Resolutions and predictions are the hallmark of a new year. Pausing to reflect on the previous year allows the individual milestones and announcements to coalesce into achievement that has propelled the industry forward. It is also an opportunity to look ahead, tap into that momentum, and project what’s next.
Last year we predicted 2016 would be the year customer service went from ordinary to extraordinary – and how right we were. Customers experienced how effortless secure authentication can be, as voice biometrics gained global momentum. Automated systems – from IVRs to automated text messaging – became increasingly human, gaining the ability to listen, understand and provide meaningful responses. And AI drove impressive advances in virtual assistants and chatbots, enabling self-learning systems in the contact center and transforming the definition of a high-quality self-service experience.
In 2017 the pace of innovation will only accelerate. Advances in artificial intelligence will draw businesses and customers closer, inspire loyalty, and streamline operations. This is the year that AI pushes the boundaries of customer service and has a meaningful impact on market share and customer lifetime value.
AI will drive positive emotions that influence spend
Many industry experts have been zeroing in on the importance of emotion in customer service. A recent Forrester report stated, “Feeling valued, frustrated, or disappointed are emotions that govern decision-making about brand loyalty and spend.” In 2017, AI investments will minimize the negative emotions consumers feel when forced to wait on hold, repeat themselves or interact with systems that are difficult to use. Conversational AI allows systems to listen and understand when consumers speak or type and rapidly provide relevant answers and rich information. Further, systems powered by AI are able to intelligently divert customers to more effective channels and seamlessly escalate to live agents when necessary, passing historic context to expedite resolution. As a result, customers feel their time and business is valued, evoking positive emotions that drive them to spend more, more often.
Biometric security solutions will inspire trust
We’ve been talking about the power of voice biometrics for several years now. From providing a more seamless customer experience to lowering the risk of fraud, we’ve always seen biometrics as a shining star of the customer service world. And we’re not alone: Gartner predicts many enterprises will adopt a “voice-first” strategy, as 30 percent of web browsing will be done without a screen by 2020. But in 2017, biometrics will move beyond just voiceprints and fingerprints. As biometrics transform from a “nice to have” into a “must have,” we’ll see the rise of new biometric technologies including facial recognition and behavioral movements. Companies will no longer have to rely on PINs, passwords, or a consumer’s fading memory in order to authenticate customers. By leveraging multi-factor biometrics across multiple touch points – mobile devices, IVRs, live agent conversations – companies will alleviate consumer concern about the security and privacy of their personal information, leading to increased customer trust and advocacy.
Consistent omni-channel experiences will increase loyalty
In the last few years, we’ve seen the number of communication channels explode – opening up entirely new avenues for customers to communicate with businesses. In 2017, this trend will continue, as new platforms and communication channels become part of our daily lexicon. While this is a great opportunity for companies to reach consumers in different ways, it also creates challenges as customers expect to have consistent experiences across all channels. And if customers aren’t satisfied, research shows they’re quick to take their business elsewhere – impacting market share and the bottom line. To meet customer expectations, companies will adopt integrated omni-channel platforms that connect their customer service channels and allow them to cost-effectively extend proven applications to new channels. As a result, consumers will have fast, knowledgeable interactions across all methods of engagement, driving increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
There’s a lot to look forward to as automated customer service continues to advance, offering experiences consumers increasingly prefer. What are your predictions for 2017?