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CX Trends to Watch in 2019 When it comes to a business's customer support functions, ML and AI technologies will free up human agents so they can take on more complex customer problems

By KT Prasad

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The start of a new year offers a chance to take stock of where we stand and which path to follow in the months ahead. For businesses, now is the time to renew your focus on how you serve your customers. The brands that win are not always the brands that offer the best customer experience (CX), but the ones who are consistently improving and adapting their CX. Having said that, brands should never forget that today's customer expects more, and has the world at their fingertips. In fact, quite literally. By 2022, 60 per cent of India's population will have a smartphone, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index. So what does this mean for businesses?

An increasing percentage of Indians will start ordering food, shopping during their daily commute, consume content, and book rides, vacations, and movie tickets online, validating the rise and rise of companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Amazon, to name a few. Today's customer expects efficient services in real time at anytime. Therefore, a great user interface that offers a seamless experience will be of upmost importance.

Over the past few years, we have seen a marked move towards self-serve options for customers, the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as part of widespread digital transformations, and a demand for personalization without sacrificing speed and quality of service, among others. Companies have also started to adopt omnichannel strategies to provide seamless support across multiple channels. In fact, these developments, coupled with massive tech leaps, will continue to accelerate as the CX trends that will rule 2019.

Rise of AI and ML

Problem-solving and customer interaction will benefit hugely from AI. We will see more chatbots being employed to engage customers particularly by e-commerce platforms. Customers already seek Alexa, Google Home or Siri for basic support and everyday questions.

As Gartner Research forecasted just two years ago, 30 per cent of all web browsing will be carried out without a screen by 2020, while a comScore study revealed that 50 per cent of all searches will be voice searches by the same year. This means that brands need to incorporate some form of voice assistance into their CX mix in the coming year or risk being left behind.

Meanwhile, a 2018 Capgemini report points out that 64 per cent of consumers surveyed wanted AI to be more "human-like". In fact, the head of Alexa Brain Group, Ruhi Sarikaya, announced at a conference in France, that Alexa would soon be able to converse more naturally and even have a memory, making CX even more engaging.

When it comes to a business's customer support functions, ML and AI technologies will free up human agents so they can take on more complex customer problems. However, there is no need to worry – AI will create more jobs than it kills according to Gartner.

AI also has other uses in customer experience, including the capture of data which can be converted into meaningful insights into customers' needs and expectations. AI will also lead the way in delivering unique and tailor-made content to customers, helping to further personalize their experience with your brand.

Moving to the Cloud and CX

Cloud technology is rapidly becoming a key component of any digital transformation ecosystem. As an increasing number of businesses in India are revamping their IT infrastructure to serve their customers better, the public cloud services market has received a shot in the arm. India, according to Gartner, is the second largest and fastest-growing cloud services market in the Asia Pacific region, with its public cloud services market expected to touch $4.1 billion in 2020, up from $1.8 billion in 2017.

Moving to the public cloud means efficient internal operations, better gathering of data, and greater transparency and flexibility. For customers, it means better access and information. Any business that has customer-facing platforms and users spread across the globe needs to consider the public cloud. Many business are choosing hybrid cloud solutions because it offers the advantages of both the public and private cloud. Uber is one example that uses the hybrid cloud to run its global business. The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index (2018) says that 91 per cent of over 2,000 IT decision makers will consider the hybrid cloud for their needs. This is a trend that I believe will continue to build into 2019.

Omnichannel is the Way to go

Brands now know that the omnichannel approach puts them in a better position to meet and exceed customer expectations. In 2019, an increasing number of companies will adopt omnichannel CX strategies. A report, which includes data from 45,000 organisations across 140 countries, proves why omnichannel adoption will dominate the coming year. Customer expectations are at an unprecedented high simply because the customer is used to multiple choices, speed and intuitive solutions offered by brands. The report says that 61 per cent of customers are less patient with customer service than they were five years ago.

The first step towards enhanced CX is to map a customer's journey. Some of the strategies that define the omnichannel experience include integrating online with offline, where brick and mortar stores transform into collection points and less of a point-of-sale. Another could be customer support in the form of self-serve approach like a well-chalked-out FAQs page. Customers tend to look for self-service as their first point of contact, and 76 per cent surveyed prefer to self-serve compared to other options.

Different channels work well with different pain points and sets of customers. Someone using live chat would likely do so if they are looking for an immediate response. According to the report, 86 per cent of consumers welcome such assistance when they have problems online, and millennials are more likely to prefer live chat than baby boomers. Social media continues to wield enormous influence, especially in a market like India. Every brand recognises this, and with a captive 250 million active social media users (Hootsuite), any omnichannel experience must include social media.

Providing a unified experience across multiple touchpoints and channels and making them unified is what matters. A siloed approach no longer works for today's customers as they seek to connect and engage when they desire, not when or how the brand wants them to.

In Summary

Reports point out that B2C firms are moving to omnichannel solutions at the fastest pace, as they typically have a bigger and diverse customer base than B2B companies, and also deal with greater ticket volumes. As such, the study also rings a warning bell to businesses: "Become an "omnichannel company' or risk getting left behind."

As that oft-quoted Walker study says, "customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020." It would do well for a brand to stay abreast of these 2019 trends if it seeks to offer CX to outclass the rest.

KT Prasad

Country Sales Director, Zendesk India

KT Prasad is the Country Sales Director for Zendesk, India. Since joining the Indian office of the San Francisco based SaaS Company in September 2016, he has been responsible for Business growth with a focus on helping customers transform their customer service into meaningful customer engagement with beautifully simple solutions.

He has a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) degree from the Karnatak University and over 20 years of management experience in some of the top companies from the software and services industry. Prior to joining Zendesk, KT was the General Manager with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise responsible for Microsoft Business Applications, Asia Pacific and Japan. He was in charge of delivering Microsoft based business applications such as Dynamics CRM and Dynamics Axapta and leading HPE’s Enterprise Cloud Solutions strategy for Microsoft applications. Prior to HPE, KT spent time with Adea, PSI Data Systems and Agilisys (formerly known as netdecisions) where he played various leadership roles.

In every role that he has held, his basic objectives have been; driving customer satisfaction, improving integration across business units and addressing the unique technology needs of customers.                                                                     



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