When it comes to winning loyalty, customer experience is the battlefield for modern brands. A recent Walker study revealed that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as significant brand differentiators. While artificial intelligence and personalization continue to rank high on the list of brand priorities in this new year, a greater push for digital transformation as well as a demand for secure experiences will dominate as well. Here are seven major trends shaping the customer experience in 2019.
Successful brands know that everything they do needs to serve their customers’ needs. According to Wunderman, 79% of consumers want brands to show that they care before a purchase is made. Companies are realizing that, in order to embrace a customer-centric approach, a team effort is absolutely necessary. From the executive branch to the customer service representatives, every employee must be on board and work together to deliver the best customer experiences possible.
AI has been transforming the customer experience landscape for some time now, and it won’t be slowing down in 2019. Oracle states that 8 out of 10 businesses have already implemented or are planning to adopt AI as a customer service solution by 2020. Chatbots Magazine further adds that 67% of people expect to use messaging apps when communicating with a business. Expect to see AI as a power tool for personalization. Brands like Spotify and Amazon, for example, have experienced tremendous success with product recommendations. Chatbots will continue to serve as important tools for assisting customers with concrete tasks such as booking reservations and researching products.
More than ever, customers are demanding the protection of their data. With the establishment of GDPR in 2018 giving European Union citizens power over the use of their personal information, brands worldwide were forced to rethink their policies and become compliant with the new law. Customers need to know that their data is safe, and companies will continue to ensure this by implementing strategies as varied as moving data to the cloud, using machine learning to detect suspicious activity, and employing tools such as voice biometrics, fingerprint ID, and even facial recognition to give customers more secure experiences.
While customers enjoy getting free gifts from companies based on their loyalty, many are willing to pay a little extra for a premium experience. Amazon, for example, offers exclusive benefits to its Prime members such as free expedited shipping for a yearly membership fee. Retail brands like Nordstrom have also forged partnerships with social media influencers, offering them free products in exchange for referrals. A Forrester Research report states that 72% of adults online belong to at least one loyalty program, so offering your customers rewards—even for a small fee—just might be worth it.
Digital transformation will continue to be a priority for many companies. As more and more customers turn to digital devices when engaging with brands, those companies that fail to connect with them will simply lose their business.From brand apps to live chat on brand websites to greater omnichannel engagement, companies will continue to improve their digital presence this year. As Harvard Business School points out, digital leaders have a three-year average gross margin of 55% compared to 37% for companies that are behind in digital transformation.
Understanding and predicting customer behavior in advance will save customers both time and frustration. Predictive analytics can determine, for example, the most frequent reasons for customer contact. By learning about key brand issues ahead of time, companies will be able to solve problems proactively. In addition,AI integrated with predictive analytics can optimize the customer experience by using purchase and browsing history for product recommendations. AI combined with predictive behavioral routing can even match customers with customer service agents on the basis of compatible personalities, giving customers truly personalized experiences.
As sophisticated as technology might be these days, customers still long for the human touch. When chatbots cannot handle complex customer requests, agents will need to step in. Many customers still have a preference for the voice channel, especially when they need to discuss difficult situations. Agents will need to sharpen their soft skills and become expert problem solvers on the fly, as they will be supporting customers who just might prefer speaking to a real person.2019 promises to be a year of technological innovations balanced with a need for humanized and personalized customer experiences.
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