Richard Farrell, CIO at Netcall explains how businesses do not necessarily need to turn back on previous pandemic-driven investments, but instead should consider leveraging and developing CX technologies to reinvent and reinforce the customer and employee experience.
2021 was another year of epic firefighting in which customer experience (CX) innovation increased at rapid pace. Whilst the pandemic acted as a catalyst for change, it also uncovered the need to achieve greater operational efficiencies for businesses to keep up and become more aligned with customer expectations.
Now, as we move further into 2022, organisations are no longer satisfied with just surviving. The time and effort that went into plugging inefficiencies during the initial stages of the pandemic must now lead to something greater and more sustainable. After all, businesses can’t afford to stand still whilst the threat of Amazon-like giants with superior CX capabilities threaten to break into every sector. Nor can they ignore the necessity to set their employees up to work, and respond to customers effectively, from anywhere. Especially now that the introduction of the Government’s Plan B has proven that remote working has become – and will continue to be – part of everyday life. To move beyond survival mode, businesses must pivot from a phase of reactive measures to focus on actions and technology that will prove to be revolutionary in the year ahead.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean turning your back on those previous investments – according to Forrester, in 2022, customers will want over half of pandemic-era services to become the new normal. Instead, it means leveraging those solutions to reinvent and reinforce the customer and employee experience. Here, we discuss the top trends, technologies and strategies that will underpin CX transformation in the year ahead, and how organisations can leverage these to become truly revolutionary.
- Self-service will grow smarter in both capacity and flexibility
Self-service is familiar to CX professionals and customers alike. However, self-service as we currently know it is set to change as demand for efficiency and improved experience continues to grow. Whilst self-service is currently focused on ‘routine tasks’, its continued development, alongside intelligent automation, makes it ideal for assisting with enquires, and therefore improving efficiency. Many customers seek a self-service, mobile-first option and are willing to use these solutions to have their needs met more quickly. Looking ahead, self-service will have the capability for handling more effective interactions with customers, taking the burden off human workers who have faced a dramatic uptick in inbound telephone calls over the last 12 months.
For example, when a customer has an order inquiry during an online journey their chat experience should be informed by real-time data. It shouldn’t need an agent to have a Webchat and search internal systems for answers, the Web assistance should be integrated so the customer has visibility.
According to recent research by Netcall and Davies, 40% of CX leaders currently prefer service users to use human-provided contact channels. However, we could soon see this sentiment change as self-service tools become increasingly sophisticated. Creative uses of automation alongside these tools will carry extra impact in reducing the pressure on precious and expensive people without damaging the experience.
- Automation as a tool to retain and engage
In terms of aiding and improving the customer experience, automation and its benefits have been realised for some time now. But never has it been more important for it to be harnessed as a tool to retain and engage employees. Recent reports reveal that almost a quarter of workers actively plan to change employers in the next few months, as part of a ‘great resignation’ and this is set to have a detrimental impact on customer relationships if not rectified quickly.
Reducing the routine will, therefore, quickly become table stakes in which intelligent automation can play a critical role. By leveraging automation effectively, including tools such as robotic process automation (RPA), raw data that already exists in knowledge bases and FAQs can be rapidly translated into more accessible forms, removing the manual burden on frontline workers. Updates to multiple systems no longer needs tedious and error-prone manual inputs, freeing employees time for employees to handle more interesting and customer-focused tasks. Providing a superior experience needs alignment with business processes and low-code application platforms allow organisations to compose the processes they need, rather than not forcing them to work to pre-defined software steps.
Such automation also provides proactive communication opportunities that are welcomed by customers, whilst reducing reactive demands.
- Democratising transformation for faster results
With increased concern over new COVID variants and doubts about back to the office plans, the need to deliver new or streamlined services will continue to grow. Moving beyond legacy tech or app-centric thinking to a truly customer-centric model, however, will need to be an organisational-wide effort, utilising and combining the knowledge of frontline workers with that of IT and technical expertise.
Delivering results fast will be paramount in today’s competitive and constantly evolving CX landscape, and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) tools will be pivotal to this. But these tools don’t help if only expensive and scarce resources are required to put them into practice, which is why a re-think is needed about who develops applications within and for an organisation. Improved automation and CX is best delivered by teams that include both business and IT stakeholders – and application creation platforms can effectively alleviate the strain of transformation on trained developers and IT staff. The rise of pick-and-mix business components and composite architecture are also making this possible. Organisations and their CX teams can now mix and match ready-made, packaged business capabilities, using them as building blocks to form a solid foundation, open to future customisation.
- Security and privacy to take centre-stage
Whilst the rise of technologies such as AI and self-service channels can only be a good thing for CX, it also brings the need for heightened security and privacy measures into sharper focus. Currently regarded as afterthoughts or regulatory obligations, in 2022 privacy and security will need to be a core focus when delivering CX. After all, security lapses – no matter how big or small – can undermine customer trust, and once lost or damaged it can be hard and often impossible to recover. That’s not to mention the reputational and financial implications associated with data breaches.
The pressure is therefore on for organisations to truly respect and protect customer privacy – taking greater responsibility by default rather than ducking for legal cover. To keep customers onside, businesses should be transparent around how they responsibly use customer information and not take it for granted. Much like a company promotes its green credentials, data protection policies should be communicated effectively to customers.
- Tapping into AI for personalised insights
Until now, large artificial intelligence (AI) models have been trained with enormous volumes of anonymised data collected over the Internet. That’s given rise to several problematic issues, including unconscious biases, which can be particularly harmful in a CX context. Looking forward, there is a potential to tap into the masses of data that companies have accumulated over the years for AI and machine learning (ML) purposes. Whilst this has already started with some of the largest companies, we’ll now see it become available to more and more organisations as the costs come down and the technology becomes even smarter.
When organisations can train ML models based on the data they’ve collected, the insights it provides are going to be that much more personal, accurate, and therefore valuable for customer experience.
Low-code platforms will play an important role in this venture by providing easy access to the data that can be mined for AI, but also the personalised AI tools that will do the mining. With these software solutions, it will become easier than ever to build smart, AI-powered applications with the insights your own data provides.
Pragmatic AI is already hard at work in fields such as Automatic Speech Recognition, Natural Language Processing, Sentiment Analysis, Computer Vision and Optical Character Recognition. However, adoption of such technologies should not be limited to a narrow field of data scientists.
For those with the tools and technologies in place to embrace it, 2022 holds many opportunities for businesses across a range of sectors. It is time for organisations to take the leap from reactive to revolutionary – taking control of the quick fixes and short-term solutions implemented during the pandemic, reviewing the successes, and using them to build for the future. After all, the rapid acceleration of digital transformation at the beginning of the pandemic proved businesses could work at lightening pace, even in the most pressurised of environments. Lessons learnt during this time can now be taken and applied moving forward. Legacy systems needn’t be a barrier to such innovation, as these systems of record can be augmented with intelligent automation tools, meaning organisations can be free to build, create, and transform at pace to compete in the new era of CX.
Read the latest edition of PCR’s monthly magazine here: