Digital Customer Experience (CX) Trends: Today’s Solution, Tomorrow’s Norm

By: George Puig of TELUS International

While every business organization is struggling to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, those organizations that are consumer-facing are dealing with unique challenges. Today, customer service organizations are responding to an exponentially higher number of interactions and, understandably, more emotional end-users. Many are also facing the transition to new work-from-home models and a learning curve in managing remote contact center agents. All said, this function that is known to be challenging under “normal” circumstances has become increasingly complex and difficult.

During this moment of crisis, companies must prioritize and act in the best interest of their employees, stakeholders, and communities at large in order to be part of the global solution. I believe that part of this responsibility includes reducing friction and frustration when it comes to customer service. By providing effortless experiences and by being available with answers and solutions when, where, and how consumers want them, brands are able to be a part of making their lives easier in this new reality.

From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of today’s consumers are digitally literate and prefer using digital channels. Given our current state and with limited opportunities to visit brick and mortar locations, the availability and sophistication of these channels has become increasingly important. Recent discussions with the brands we support at TELUS International — across a broad range of verticals, sizes, and stages of growth — indicate they also have digital on the brain. This is especially the case today in light of new and changing business needs as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, such as cloud-based, contact center solutions.

In this article, I demonstrate how more traditional customer service channels, such as over the phone or in-person, have evolved to include — and even favor — digital experiences (DX), such as bots, intuitive self-serve options, and advanced analytics. These can help brands better serve consumers while also differentiating themselves in an evolving global marketplace.

 

The Changing Nature of CX and DX

Once the first two generations of digital natives (Millennials and Gen Z) emerged on the scene flexing their not-insignificant consumer muscles, customer service delivery was forever changed. The Millennial generation opened our eyes to the importance of leveraging digital to meet their need for efficient, consistent, and effortless experiences across a variety of channels. Gen Z took it one step further by wanting more personalization to humanize their brand interactions.

These heightened demands accelerated the proliferation of bots, advanced analytics, robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other next-gen technologies — all the tools needed for brands to pursue a “frictionless” CX. Brands without solid, digitally-enabled CX that are able to deliver on these types of expectations have been falling behind in the marketplace for some time now. The chasm between the two will only deepen with the long-lasting implications of the global pandemic. This is even more apparent now at a time when brands have to be anticipating and prioritizing the changing needs of their customers. For example, if a homeowner needs to contact their bank for leniency on mortgage payments, having an intuitive, personalized, and digitally savvy process already in place can help maintain brand loyalty by making a stressful situation less-so.

 

Liquid Expectations

Incredible technology and user experience (UX) have become table stakes for customer-facing brands. That’s why I like to say today’s consumer expectations are “liquid,” meaning brands aren’t solely competing with others in their specific vertical — they’re competing across all verticals. For example, if I can quickly and easily make a dinner reservation through a mobile app, I expect the same mobile experience and capabilities from my cable provider when I want to add channels to my existing account.

These days, it’s imperative for all industries to enable digital and get on the same level in terms of customer support due to these liquid expectations. If your customer experience isn’t top-notch, you’re bound to lose customers. Industries such as fast-growing technology – encompassing digital-first companies across travel, fintech, and retail — are many of the ones leading the way and setting the standard for more mature industries and brands.

In the era of COVID-19 and beyond, companies must deliver and be ready to evolve or amend to a digital experience. Digitally savvy companies can easily keep up with the demands of their customers in this new landscape because they are inherently more agile and can thus respond exponentially faster, staying ahead.

 

Where brands are investing for DX

As companies focus on meeting the expectations of customers and providing a differentiated customer experience, the International Data Corporation (IDC) expects CX spending to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2% over the 2018-2022 forecast period, reaching $641 billion in 2022. Those numbers don’t take into account the global economic disruption currently unfolding in which a full migration to DX may be inevitable, or a counter scenario in which tech spending comes to a halt.

To get an even more in-depth view of the market in terms of digital priorities, we recently conducted a global survey with leading analyst firm, Ryan Strategic Advisory, which polled 540 enterprise executives, each of whom has strategic decision-making authority over contact centers in their respective organizations. Completed in February, the results offer an interesting look at what brands were buying and budgeting before the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, which might or might not hold true once we come out on the other side.

Across all respondents, chatbots (53%) and agent assist programs (56%) were the only technologies in which a majority of executives planned to increase investment over the short term (12-18 months). Both solutions remained high priority investments for the next three years, as well.

Roughly 25% of respondents planned to deploy voice-driven bots in the short term. However, long-term (18-36 months) planned investment in voice-driven bots increased by nearly 40%. Other ML and AI-driven technologies were expected to grow at a smoother rate over the same time period. While voice-driven bots aren’t popular investments today, once the technology improves, it may be able to take on the emotional need from consumers looking to talk to someone, instead of chat via text.

Overall, executives tended to view these technologies not only in terms of their benefits to the customer, but also to the underlying cost structure of the enterprise. That’s especially true in the short-term, though many executives expected to glean operational efficiencies, improve the quality of customer self-service, and drive greater business insights over the long-term as a result of their near-term investments.

The main takeaway of this research? Investments in AI and ML can drastically improve CX both directly and by better enabling agents. For businesses of various sizes, there is also substantial benefits from making large-scale investments in technology now, including both short and longer-term cost savings and gaining critical business insights.

I believe the rapid pace of change is only going to continue, as well as the need for brands to be nimble to adapt to new scenarios. Those that heed these trends in digital CX and adjust their priorities to enhance their digital service offering are the businesses that will remain competitive and continue to compete across multiple verticals as we return to “business as usual.” While investing in DX may give you an added benefit of connecting with customers today (and the foreseeable future), it might become the business norm in a post-pandemic world.

 

George Puig
Chief Commercial Officer, TELUS International

 

TELUS International designs, builds, and delivers next-gen digital and customer experience solutions for global and disruptive brands. Learn More at www.telusinternational.com.

 

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