If a pioneering brand or market disruptor comes up with a great new experience, it raises the bar for everyone. Before long, customers are seeking the same attention and convenience from all the businesses they deal with.
So, what will customers expect next?
Here are five predictions of where things are heading between now and 2025.
Customers already expect companies to bring more services and information together in one place to create broader, seamlessly connected services that just work.
Future experiences will build on innovation that’s already here. It’s possible to imagine that by 2025 a customer will be able to say to Alexa, “Find me a second-hand Nissan Leaf to test-drive”, then test-drive it virtually and drill deeper into the specs with augmented reality (AR).
To meet these demands, businesses will need to be able to link all kinds of applications and data together more easily, Capgemini predicts. Application programming interfaces (APIs) allow different software tools to connect and talk to each other over a common platform, making it possible to link vehicle marketplaces, AR applications and financing options, and match these to customers’ particular needs.
Connected car experiences will continue to make life easier for drivers, too. Even if vehicles aren’t fully autonomous by 2025, it’s likely our cars will find their own parking spaces, or will let us know the best place to recharge within the next 25 miles – and whether it has cafés that serve your favourite dish.
Companies are going all out for AI at the moment, and IDC says ambitions to improve the customer experience are driving most of this investment. The payback is decent too – early adopters are enjoying a 25 per cent boost to customer satisfaction, competitiveness and margins.
When powered by AI and machine learning, chatbots and virtual assistants can get to know customers more intimately, to provide a tailored experience. So that when you open your favourite fashion app, it lets you know that the coat you had your eye on is back in stock, with a great discount, at a particular outlet.
By 2025, automated assistants in call centres will be able to recognise and soothe frayed tempers, escalating sensitive calls or heated complaints to a skilled agent. They might even play your favourite song in the background, or whizz across a discount code as a sweetener while they sort out the problem.
The more brands can meet customers where they already are, and fit in with what they’re already doing, the easier the customers’ experience will be.
Fashion brands are now presenting a seamless browsing experience via social networks like Facebook. In place of a static ad, marketers let potential customers flick through product images on their timeline, so that by the time they’re ready to purchase, all they have to do is click through to the website to complete the transaction.
The barriers to transacting are minimal, too, because of straight-through connections to secure payment services like PayPal or Google Pay. Delivery addresses and card details are already stored, so customers can simply check out and move on, even if they’ve never bought from that company before.
Digital wallets and payments activated by mobile devices, including smart watches, offer similar convenience out in the physical world. By 2025, it’s likely that customers will be able to pay for fuel or vehicle servicing via the car dashboard.
They won’t have to have their wallet or phone on them to complete a transaction, and will no longer need to keep paper receipts to remember what they’ve spent. In fact, the end-to-end service experience could be logged in the car’s memory.
Advances in natural language processing, gesture and emotion detection (using AI) will see voice, movement and even thought become the way people interact with technology to give instructions or complete tasks.
By 2024, the volume of devices with built-in voice assistants will have doubled to 8.4 billion, overtaking the number of people in the world, according to Juniper Research. And Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk, is already looking into ‘brain–computer interfaces’.
Simply speaking out – or even thinking – a command means the customer won’t have to stop what they’re doing to interact with a brand or service.
They can quickly set in motion a whole series of processes – carrying on with their day while AI assistants do the rest. That could be paying bills, setting up direct debits, making bookings, or logging a complaint or query.
The best customer experience is when businesses anticipate what customers need and provide it before they ask. It can even convert a potentially negative experience into deeper loyalty.
The right automated intervention reduces incoming contact too, curbing the demands on customer service agents. An anticipatory apology, conciliatory voucher or discounted transaction can go a long way to soften the blow of a missed delivery, slow-running train or delayed flight.
Predictive approaches can also create “wow” moments for customers, McKinsey notes. That could be a network or phone provider sending a replacement battery for a customer’s device before it fails, based on accumulated usage, or providing additional hardware to eliminate poor wireless performance based on analysis of network traffic.
More closely integrating operational, billing and customer management systems, and using AI analytics, helps customer service teams predict a poor experience and pre-emptively make amends. Between now and 2025 this pre-emptive customer experience management trend will accelerate and evolve, rapidly becoming the norm.
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