Delivering a consistently positive customer experience is ever more essential to a business, but still exceptionally challenging to always get right. So, could 2016 be a watershed year?
Developments in using predictive and adaptive analytics to drive real-time contextual engagement over the last 12 months mean businesses are now able to realise the benefits of designing their activities for customer experience. The data and analytics that have fed the marketing automation machines of the past can now balance an individual’s needs with the objectives of the business – in real time – to deliver the “Next Best Action” in and across all channels, inbound and outbound. That means empowerment for customer-facing staff and the recognition of customers and prospects as individuals, not just targets in segments.
With this mind, I believe there are a few key trends we’ll see develop over the coming year:
Context is the new black
Realising that customers, not products and services, drive revenue will be a key turning point for organisations in 2016. The campaign approach to marketing of old is being usurped by contextual engagement, which is subsequently better for the customer, better for the business and more human. Businesses need to take advantage of the data they have available to them and turn it into something that can drive real prospect and customer engagement.
On top of this, the Internet of Things is going to exponentially increase the amount of data and events that organisations process in 2016. Therefore, businesses which are able to turn the massive amount of data into context and find patterns will ultimately be able to service their customers better using these insights to drive actions. Introducing projects that take advantage of predictive, adaptive, and big data analytics tools will ensure customer services teams can provide the end customer with the next best action, in a personalised way, at any point during their journey.
The real me
Stop and think for a minute; can you see the individual person you’re interacting with? Moving into 2016, businesses need to be able to learn with every interaction, much like the personalised service of a bank manager in the 1970s. I believe we’re going to see customer service go full circle next year as businesses try to re-personalise operations, using technology to build customer relationships in a way they’ve not done before. Organisations are going to know everything about their customers to help understand their needs better, and be able to offer relevant help and advice.
Yet, recognising the real person can also mean calling out fraudulent and unnatural behaviour in a customer. In the insurance industry for example, it’s sometimes important to ask “is that person being genuine?” This means weighing up everything you know about them as a customer.
Empathy is a natural way forward for marketing strategies and customer experience design, but this is going to be challenging and will require an overhaul of strategy. To put empathy at the core of an organisation, businesses should be constantly considering what it feels like to be a customer.
Product messages are still important, but need to be delivered to the customer at the right time, in the right context. Organisations should respect the customer relationship and ensure every engagement is relevant. Automated call handling can certainly assist here; are they calling to check that you’ve received their latest payment? If you suspect that’s the case, then why not say so through the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system?
2016 will be about being smarter and not going through a never ending list of automated options. Understand and anticipate what the customer has called about and consider ‘what’s the most likely thing they’re going to ask?’
Mobile first—but not exclusively
Mobile-ready organisations are already reaping the benefits when it comes to digital customers, and we only expect this to continue to grow over the next 12 months. The mobile channel provides opportunities to leverage additional information, such as location, that marketers can take advantage of. However, this is not enough and looking forward we’ll see companies start to optimise their user experience for an omni-channel approach that not only exploits and optimises the mobile channel, but maintains the same level of context as the user switches into other channels such as web or agent assisted.
Businesses need to start listening to acknowledge where the customer wants to meet them. 2016 will be about empowering the customer to elect their channel of choice – phone, mail, email, web, chat, mobile, social media, and all the new channels that will undoubtedly follow. Don’t force them down a particular channel by removing or downgrading others – a customer shouldn’t have to use online because they can’t find a phone number, for example.
Next level innovation should be about accommodating customers and respecting their time. Find out which channel they have reached out on previously – both offline and online – and make sure the resolution is simple, immediate and relevant. 2016 will continue to be a challenging year for marketers who are tasked with organising and leveraging the data generated across channels. But let’s remember, customers don’t think in terms of channels – only marketers do.
Let’s make 2016 the year of customer experience design. Put the customer at the centre of your organisation and ensure everything you do is ultimately driving towards a better customer experience. It’s one thing to say you want to put the customer at the centre, but another thing to enable it and then deliver on that promise.
By Robin Collyer, marketing and decisioning specialist, Pegasystems.
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