Knowledge is power: What lies ahead for CX in 2015

Looking back over the past 2-6 years, it seems that the pace of change has been ramping up. Trends that would have taken years to set in are now assimilated in our lives in a matter of months.  We’ve taken the time to reflect back on the year that’s been, and take a guesstimate at what’s lying ahead for 2015 on the CX side of things. Also, we took this opportunity to engage with you – our trusted friends and colleagues – and crowdsource our 2015 predictions. We were delighted by the outpouring of ideas that came from CX professionals. Here, in a nutshell, are the 5 trends we came up with when we put our heads together.

1) Omni-channel is the wave of the future

Customers now expect to receive service from your organization on the channel of their choice, which might be voice, email, SMS/text, web, mobile or social media. Companies provide service on most of these channels. But too often, those channels exist in silos.

While multi-channel customer experience is a given for most large organizations, very few have evolved to build a truly omni-channel customer experience.  Omni-channel experience is the desired state for many companies in 2015. What distinguishes omni-channel from multi-channel is that there is true integration between channels on the back end. For example, when a store has implemented an omni-channel approach, the customer service representative in the store will be able to immediately reference the customer's previous purchases and preferences just as easily as the customer service representative on the phone or the customer service web-chat representative can. The only way this is achievable, is by utilizing solutions that help you understand, predict and adapt to your customers’ needs in real time – across channels - so that you can create tailored experiences that go beyond what customers expect.

When you offer such an omni-channel experience throughout your customer journey, your customers’ favorable brand perception is made up across their entire journey with your brand. This is why in many organizations, the CMO – who is responsible for the brand – also owns the customer journey. Kent Huffman shared his view that there is increasing overlap or blurring of boundaries between Marketing and CX.

2) Data goes cross-channel too

Many of us made predictions concerning the centrality of big data in 2015. "Organizations need to manage how best to filter the huge amounts of data coming from the IoT social media and wearable devices” says Gartner, “and then deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. Analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere."

Big data remains an important enabler for this trend, but I agree, the focus needs to shift to thinking about big questions and answers first and big data second — as the value is in the insight, not the data.

3) Self-service will take off

Customers expend much effort tracking their service requests, or finding a solution to a problem they’re having.  2015 will see customers becoming less tolerant to being “bumped around” by providers and increasingly adept at servicing their own needs, provided those needs are basic and straightforward. Often, it is simpler for a customer to just go ahead and perform the task themselves. My dear friend and colleague, Shep Hyken, concurs, and that’s why he predicted that self-service would be a huge trend for 2015.  Self-service gives customers more control over their task, and is a good option when they value accuracy over their time spent carrying out a task (or tracking a service request).

4) The human touch

Conversely, but not paradoxically, customers still value the human touch. There will be an increase in web chat and video support, as many of you predicted. When self-service is not enough, or an issue is particularly complex, customers will opt to speak with an agent.  Beyond 2015, you also predicted that we would see more integrated human-robot service, combining the speed and analytical power of technology with human judgment and empathy.

5) The age of AI: deep learning algorithms and context-rich systems 

Many of our respondents highlighted the increasing role that artificial intelligence (AI) will play in customer experience. Gartner recently summed up what many of you put your finger on: “ubiquitous embedded intelligence combined with pervasive analytics will drive the development of systems that are alert to their surroundings and able to respond appropriately.”

Autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors already exist and will evolve rapidly, ushering in a new age of machine helpers. Gartner believes that the smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about and a lot of work to be done. Do you agree or disagree with these predictions? Omni-channel experience, cross-channel data, self-service, human touch and artificial intelligence. Do you agree that these are the five biggest CX trends for 2015? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and we wish you a happy and productive 2015!