As I said in my last post, 2015 was quite a year for Nuance and for the industry as a whole as Conversational IVR became the new standard for automated phone experiences, reactive virtual assistants became proactive virtual advisors, and self- and assisted-service converged. We also saw artificial intelligence enter the conversation for customer service along with glimpses of its implications for the future. But 2016 is shaping up to be even better.
At the beginning of a new year, it’s always fun to make (and hopefully keep) New Year’s resolutions and try to predict what the coming twelve months might hold. In the United States, 2016 is an election year and there’s plenty of speculation regarding who will get the Republican and Democratic nominations and who the next POTUS will be. In the Middle East, there are a variety of predictions regarding what the future holds for peace in that region. 2016 is the year that Rio de Janeiro will host the summer Olympics, with all eyes on whether the host city will be ready in time and which country takes home the most medals. In my part of the sporting world here in the San Francisco Bay Area, basketball fans have various predictions regarding whether the Golden State Warriors can break the Chicago Bulls’ record for most regular season wins to bring home another NBA title.
Those are all interesting topics, but I’m going to stick to a topic I’m well-versed in for my own 2016 predictions: customer service. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, every aspect of customer service has changed in the last five years and the rate of change will only accelerate in the years to come. I’ve also shared our vision that Nuance Enterprise will usher in the day when nearly all customer service is automated and consumers will prefer it. While thinking about my predictions for the coming year, however, I kept harkening back to one post in particular about how we can fall back in love with customer service. In it, I shared a quote by Novalis, a poet, author, and philosopher of early German Romanticism, who said “to romanticize the world is to make us aware of its magic, mystery, and wonder; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.”
As I look forward to 2016, this will be the year that we collectively begin to recast our view of customer service as simply “ordinary” to something that can be truly “extraordinary.” Specifically:
- Customer authentication will delight rather than dismay – with voice biometrics replacing PINs and passwords.
- Automated systems will become more human – with natural language and dialog permeating all aspects of self-service.
- Intelligent self-service will become even more intelligent – with artificial intelligence and agent-assisted learning driving new system capabilities.
Customer authentication will delight rather than dismay
At Nuance, we’ve long talked about how much we love voice biometrics and how it can address widespread consumer frustration with current forms of customer authentication like PINs and passwords while providing equivalent – or better – security. It’s truly a win-win for both the customer and the company. Momentum for voice biometrics has been growing for many years and 2016 will be the year that a tipping point of companies join Manulife in saying “au revoir” to passwords, PINs and security questions. This will be a key enabler of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary as customers can’t benefit from great self-service functionality if they can’t access it in the first place (if their identity and access rights can’t be successfully determined at the beginning of the interaction).
Automated systems will become more human
At Nuance, we’ve also long talked about the need to create a more human conversation with technology. Last year, we issued a press release unveiling advancements in conversational multi-channel customer self-service. In a blog post at the time, I shared survey data indicating that 73 percent of consumers agree that interacting with an automated system that they could converse with would significantly improve the experience. In response, Nuance had driven its NLU and conversational engagement innovations across IVR, web, and mobile channels (including two-way text messaging) to deliver cost-effective, compelling customer self-service experiences and extended that leadership across additional channels and new capabilities. 2016 will witness a number of deployments of these capabilities and a recognition that natural language and dialog have become essential components of any successful self-service experience. As interacting with an automated system continues to become indistinguishable with interacting with a human agent, the ordinary becomes extraordinary for both the customer and the company.
Intelligent self-service will become even more intelligent
2015 was certainly the year that AI entered the conversation for customer service but we’re only at the beginning of seeing its potential to bring the humanity back to customer service and to increase customer loyalty and other business results. One key to creating call center nirvana is having the right mix of agent support and smart technology and 2016 will be the year that we see the first deployed AI-enabled, self-learning systems in the contact center – enabling intelligent self-service to become even more intelligent over time as it observes and learns from agent actions. With each new teaching moment and incremental system capability, the ordinary becomes extraordinary step-by-step, a little bit more each day.
Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to an extraordinary 2016 for our industry!