It’s that time of year when industry experts and thought leaders release predictions for the year ahead. And while there’s growing consensus that customer experience is the primary battleground for brands, it’s important to identify trends in how new technology will impact the competition.
Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) is one key to innovative customer experiences in 2019 and beyond. But it’s equally important to understand the current state of AI so you can make CX decisions that positively impact your business.
The following 2019 trends and predictions will give you a better idea of how to successfully leverage AI to improve customer experience both now and in the years to come.
1. AI will Augment (not Replace) Human Interaction in CX
“Brands put too much onus on chatbots to handle everything, an all or nothing approach. Artificial is not meant to replace the customer service agent, but empower them… In 2019, we will see brands truly embrace the chatbot/agent relationship to automate the boring stuff, free up time for agents to focus on customers, and master their SLAs.”—Raju Malhotra, CTO of Spredfast and Lithium
When AI-based chatbots reach peak hype in 2016 and 2017, there was an expectation that they could automate large parts of customer service—the front line of your customer experience. But this shouldn’t be the goal for chatbots (or AI in general).
“Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities are progressing at a rapid rate. What AI can do to enhance customer service and CX is amazing compared to just a few years ago. But, we’re not yet ready for a world in which robots make decisions and make employees obsolete.”—Shep Hyken
You can use AI to automate the responses to low-level questions. But for more advanced use cases, it’s best to let AI empower human employees to deliver high-quality customer experiences. Whether that means presenting relevant promotional offers in real time or improving engagement on support calls, AI is more useful as a way to augment your workforce—not replace it.
2. Greater Demand for Transparency in AI Use Cases
“Transparency is going to start to be an important selling point to win customers over in the future. The firms that customers trust with their data are going to have a huge differentiator when it comes to customer experience… Just like public companies are being asked to be transparent in their financials, soon the world will ask the same for transparency in AI.”—Steven Van Belleghem
Customer experience isn’t just about responding to brand interactions quickly or having smooth digital interfaces. It’s about building trusted relationships with your customers, as well.
Consumers are becoming hyper aware of data privacy issues, making AI use cases controversial if mishandled. Being transparent with customers regarding data usage and the value of AI can lay the foundation for a better overall experience.
3. Practical Measurement for Artificial Intelligence
“With AI becoming a part of the workforce, it’s only natural to start measuring its success as you would an employee. In other words, how well is it performing its responsibilities? The focus will become less about how human-like it is and more about how well it is resolving issues, providing a good customer experience, mitigating risks and negative customer experiences and learning over time.”—Puneet Mehta, Founder and CEO of msg.ai
High-level promises and hype are no longer enough for CX leaders. Innovative customer experience projects can be expensive and there’s more pressure than ever to prove how they are delivering business results.
In 2019, CX leaders will spend more time developing detailed strategies for tracking the success of their AI investments.
4. Pursuing Real-Time Engagement and Personalization
“Because hyper-personal engagement across all touchpoints at the speed of the customer are impossible without it, real-time engagement will finally tip the scale from a luxury to an imperative—an absolute necessity to close the gap between the consumer expectation and experience.”—John Nash, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at RedPoint Global
Studies have shown that many brands lack the backend systems and technology necessary to deliver real-time customer insights. But personalized experiences are becoming the expectation, leaving you to find practical ways to implement AI and machine learning to leverage all of your customer data.
Meeting customers at any point of the buyer’s journey and delivering valuable, relevant offers can significantly improve conversion rates. The technology exists to make this happen—but you need the proper CX strategy to bring it all together.
5. Laying the Foundation for Long-Term Success
According to Susan Galer, Communications Director of SAP Global, 2019 will be more about preparing for the future than actually making major strides with AI. By looking at key industry predictions, she recognized that now is the time to make strategic plans for AI as brands ramp up practical use cases in the coming two or three years. Notable predictions include:
- By 2020, 10% of companies will integrate personalized brand promises into CX using AI, analytics, and big data
- By 2021, companies with frictionless experiences driven by AI will reduce customer attrition by 20%
- And by 2022, these CX-forward companies will create more effective omnichannel interactions and generate 50% of revenue through contextual discovery experiences.
The AI investments you make today will have greater impact in the years to come. You need to build the foundation to make the most of AI to deliver customer experiences that set you apart from competitors.
Customer Experience in 2019 and Beyond
A recent study by Hotjar came to one basic conclusion regarding CX: “Get customer experience right and profit follows.”
Consumers have higher expectations and more options than ever before. They’re in control when it comes to brand relationships and it’s up to CX leaders to prove they can live up to the challenge.
Making the right investments in artificial intelligence is essential—but it’s just one of many technologies driving the future of customer experience.
If you want to learn more about what’s NECXT in customer experience, check out our annual report for some insights that can inform your next investments.