There’s no question the customer experience (CX) has evolved significantly over the past 20 years. As we move into the third decade of the new Millennium, it’s helpful to take a look at the past to see how it will inform the future.
Here’s our take on 20 important CX changes from Y2K to 2020.
Change #1: Artificial intelligence-powered, zero-wait customer response. When’s the last time you picked up the phone to solve a customer service issue? Chatbots are increasingly replacing call center agents as the first line of customer service inquiry. “Twenty-five percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than two percent in 2017,” according to Gartner.
Change #2: On the other side of that phone call, human agents can be pushed further up the CX escalation ladder, moving them from a front-line role into a more specialized role.
Change #3: Multi-channel support is now the rule. A toll-free phone number is still important, but so is a customer experience strategy for email, chat, and even live video and virtual reality support for high end products and services.
Change #4: The rise of social media means companies now interact with customers far outside the standard purchase/support cycle, blurring the line between support and public relations/advertising.
Change #5: Social media personalities and influencers offer new branding opportunities and act as a further communication and promotional channel for companies on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more.
Change #6: Some of these CX encounters occur on personal messaging apps rather than via traditional web chat, phone calls, or email. Include direct messaging on social media and the number of contact points soars.
Change #7: Customers now interact with companies to customize products that fit their needs, rather than selecting off-the-shelf wares — even at the retail level.
Change #8: Companies can hone future offerings based on how customers actually use their products and services thanks to Internet of Things-enabled devices and AI analysis algorithms.
Change #9: Machine learning data analysis can also be applied to the entire sales process. No more CX black boxes thanks to the data collected when interacting with potential customers.
Change #10: Client interactions can now be recorded, sorted, and acted on to create a personal profile for customers large (institutions, business-to-business) and small (individual retailer transactions accumulated over time), thanks to AI.
Change #11: No one wants to be chained to a laptop or desktop to use your service or buy your products. The mobile customer experience has become at least as important, if not more so, than any other.
Change #12: Easy online communication cuts both ways: customers can post reviews of a company and have them read by millions of others.
Change #13: This means companies are constantly monitoring social media not just for direct customer interactions, but for trending complaints or praise that must be dealt with or amplified.
Change #14: Not all customer experience encounters require two way communication. Frequently-asked questions (FAQ) sections of websites and apps have blossomed into feature-rich, multimedia how-tos covering every aspect of a product.
Change #15: Virtual reality brings the customer anywhere you want them to be, without asking them to leave their seat.
Change #16: VR has also expanded remote support and diagnostic possibilities, especially when paired with IoT devices.
Change #17: Further, virtual reality allows for on-site training by sales and technical personnel without the burden of travel.
Change #19: IoT devices are increasingly found in homes, linking customers to companies and services via simple voice commands.
Change #20: The same IoT devices provide frictionless product ordering and streaming service delivery through an always-on voice-enabled interface that hovers in the background of daily life.
The next 20 years may see as many, if not more, changes in how the customer experience affects brands, corporations, and clients. Could we even be looking at a more rapid evolution? The landscape 5 years from now might be unrecognizable for companies that don’t invest in grappling with the new CX reality, which makes learning from the past key to understanding where we’re headed in the future.