2018 Predictions: Heralding A New Era of Customer Experience

As is typically the case, the new year has been ushered in with a bevy of predictions. And, like most technology executives, I certainly have my own thoughts on what the upcoming year will bring our industry.

Digital transformation will continue to drive sweeping changes in how organizations conduct business and communicate with customers, but this year it’s going to become more pervasive.  2018 will witness an explosion of messaging apps as business communication channels. At Genesys, we are making a massive investment to integrate with the most advanced asynchronous messaging apps for service and sales because it is transforming the relationship between the enterprise brand and the customer. These become long-lived conversations (like you have with your friends) that include visual dialogs and attachments. Sales, marketing and support customer experience (CX) is at the forefront of this mega trend.

Case in point: our own internal analysis coupled with data from our industry partners shows voice interactions are declining while digital interactions are on an uptick. In fact, we project digital will jump by nearly 40 percent with the largest growth in self-service and digital assisted services. Companies of all sizes around the globe will be continually faced with how to keep up with the sheer volume of channels that need to be supported today, while at the same time delivering a seamless connection between self and assisted service.

So, what are the emerging technology trends that will help organizations conquer the age of the digitally-connected, always-on customer? I’ve dusted off my crystal ball and have three predictions about the technologies that will be instrumental.

1. Artificial Intelligence Will Make Contact Center Agents Even Better

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming enterprises and increasing worker efficiency and productivity. At Genesys, we are already using AI and Machine Learning to deliver great outcomes for consumers and our customers. This year, AI will move from a trial phase to mass deployment as brands dramatically increase their investment in the technology. Leveraging AI will help them to more fully understand their customers, their journeys and behaviors, as well as the needs of the human agents that make up their contact centers.

But here’s the key: AI will not replace human call center agents.

Instead, we’ll see wider adoption of what we call “Blended AI,” which is the use of automation and AI alongside employees to help them do their jobs better.

We see chatbots, predictive routing, orchestration and human agents coming together to automate interactions both in self-service and with augmented agent experiences. In other words, contact centers will use chatbots to handle common issues much more frequently, enabling human agents to spend time resolving more challenging customer issues.

Companies that find the right mix of humans and machines will be much more successful going forward. The key is careful and consistent monitoring of this blended approach — staying aware of everything the chatbot is doing by interacting with the AI almost like a colleague.

2. Big Data and the Cloud Uncover Valuable Customer Insights

Today, omnichannel customer interactions are taking place at a break-neck pace across a variety of channels – phone, text, chat, social media and email – just to name a few. The result is an enormous amount of data that companies can use to improve their business, agent performance and customer experience.

The real power of the data lies in the predictive capabilities it provides. And, this year — if they haven’t done so already – companies will be looking for a solution that can help them tap into that data, analyze customer history and behavior to deliver highly responsive, predictive, fully contextual and efficient service. This is the only way for brands to deliver the kind of hyper-personalized experience customers will increasingly demand.

And the best way to process in real-time the vast and ever-growing data resulting from omnichannel interactions is through the cloud. That’s why the cloud is turbocharging this trend and quickly gaining ground in the core contact center market. In 2017 for example, our PureCloud offer saw more than 400 percent revenue growth and 30 to 35 percent of contact center seats are expected to be cloud-based by 2020 (that’s quite an increase from about 15 percent in 2016). That momentum won’t slow down anytime soon.

3. Augmented Reality Will Become a New Customer Service Channel

Augmented Reality (AR) and holograms have been popping up in movies like the Terminator, Mission Impossible and even Top Gun for years. While consumers may not readily recognize what they’ve seen on the big screen as “AR” and “holographic computing,” the fact is these powerful technologies have been around in the “real world” for quite some time.

What’s new is how organizations are using this powerful technology. AR overlays digital information on images of the real world, bringing an entirely new layer of intelligence to our day-to-day lives.

In the next three years, we predict organizations will start leveraging AR to change the way they engage with customers. In fact, it is already happening thanks, in part, to companies including Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and others placing AR into the hands of consumers. This opens the door for AR to be used to facilitate self-service customer interactions. Today, we know many customers prefer to resolve issues on their own rather than call a contact center agent. AR has great potential to drive self-service to the next level, especially for instructional scenarios. For instance, imagine you’re having problems getting your new Wi-Fi printer to work. What if you could simply point your tablet or smartphone at the printer and AR overlays would help you troubleshoot the issue yourself? Or, consider a hologram popping up on your banking app to answer basic questions about a new car loan.

What this all boils down to is that the technology will start permeating even more facets of our daily lives, and as a result, we predict AR will become an increasingly prominent communications and consumption medium. That means it’s a new customer channel that brands will need to manage this year and beyond.

What does all of this mean for Genesys?

For Genesys, it means we won’t slow down, and we will be ready for anything at any time. As AI, AR, big data and the cloud continue to accelerate, a new innovation is sure to emerge. We can’t be so set on our own vision for the future, that we miss other changes coming down the pipe.

That’s why we work astutely to identify trends before they surface. And, it is the reason why we invest heavily in agile architectures, fine-tune our processes and ensure we have the best people in our industry. And most importantly, this year and always, we will continue to keep our customers front and center because ultimately, solving their problems with the technology and best practices of tomorrow is what we’re all about.