshaping customer engagement and redefining seamless experiences.
It is often said that the customer is always right, and now companies are realizing that the customer should always be the top priority. Customer centricity has become a new rule for many brands, simply meaning that every step of the journey must benefit the customer and take his point of view. Expect to see more brands take steps toward improving their customer experience by offering more automated options to save time, a better omnichannel experience, and a stronger effort to provide a human touch where it is needed the most. It pays to listen to your customers: According to Deloitte, customer-centric brands are 60% more profitable than brands that are not customer-focused.
Big data has been a hot topic for awhile now, but its importance just continues to grow. Many brands are recognizing how essential it is to collect data from their customers from various sources–both digital and human as well as structured and unstructured–to make significant service improvements. Different data sources may include but are not limited to social media comments, customer feedback surveys, speech and text analytics, CRM software, and web and self-service analysis. By analyzing customer behavior and input across different channels, brands can obtain a global picture of the customer experience and create more effective customer journey maps that meet service needs.
Social media channels have been popular for customer service for some time now, with numerous brands using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to deliver real-time customer service. However, this past year witnessed an incredible shift in how social media is used as well as a new brand approach to customer engagement on these channels. Global Web Index claims that more than 2.3 billion people worldwide are active social media users. The recent shift? A Business Insider report found that messaging apps have recently surpassed social media channels in terms of monthly active users, with comScore data revealing that millennials are the leading generation of messaging app users. Brands are taking note by engaging more and more with customers through messaging apps, establishing a more direct and personal approach to customer engagement. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Kik, to name a few, are paving the way for conversational commerce and seamless customer experience by enabling brands to provide highly personalized and rich content. From providing easy click-to-call buttons to scannable codes and video attachments, such apps are adding a new layer of sophistication to social customer service that will continue to grow in 2017.
The popularity of messaging apps signals the fact that mobile use is still on the rise. Statista states that the number of smartphone users passed 2 billion worldwide in the past year—a number that is expected to keep growing. Heavy mobile use translates into greater demand not only for messaging apps, but for other channels such as SMS, email, and traditional voice. To stay competitive and customer-centric, brands may, for example, optimize their mobile experience by offering automated service options such as visual IVR and callbacks for a better voice experience. Optimizing other mobile channels with easy click-to-call or chat buttons, scannable discount codes, and marketing offers based on geolocation data can further help customers on the go or shopping in-store.
The cloud continues to rise: Research and Markets claims that the cloud-based contact center market is expected to reach $15 billion by 2020. Numerous brands have found tremendous success with cloud adoption, citing greater scalability, flexibility, and seamlessness for richer customer experiences at dramatically reduced costs. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the cloud therefore ensure its solid place in customer experience for the coming year.
It is sometimes said that the difference between multichannel and omnichannel is optimization: The latter shows a brand that is truly omnipresent and ready to serve its customers at any time. Optimization is now the rule rather than the exception, and it applies to brands on a global scale. The omnichannel experience needs to be optimized, meaning that all channels should be staffed if not 24/7, at least enough to meet demand. Customers should also feel they are getting a quality experience no matter which channel they are on, with no lack of information. However, optimization also applies to agents and brand practices. Now more than ever, it’s important for companies to properly train agents to master the channels they work on and help them switch easily as customer demand shifts. Lastly, reaching out to customers on their preferred channels is a way to optimize practices for greater long-term loyalty as it demonstrates a desire to put customer needs first. As technology continues to enhance the customer experience, brands need to balance such tools with a personalized and humanized approach to customer service.
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